Pochettino calls for final push


Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino has challenged his side to finish the campaign with three straight victories, which would see them back in European competition next season.

Spurs head to Stoke on Saturday looking for a response following last weekend’s frustrating 1-0 home defeat by Manchester City.

Following just one win from the past five matches, hopes of forcing their way into the Barclays Premier League’s top four are all but over.

Pochettino, though, called for focus to keep Tottenham, currently sixth, ahead of his former club Southampton, who are only one point behind.

“This is our challenge now, to win the last three games we have left to get the nine points. Our (first) objective to reach the Champions League is difficult, but if not the Europa League is our target now,” he said.

Pochettino rejected suggestions European football’s second-tier tournament would have a detrimental impact on domestic form.

He said: “To be involved in the different competitions, Champions League or Europa League, would be good for Tottenham.

“We want to win the next game, then the next one. This is our objective. There is no need to explain too much.

“I think this is a good thing for the club to stay in the next European competition.”

Stoke look on course for a top-10 finish, which all things being relative would represent steady progress for Mark Hughes’ side.

Pochettino is expecting a stern test at the Britannia Stadium.

“It is very difficult. I have the experience of this from playing there with Southampton,” said the Spurs manager, who will have midfielders Mousa Dembele and Andros Townsend back in contention following injury.

“The wind there is not easy, because it is open at the corner. If the weather is going to be like it has been the last few days, it will be difficult to play at the Britannia.

“Stoke is a team with a very good organisation, very strong, they mix very well, they play very good along the grass and long ball.

“It is a very difficult team. You can see always when you analyse them, they can play in various ways.

“They have very good players, and have done very well this season.”

Spurs midfielder Nabil Bentaleb is relishing the challenge of taking on the likes of Glenn Whelan, Steven Nzonzi and Charlie Adam.

“They have qualities in central midfield and we have to be on our toes and make sure we battle,” Bentaleb said.

“We have to impose our style, take charge of the game and take control in all areas of the pitch. This is going to be key for us to keep the ball.”

Bentaleb added on the club’s official website, www.tottenhamhotspur.com: “We know it is a difficult test for us, but we have to finish the season well.

“We have three games left and we have to give everything in those games – that starts from Stoke.”

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