Mauricio Pochettino admits his Tottenham line-up at Real Madrid had even close pals exclaiming: “What the f***!”
The Spurs boss has taken over Claudio Ranieri’s mantle as “the tinkerman”.
And he plans to keep Liverpool chief Jurgen Klopp guessing ahead of tomorrow’s Wembley showdown.
Poch has used a variety of formations this season, including 3-4-3, 3-4-2-1, 4-4-1-1 and his old favourite 4-2-3-1.
Yet he bamboozled everyone at the Bernabeu on Tuesday by going 3-5-2, with Jan Vertonghen as left wing-back and Fernando Llorente partnering Harry Kane up front.
And it worked a treat as Spurs maintained their unbeaten start in the Champions League with an impressive 1-1 draw.
Pochettino, 45, confessed: “It was amazing. Some people very close to us said, ‘When we saw the starting XI we thought, what the eff? What is going on in his mind?’”
“And then ten minutes after the end of the game, they say, ‘Oh, you are a genius’.
“And I say, ‘OK, thank you.’”
Tottenham’s performance was another example of how much they have progressed since Pochettino took over in June 2014.
And that improvement allows him to switch formations as his players believe in his methods.
He said: “Sometimes it works — sometimes it doesn’t.
“If I win or lose, I cannot regret my decisions. Everyone waits to see the shape or the system or the starting XI, and everyone disagrees. It is difficult to be in complete agreement with the manager.
“This not only happens in Tottenham, it happens around the world.
“But after a massive surprise not too many people recognise, ‘Oh, I was wrong and the manager was right’.”
Asked if he plans to spring another selection surprise against Liverpool, poker-faced Poch replied: “You will have to wait and see.”
The Argie has not put one over Kop boss Klopp with three draws and two defeats from their five previous meetings.
Poch said: “It sometimes happens, no? It’s difficult to explain why. But it’s not a five or ten-year record, it’s two years we have been playing.”
Danny Rose looks set to be on the bench tomorrow after making his first appearance since January as a sub in the Bernabeu.
Pochettino insists the England left-back’s long-term future is still with Tottenham — even though he slammed the club’s transfer policy in an exclusive bombshell interview with SunSport in August.
The Spurs chief said: “His mind is clear that what happened is in the past and we need to move on.
“He is part of my plans. Fans want the best for the team and Danny is our player.”
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