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Harry Redknapp has explained why he made six changes for yesterday’s FA Cup tie at Stevenage, while also opting for a surprising new formation.

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Ledley King, Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Luka Modric, Niko Kranjcar and Emmanuel Adebayor had all starred in the 5-0 victory over Newcastle in Spurs’ previous match, but were all omitted from the starting line-up at Broadhall Way yesterday.

Kranjcar was the only member of that group to appear against Stevenage as the Lilywhites sought for a winning goal, and Assou-Ekotto, Modric and Adebayor were all left out of the squad altogether.

That raised suggestions that Redknapp was devaluing the FA Cup, and had underestimated his League One opponents – but the manager has revealed that his absent first-team stars had all been unavailable for selection.

“Luka Modric was supposed to play but he went down with the flu,” he said. “He had an unbelievable temperature, he was really ill so that left us short.

“Benoit had a small operation at the start of the week so he wasn’t available. He just had a bit of a problem with his groin. He should be ready for next week, and Luka has a week to recover.

“Adebayor did his knee on Friday morning, he twisted it and we thought he might have opened his ligament up but it’s not too bad. We will have to see how he is.

“Ledley was on the bench but he wasn’t fit, I couldn’t have brought him on. His knee was bad but I said ‘we’re short of one sub’ and he came down and sat on the bench for us. And then Niko had been rough all week as well. He only came into training on Saturday.”

The result was a weakened team, and Redknapp also decided to alter Tottenham’s usual formation.

Spurs supporters were mystified by the largely ineffective 3-4-1-2 formation - but Redknapp has explained that he opted for three centre-backs in a bid to combat Stevenage’s threat from set pieces.

“We looked at them and they’re so powerful on set plays. I only had two people who can head the ball in our team,” said the Tottenham boss.

“We have a little left-back, the right-back too, and we’re small in midfield really. So I thought we needed to get three headers of the ball into the team somehow.

“It [this formation] is something I’ve been wanting to do. We did it in the second half at Stoke and murdered them, and we’re perfectly set up to play like that.

“It should suit [Kyle] Walker down to the ground, and [Gareth] Bale and [Danny] Rose can do that job [as wingbacks] too.

“But whatever system you played it would have been difficult. The pitch was bumpy and the ball was bobbling everywhere. It was a difficult game to play football.

“We started lumping it forward. That wasn’t part of the plan but the lads weren’t comfortable passing the ball out there and we ended up going long.

“I thought we would come here and win but the longer it went on the more I thought ‘one mistake and you could be out of the cup’. One good set play from them could have been the end for us.

“In the end we thought ‘we’ll take the draw and play them again at home and see if we can do a job.”

Redknapp admits that the quarter-final draw - which handed the winners of the replay at White Hart Lane a home tie with Bolton – will only give his side extra motivation to beat Boro at the second attempt.

“I will put out as strong a side as I can pick for the replay, definitely,” he said. “We need to knock Stevenage out, we have to make sure we win at home.

“It’s a good draw for the winners, a home draw. Chelsea have a good draw too and Liverpool are at home to Stoke.

“I would think one of the big teams will end up winning it, you would fancy the usual clubs. It’s usually one of the top four who win it.”

Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs

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