Spurs seek League Cup comfort against Sheffield United
Tottenham Hotspur`s reputation as a club that thrives in knockout competition was dented by an FA Cup exit at the hands of Leicester at the weekend but Mauricio Pochettino`s men remain close to reaching the League Cup final, nonetheless.
London: Tottenham Hotspur`s reputation as a club that thrives in knockout competition was dented by an FA Cup exit at the hands of Leicester at the weekend but Mauricio Pochettino`s men remain close to reaching the League Cup final, nonetheless.
Only third-tier Sheffield United stand in their way and Spurs will arrive in Yorkshire for Wednesday`s second leg of the semi-final with a 1-0 lead secured when the teams met in north London.
Spurs have won the League Cup four times in all and have reached the final three times this century alone, beating Chelsea in 2008 and then going down on penalties to Manchester United the following year, having previously lost in the 2002 climax to Blackburn Rovers.
A Wembley date with either Liverpool or Chelsea, who play on Tuesday, awaits the victors at Bramall Lane and Pochettino was keen for his players to forget about the Leicester defeat and seize the opportunity.
"It is important to keep our motivation and confidence, because we need to play on Wednesday with our best performance," the Argentinian coach said. "It will be a really tough game."
Goalkeeper Michel Vorm has been playing in the domestic cup competitions, with Spurs first-choice Hugo Lloris preferred for Premier League fixtures and in the Europa League, which resumes next month.
Dutchman Vorm was guilty of a bad error that led to Leicester scoring a late winner on Saturday, however, so it remains to be seen whether he will keep his place, especially as the hugely-experienced Brad Friedel is another option available to Pochettino.
"I am gutted now, but you have to go on because there is another big game ahead on Wednesday and we have to focus on that as quickly as possible," Vorm said.
"If that mistake happens earlier in the game, maybe you can turn it around, but at the end makes it even worse. When the ball goes in, it is horrible, but that is football."Winger Erik Lamela made his comeback from a calf injury in the Leicester game following almost a month on the sidelines and is expected to feature against the Blades.
"To win a trophy here is what I want the most," the Argentina international said. "To win a cup is everything I hope for."
Sheffield United will be confident of causing an upset however as they boast a remarkable record in knockout competitions under Nigel Clough, their manager.
Of the 19 FA Cup and League Cup matches Clough has overseen, the Blades have lost only two, and neither of those defeats have come at home.
"The tie is definitely alive," midfielder Jose Baxter said. "We would have liked to get a goal and bring that back to Bramall Lane but it was a great performance from the team and we need to bring that belief into the next game.
"It was a case of giving them the respect they deserved and then once the game was underway thinking `hang on, we can get something here`.
"They`ll probably come out all guns blazing now knowing we`re a good team."
Sheffield United are likely to name the same starting eleven to the team that played in the first leg, with new signing Kieron Freeman expected to feature among the substitutes.
Clough`s team are still in the FA Cup and are pushing for promotion from League One.
Both teams will be playing their 38th fixture of the season but Baxter said the United squad could cope with the demanding schedule.
"Games are better than training. More games is better for us," he said. "We want to get fitter and keep learning."