Spurs are well positioned to win FA Cup, but does Pochettino really care?
A home game against League One Rochdale; a trip to Sheffield Wednesday or Swansea; and two games at their home stadium. That is Tottenham Hotspur's route to FA Cup glory. And it no longer includes Manchester City.
Football is not played on paper, of course, as Wigan's 1-0 win over City proves, and it would be hugely disrespectful to Spurs' rivals -- not least Rochdale, who held them to a 2-2 draw on Sunday -- to suggest the FA Cup is Tottenham's to lose. But they can rarely have had a better chance to lift the famous trophy for the first time since 1991. If they beat Rochdale in a fifth-round replay and win at Wednesday or Swansea, Spurs will reach a Wembley semifinal for the second consecutive season.
Far from being cursed, this year they are becoming increasingly formidable at the national stadium, so much so that their potential semifinal opponents are reportedly pressuring the FA to move the game to a neutral venue.
"Today at Wembley, it's like home and that's a little, little advantage [in the FA Cup]," Mauricio Pochettino, the Spurs manager, said last week.
Manchester United and Chelsea are still in the draw but Spurs have already beaten United at Wembley -- as well as Borussia Dortmund, Liverpool, Real Madrid and Arsenal -- and they are now a completely different proposition to the team beaten 4-2 by the Blues in last year's semifinal or 2-1 in the first Premier League game at the new Wembley back in August.
Ironically, their breezy route through the rounds -- which has already included AFC Wimbledon and Newport County -- will only have strengthened Pochettino's belief that the FA Cup is too dependent on luck to be worth winning.
"To win the FA Cup, it depends on the draw," Pochettino said in September when explaining why Spurs would prioritise the Premier League and Champions League, "the two real trophies."
The Argentine has said repeatedly that he would love to win the FA Cup "for the fans" but he has also dismissed every argument in favour of prioritising the competition.
Winning the FA Cup would not, Pochettino says, strengthen his own position because other managers have been sacked six months after doing so. Nor would it raise the club's profile, at least not compared to a deep run in the Champions League, because no one outside the UK is really interested in the domestic cups. And it would not teach his young squad about winning because it is not a stern enough challenge.
Ultimately, Pochettino does not believe he has the squad to compete on all fronts and he feels it would therefore be a mistake to plough resources into winning the FA Cup, while Spurs are still alive in the Champions League and the race for the Premier League top four. This view has been somewhat vindicated by their recent form in the league and the 2-2 draw at Juventus in the Champions League round-of-16 first leg.
"You can maybe win the FA Cup if you protect your best players but then forget the Premier League [title], forget being in the top four!" Pochettino said before the Rochdale game.
"If Tottenham is able to be consistent and get in the top four [this season], then maybe it's a moment to stop and focus on winning a title like the FA Cup. It would be fantastic to be able to put everything into this competition.
"For now, we need to think about winning big trophies like the Champions League. The pressure is to win the Champions League and also the Premier League."
Some Spurs supporters would prefer for Pochettino to put everything into the FA Cup, particularly now that City are out, as the club's trophy drought approaches a decade.
The manager, though, does not see it that way and the lacklustre draws at Newport and Rochdale suggest his message has filtered down to his players.
Clearly, Spurs are good enough to win the FA Cup and their draw, plus the prospect of a "home" semifinal and final, make this year a golden opportunity to do so. The question is whether their manager really wants to.
Dan is ESPN FC's Tottenham correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Dan_KP.