Soccer-Spurs' Mourinho not expecting easy ride against second-tier Stoke

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FILE PHOTO: Premier League - Tottenham Hotspur v Leicester City

(Reuters) - Tottenham Hotspur may be playing second-tier Championship side Stoke City in the League Cup but that does not make their route to the semi-finals any easier, Spurs boss Jose Mourinho has said.

Spurs and Newcastle United both avoided all-Premier League ties with Arsenal taking on Manchester City while Everton host Manchester United this week.

Mourinho said he was wary of the threat posed by Stoke, who have improved after two seasons of struggle since their Premier League relegation and sit seventh in the league in a closely-contested race for Championship playoff spots.

"Even the Championship from the last decade, the difference between Championship and Premier League is minimum," Mourinho told reporters on Tuesday. "The teams are very good. They have very good players and very good coaches.

"So even the fact we play Stoke or Newcastle play Brentford doesn't give us easier matches than the others. It's a difficult competition to win and we need to win three matches to win it.

"But we are going in the direction of what we are saying at the beginning of the season. The next match is a match we want to win."

Spurs were top of the league earlier this month but a point from their last three matches has seen them drop down to sixth and Mourinho is eyeing the League Cup as a chance at redemption.

While the Portuguese has won the League Cup four times, Spurs have not won it since 2008 -- their last trophy.

Mourinho is set to rotate his squad, saying he will play a 'mixture' of his regulars and those who played in the Europa League.

"Clearly some players need to play and deserve to play," the coach said.

"From the ones that are playing more... there are others that we don't have great options. But, of course, I will try to give a little rest to two or three of them."

(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge)