Tottenham v Sheffield United: Pochettino planning changes for visit of cup specialists
A quick glance at Sheffield United's giantkilling exploits over the past two seasons suggests that Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino could live to regret his plans to field a changed side in Wednesday's League Cup semi-final first leg.
United, currently striving to get out of League One, head to White Hart Lane with no fear following a string of impressive cup results under manager Nigel Clough.
Clough, a League Cup winner twice as a player with Nottingham Forest, has relished the chance to test himself against top-flight opposition and has masterminded a handful of upsets – three of which were on the road in London - that Pochettino should be wary of.
The Yorkshire club claimed away wins at Aston Villa and Fulham – then a Premier League side – on their way to reaching the FA Cup semi-finals last season.
That trend has carried on into 2014-15 as United ran out 3-0 victors at QPR in the FA Cup third round earlier this month, as well as beating West Ham on penalties at Upton Park and knocking out Southampton to progress to the last four of the League Cup.
With Tottenham aiming for a top-four finish in the Premier League, Pochettino has hinted that he could make wholesale alterations to the team that beat Sunderland 2-1 on Saturday.
"We need to keep the players fit and need to be smart in how we manage the squad," he said.
"That was our 35th game and our schedule ahead is busy.
"We need to give the opportunity to all the players to be fit and fresh."
One factor that will perhaps form part of Pochettino's decision-making process is that arch-rivals Arsenal are next up for Tottenham in the Premier League following this weekend's FA Cup tie with Leicester City, meaning he may wish to give the likes of striker Harry Kane a rest.
Kane's haul of 18 goals in all competitions this season - which includes three in the League Cup – has led to an inevitable clamour to see him handed a first England call-up, but for now he is focused on continuing his blistering club form.
It remains to be seen what part – if any - Kane plays in the first leg against United, with fringe player such as Emmanuel Adebayor a viable option to be handed his first start in over two months after returning from compassionate leave.
If United are to claim another memorable cup win then Clough will have to find a way to end Tottenham's nine-game unbeaten run at home, which included a 5-3 victory over Premier League leaders Chelsea.
Clough's men make the trip south following a 1-0 setback at MK Dons at the weekend.