Dele Alli says Rochdale pitch won’t worry Tottenham in FA Cup fifth round

• ‘Lot of us grew up playing on worse pitches than Spotland,’ says midfielder
• Tottenham have improved beyond all recognition, says Eriksen

Dele Alli has dismissed the suggestion that Tottenham Hotspur are nervous about playing on Rochdale’s pitch in the FA Cup fifth-round tie on Sunday. Mauricio Pochettino, the Spurs manager, said last Thursday he considered the Spotland surface to be unplayable and potentially dangerous, having seen pictures of it during Rochdale’s fourth-round replay win against Millwall.

The game took place on Tuesday of last week and it has been the only one Rochdale have been able to host since 9 January. The League One club, who sit bottom of their division, have since relaid the pitch as they prepare for one of the most glamorous games of their recent history. Alli said he and his team‑mates were unconcerned about the surface, having grown up playing on much worse. Alli began his career at MK Dons and he played for them at Spotland at the end of the 2014-15 season.

“We’re not soft,” Alli said. “A lot of us grew up playing on worse pitches than that. A lot of us grew up playing on concrete and surfaces like that so I don’t think the pitch is a problem. We’ve just got to go there and be professional and put on a good performance to win the game.”

After Tuesday’s stirring 2-2 Champions League draw at Juventus, Christian Eriksen said Tottenham were virtually unrecognisable from the club he joined in 2013.

The Denmark midfielder, who starred in the last-16, first-leg tie and scored the equaliser with a clever free-kick, had previously been tempted by a move to Juventus. The Italian club have tracked him in recent years and they pushed hard to sign him in the summer of 2015.

Tottenham refused to sell and Eriksen has since enjoyed the Pochettino-inspired upturn at the club. The 26-year-old signed a four-year contract in September 2016 and there have recently been suggestions that he is ready to agree to further fresh terms.

Eriksen joined from Ajax as Tottenham splurged £11m of the then world record £86m fee that they had received for Gareth Bale from Real Madrid. Bale could not see a pathway to the elite level at Tottenham but the club have now presented compelling evidence that they belong among the best.

The hope at boardroom level is that players such as Eriksen can see Spurs as a destination club rather than a stepping stone.

“The club is completely different – from what it was when I came to what it is now,” Eriksen said. “That’s up to the manager and up to the players, with the quality we have in the squad. We are building on every season compared to when I arrived here.”

Tottenham trailed 2-0 against Juventus after nine minutes but they did not cave in. Far from it. They came to dominate the game and they were value for the draw. “The games against the top teams, when we were 2-0 down after nine minutes, we’d lose 6-0,” Eriksen said. “That’s the thing we’ve changed with the manager coming in and with the players we have. Everyone has grown up and they are not going to lie down if they are 2-0 down.

“We don’t care where we are or what time it is or which stadium we play in or which we team we play, we always try to dominate; to get the ball forward as quickly as possible and create something.”

As with all of Tottenham’s key personnel, Pochettino has his admirers at Europe’s biggest clubs – chief among them Real Madrid. But Eriksen hopes and believes that the manager is in the job for the long haul. “I think what he’s building here, he would like to be part of it,” he added.

“I think that’s what he showed when he signed his new long-term deal [in May 2016]. Of course, there will be interest from other clubs because he’s doing really well but hopefully he’ll stay.”