Tottenham hungry but Chelsea are FA Cup semi favourites, says Pochettino

• Mauricio Pochettino keen to manage Spurs’ expectations for Wembley
• ‘They’re more experienced but we’re in a good moment too’

Mauricio Pochettino has sought to paint his Tottenham Hotspur team as the underdogs for Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea at Wembley. The manager challenged his players to turn the club’s trophy-winning dreams into reality but he was also keen to manage expectations and to try and shift the pressure on to Chelsea.

Tottenham are the form team in England, having won their previous eight matches in all competitions and, in the process, they have closed to within four points of Chelsea, who are top of the Premier League with six matches to play. The Cup tie promises to have psychological ramifications for the title race, although Pochettino maintained that Chelsea had to be the favourites in that competition, as well.

In terms of Saturday’s game, he was quick to talk up Chelsea’s greater experience, noting that their manager Antonio Conte had won the Serie A title three times with Juventus, and Cesc Fàbregas and Pedro were World Cup winners with Spain. Spurs, he said, had achieved many things under his charge, namely establishing themselves as title contenders, but the biggest step to take was the one to winning a trophy.

Of the semi-final, Pochettino said: “If there’s a favourite, it’s Chelsea. They are top of the Premier League and then there is the experienced players and the manager that they have. We are talking about the team that, in the last five years, have won European competitions, World Cups, and a manager who won the title in Italy.

“They’re more experienced. But we’re in a good moment, too. We are hungry and it’s important for us to challenge this team. We will see but it’s important to enjoy the game. We must feel the happiness. It’s a very important competition and we are fighting the best team in England.”

Pochettino warmed to a familiar theme when he described Tottenham as being “in a different process” to Chelsea, meaning that, because of the White Hart Lane redevelopment project, they could not compete on the same financial level. However he was happy that his team were ahead of their targets.

“When we arrived the main problem for Tottenham was reducing the gap with the top four,” Pochettino said. “Not only have we done that, we are fighting for the Premier League, to win titles. But to win is more difficult. You are competing with big sides, big clubs, big players. When you compare the players who have won trophies, Chelsea have players who won the World Cup. Our players have won nothing.

“But we are improving a lot. First, you have to be there to challenge, and we have that opportunity. It’s up to us now to step up and make the dream a reality. If you only see the data, we have improved a lot. We have 71 points with six matches to go whereas we finished last season with 70 points. Now it is the moment to translate those stats and the feeling we have; to show that we’ve grown up. That’s the most difficult step to achieve.”

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