Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino has apologised to FA Cup opponents Rochdale after criticising the state of the pitch at Spotland.
Pochettino had previously claimed that the playing surface at Spotland was “not in a condition to play football” and could pose a “massive risk” to his players when the two teams meet on Sunday.
Rochdale postponed their game against Fleetwood Town on Saturday in order to lay a new pitch and Pochettino thanked the Sky Bet League One side for relaying the surface ahead of the fifth-round clash.
“First of all, I want to apologise to some people at Rochdale, the chairman, the people who may have taken my comment the wrong way,” said Pochettino.
“My comment was always about the care, first of all for the players of Rochdale, our players and the competition – it is a game that all of England will watch on TV.
“I was shown a picture where the pitch wasn’t in great condition, I was concerned about the FA Cup, the football and the image we were going to send.
“There was a lot of comments around Tottenham but I was always very respectful. Now I’ve seen [the new pitch] on the Rochdale website, I need to congratulate them – it was massive to put the pitch in the best condition to play, without risk.
“Their effort was massive. I know that they have worked very hard to put it in the best condition and I apologise again if somebody has taken my comments in the wrong way.”
Pochettino insists he is not underestimating Rochdale and has challenged his players to approach the match in the same manner as they did for the 2-2 draw with Juventus in the Champions League.
“It is a massive challenge for us to keep the same level,” said Pochettino. “It will be a little bit upsetting if we are not able to keep the same level of motivation.”
Tottenham were held to a 1-1 draw by League Two side Newport County in the fourth round of the FA Cup, before eventually prevailing 2-0 in the replay at Wembley, and Pochettino is keen to avoid a repeat at Spotland.
“Newport is a good example. If we haven’t learnt from Newport it is because you are not clever,” said Argentinian.
“If you want to win titles, to compete to be one of the best teams in Europe, the game against Rochdale is as important as the games against Juventus, Liverpool, Manchester United or Newport.”