For some teams, January is a month of respite after a busy Christmas, but not for Tottenham Hotspur. On Wednesday night they host Burnley in an FA Cup third-round replay. It is their fourth game this month and, if they win, they will have another five left to play.
Spurs are still in four competitions. They face a two-legged Capital One Cup semi-final against Sheffield United later this month and then, in February, the Europa League last-32 tie with Fiorentina. Unless they are careful, the breadth of their progress could tire the players out by the business end of the season.
The core of the side that has dragged Spurs back into contention for a Champions League place cannot then be expected to play every game in every tournament. Tottenham, as manager Mauricio Pochettino pointed out, have already played more official games than anyone else so far this season and so he will have to rotate his squad.
“We need to analyse all the players who played on Saturday [in the 2-1 defeat at Crystal Palace] and then we see who has a chance for Wednesday,” Pochettino said ahead of taking on Burnley. “Since the beginning of the season we have played 34 games, and we are the team who has played more than anyone. We need to manage. All players are important. We will see who can play.”
Hugo Lloris is likely to be replaced in goal by Michel Vorm, while Ben Davies, Aaron Lennon, Etienne Capoue and Roberto Soldado are all likely to come into the side. Soldado could partner Harry Kane up front – the two have combined in the past – but when asked whether Kane would play, Pochettino implied that he would be rested. “I think we need to give the opportunity to play for all players,” he said. “But we need to analyse and take a decision.”
This game might be too soon for a return for Emmanuel Adebayor, who has not played for more than two months. The striker was given compassionate leave to return home last month after a family crisis, and then struggled with illness and injury. But Adebayor is back in full training and Pochettino confirmed that he is not injured.
The heavy load of fixtures this month means that transfer departures from Spurs are fairly unlikely, with players who have been on the fringes so far certain to be needed over the next few weeks. Pochettino said last week that he requires all of his squad and would use most of them.
“If something happens we need to discuss and take a decision,” Pochettino said. “For now I am happy [with the squad]. We have a strong squad and useful players. We have a lot of games so we have to be clever with the use of our players. It’s not easy after more than 30 games from the beginning of the season and we need to be clever how we manage the squad.”
The Burnley manager, Sean Dyche, is confident that the club’s top scorer Danny Ings – a reported target of Tottenham – is not being affected by speculation surrounding his future.
Ings, 22, is out of contract in the summer but Dyche said: “I’ve told him to smile and relax and enjoy what he’s doing, and that seems to work with him. His thirst to improve is there for all to see.”