Newport rematch affords Pochettino lineup options ahead of tougher fixtures
Mauricio Pochettino and his players surely hoped to avoid a replay when they visited League Two outfit Newport County late last month.
Given they were already scheduled to face Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Juventus in succession, an extra match in the middle of this challenging period looked like an imposition to be avoided.
Yet the embarrassing exit that so nearly befell Tottenham in South Wales would have been far worse.
Instead, thanks to Harry Kane's 82nd-minute equaliser and a kindly fifth-round draw -- a trip to Millwall or Rochdale if Spurs progress -- this FA Cup campaign remains ripe with possibility.
An extra fixture seems a small price to pay when a quarterfinal place appears so achievable -- and this second date with Newport is suddenly looking rather well-timed and beneficial, coming just when Pochettino needs an opportunity to reintroduce some returning players.
Toby Alderweireld has missed the past 20 matches with a hamstring injury but is back in full training. And while Spurs' manager was reluctant last week to say when the Belgian defender would make his first outing, a home match against a League Two side seems as good a time as any, if he is fit enough to play some part.
The same applies for Danny Rose and Harry Winks, who have both been out of action since Boxing Day with respective knee and ankle problems. They have both been on the bench in the last week, without getting onto the pitch.
It would be a risk to throw any of those three players back into the fray against Arsenal or Juventus, so Newport's visit is timely -- and a number of other players would benefit from a run-out too.
Pochettino has selected the same starting XI for the last two matches against Man United and Liverpool, with good results -- four points from a possible six.
The Argentinian would be justified in picking the same side for Saturday's north London derby against Arsenal, and potentially next Tuesday's Champions League clash against Juventus too.
There is a lot to be said for consistency in selection, particularly in a crucial spell such as this, and Pochettino's faith in his favoured lineup is paying off at the moment.
The problem is that the gap can quickly widen between the players who are getting all the action and those who are waiting in the wings.
Pochettino is fully aware of the importance of squad management -- ensuring his reserves stay motivated and do not get rusty.
Again, then, the chance to field a second-string side against Newport this week is a welcome one. A few of his fringe players could certainly do with a morale-boosting outing.
Kyle Walker-Peters was substituted at half-time in the original tie at Newport, having struggled on a difficult pitch, while Juan Foyth impressed that day but has just been omitted from Tottenham's Champions League squad to make room for Lucas Moura.
Both youngsters would benefit from a show of faith from Pochettino, and another start.
Victor Wanyama may have scored a stunning long-range equaliser at Liverpool on Sunday but the fact he only appeared as a 79th-minute substitute shows he has work to do to regain last season's form. He was one of Spurs' worst players at Newport.
Erik Lamela also had an impact at Anfield, cleverly winning Tottenham's second penalty, but he too needs to raise his game and deliver more consistently if he wants to seriously challenge Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli or Son Heung-Min for a place in Pochettino's best side and start the biggest contests.
Moussa Sissoko still has plenty to prove, as does Fernando Llorente, who has offered little since his goal at Swansea on Jan. 2 and was wholly ineffective at Newport's Rodney Parade.
Unfortunately, January signing Lucas will have to wait for his debut -- he is unable to play in this replay because he was not registered with Tottenham for the original tie. However, Pochettino can still field a lineup full of players who will benefit from the encounter and should get the job done on Wembley's pristine pitch.
There is still a risk against Newport, of course. The worst-case scenario is a humiliating elimination, while it would not be ideal if Pochettino had to field or introduce senior stars -- especially if the tie ended up stretching beyond 90 minutes, draining energy levels in the buildup to the weekend's duel with Arsenal.
But, in an ideal world, Tottenham's backup players will enjoy a confidence-boosting victory, and those who have recently returned from the treatment room will get valuable minutes under their belts.
If that proves to be the case, and if anyone impresses enough to stake a claim for a starting berth against Arsenal or Juventus, Pochettino may just reflect that Spurs' draw in Newport was even more useful than a first-time triumph.
Ben is ESPN FC's Tottenham blogger. Follow on Twitter: @BenPearceSpurs.