Down to earth with a bump. And very possibly a nudge in the ribs, as well. After their heroics in Turin, Tottenham return to their domestic schedule with a trip to League One Rochdale in the FA Cup fifth round this Sunday. And Dele Alli insisted that Tottenham would be up for the challenge, despite an energy-sapping run of fixtures against Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Juventus.
Mauricio Pochettino is expected to make several changes to the Tottenham starting line-up for the trip to the third tier’s bottom club. But Alli, who set up Harry Kane’s opening goal at the Juventus Stadium on Tuesday night, said that Tottenham would not be taking their threat lightly, and shrugged off concerns over the state of the pitch at Spotland.
“It’s going to be a very difficult night for us,” Alli said. “It’s important we don’t go there and think it’ll be an easy game. We saw that against Newport [in round four, when Tottenham were held to a 1-1 draw]. It was a difficult game, and we had to play them at our place and get the win there. It suits them a lot more being at their place, but we want to go there and put on a good performance.”
A minor row has been erupting in recent days about the pitch for Sunday’s game, after Pochettino suggested that the soggy, sandy surface would put his players at risk of injuries. But the Greater Manchester-based club have relaid the pitch this week, following months of heavy rain in the North-West, and Alli – who began his career at MK Dons – said the conditions would not faze him.
“We’re not soft,” he 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.”
Confidence in the Spurs dressing room is high after the 2-2 draw in Turin, and Alli said that they had learned the lessons from last season’s disastrous campaign, when they were eliminated at the group stage. “We said last season we wanted to learn from it, and I think we have this season,” Alli said. “I think it shows a lot of character to come to this place and score two goals.”