Both Newcastle United and Tottenham fans will be dreaming of a potential trip to Wembley Stadium ahead of their teams’ League Cup quarter-final tonight. For viewers in the United States, the game is being shown live on beIN SPORTS Connect at 2:45pm ET.
But the reality of modern life in the English Premier League means Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino and Newcastle manager Alan Pardew will field weakened sides at White Hart Lane.
Just one point separates the clubs in the league (Tottenham are 7th and Newcastle are 8th) and given the financial incentive for finishing in a higher position, cup competitions are not a priority for the two managers.
Pochettino was criticized for fielding a weakened Southampton side in the FA Cup 5th round last season, the Saints losing that match 1-0.
Ahead of the quarter-final with Newcastle, the Argentine manager was defending his squad rotation policy – he and Pardew have confirmed they’ll rest players, with league commitments to follow at the weekend.
Newcastle welcome Sunderland to St James’ Park on Sunday for the Tyne-Wear derby, consistently the club’s biggest match on the domestic calendar.
Pardew will prioritize that game, though he will also be acutely aware that he is within touching distance of becoming the man to end Newcastle’s long trophy drought.
If either side were to win this game and secure a semi-final place at Wembley, it would provide a huge psychological boost for the fans and players.
“For us it is a dream, (it is) unbelievable,” said Newcastle captain Fabricio Coloccini of the chance to win a trophy.
“It’s very important for us, the city and the club. Hopefully we can do it.”
What makes this cup tie so difficult for both teams however, is the timing of it. After difficult starts to the season, Tottenham and Newcastle are only beginning to build momentum in their respective campaigns.
Yet successful cup runs – as suggested by Coloccini – can also lead to improvement in the league. Indeed, Newcastle’s recent unbeaten run was galvanized in large part by a 2-0 away win over Manchester City in the League Cup.
This match provides the opportunity for fringe players to push for a place in the regular side and good form shown by them in the cup only increases the options available to their manager in the league.
“These are the only competitions where you can look at players with hope and ambition because in the Premier League it’s difficult,” Pardew said.
“We have played two Premier League teams in this competition but it has paid off massively for me and I feel very confident about the whole group.”
Pochettino was rather more blunt in his appraisal of squad rotation and cup commitments.
The former Argentina international is working his way through an awkward first season at Tottenham, during a period of consolidation and rebuilding for the club. Losing a first-team player in the cup and struggling in the league would be a disaster.
“When you are the coach, you have all the information [on fitness levels] and if you win, you are the best and if you don’t, you are a shit, who made the wrong decision,” Pochettino said ahead of the Newcastle match.
“When you sign a player, you have to have the belief in him and think that it is a possibility that he will play in some of the games.”
The difficulty for both managers in this match will be striking a balance between a team that is competitive yet sensible.
Whilst the League Cup is not valued as much as the Premier League by either club’s board, winning is a habit and the prospect of an iconic Wembley date will appeal greatly to Pardew and Pochettino.
Programming note: For viewers in the United States, DishWorld is streaming the Bournemouth-Liverpool live and in HD today at 2:45pm ET to soccer fans nationwide. You can view the game live on your computer, smartphone, tablet or Roku device. Setup just takes minutes, and DishWorld is incredibly easy to use, providing you with direct access to beIN SPORTS, beIN SPORTS Espańol and One World Sports, so you can watch games from the Capital One Cup, La Liga, Serie A, Ligue Un, African Cup of Nations, 2015 Copa America and much more. DishWorld is just $10/month and is completely legal. There’s no annual contract. It’s month to month. Sign up today at DishWorld.
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