Mauricio Pochettino impressed by Leicester's season so far

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Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino believes Leicester's surprise success proves how competitive the Barclays Premier League is and revealed how he almost played for Foxes manager Claudio Ranieri.

Spurs and Leicester, both sitting in the top four, have been two of the form teams so far and the sides go head to head in the FA Cup third round on Sunday.

It is the first of two matches in three days between the clubs at White Hart Lane, the second coming in the league on Wednesday, as Tottenham look to win England's oldest tournament for the first time since 1991.

Despite the threat they pose to his side's Champions League qualification hopes, Pochettino believes Leicester's form has been good for English football.

"I think it's very important that a club like Leicester are around the top," Pochettino said.

"It's important, they have some good players, the players deserve the credit, the manager has done an unbelievable job.

"For the past, as well, they deserve credit, Nigel Pearson, all his staff at the club. I think it's a fantastic this season.

"It's good to realise how difficult the Premier League is."

Ranieri will be without Jamie Vardy this weekend, as his star striker has undergone minor groin surgery, and is likely to rest a number of other key players for the match.

Pochettino praised the job Ranieri has done this season and said as a player he almost left Espanyol to join the Italian, when he was manager at Atletico Madrid.

"I think he has done a fantastic job, he deserves the full credit, he is a great manager, and can only praise him," Pochettino said.

"It's true he's older than me, I play maybe [for him], I had a possibility to meet him at Atletico Madrid but it was impossible. I think he's a great manager."

Pochettino is expected to rotate his team as well after a hectic Christmas period which could mean starting spots for the likes of Kieran Trippier, Kevin Wimmer, Joshua Onomah and Nacer Chadli.

Mousa Dembele and Ryan Mason are both out with ankle injuries.

"It's not about resting players," Pochettino said.

"After the Christmas period it's very tough for the players. Some players believe they are fresh, but it's not true. We can show a lot of injury in last few games.

"We need to be clever in our decisions, and to realise and assess. We work very hard to identify the players who are fresh and those who will play in the next few games."

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