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Mauricio Pochettino: Dele Alli gesture vs. Barnsley was a joke with a friend

LONDON -- Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino has said Dele Alli's gesture after scoring against Barnsley in Tuesday's EFL Cup third round was a joke with a friend in the stands.

Alli, 21, appeared to cup his hands behind his ears when celebrating his 65th-minute winner in the 1-0 victory at Wembley, where the attendance was just 23,926 -- under one-third of the stadium's 90,000 capacity.

There had been speculation that the gesture was directed at the low crowd, the media or even Pochettino and his staff.

But Pochettino told a news conference: "It was a situation which was a reference for a friend. It was a gesture for someone in the stand.

"It's not related to us, with the fans, the club -- nothing. It was only a joke with one friend in the stand. That is true, I believe it because yesterday he told me."

Alli is under investigation by FIFA for a gesture in England's World Cup qualifying win over Slovakia at Wembley earlier this month, which he claimed was directed at his friend and former Spurs clubmate Kyle Walker.

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Pochettino's team visit London rivals West Ham on Saturday, with the Hammers having inflicted damaging 1-0 defeats on Spurs in their last two visits to East London.

The manager said he knows what it meant to Tottenham supporters to avoid another defeat, urging his players to match the Hammers' desire.

"It is a derby, it is our enemy," he said. "I understand that very well.

"For us, we have to follow our way. We know very well what it means for our fans to play against West Ham. We will try to be ready to compete, fight and be aggressive.

"For all the excitement and desire they show to beat us, we must show the same.

"I am so happy to have these derbies in the season. I love to compete. I am competitive. I am looking forward to playing these types of games."

Pochettino will be without long-term absentees Danny Rose and Erik Lamela, while Victor Wanyama is not expected to return to full fitness until the next international break in October.

Dan is ESPN FC's Tottenham correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Dan_KP.

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