Pochettino focused on top four


Manager Mauricio Pochettino has admitted missing out on European football could aid Tottenham’s bid to qualify for the Champions League next season.

Pochettino has bemoaned the impact playing on Thursday nights across Europe has had on his side’s Premier League campaign, while looking ruefully at Manchester United’s top-four march having finished seventh last term.

Liverpool reached Europe’s elite competition after finishing second last term when without a continental distraction and this term have struggled to cope with the dual focus.

Pochettino takes his sixth-placed Spurs, who are seven points adrift of fourth-placed United, to his former club Southampton for the first time on Saturday, with the battle for European football high on the agenda.

If Arsenal beat Aston Villa in the FA Cup final at Wembley on May 30, the seventh-placed team in the Premier League will qualify for the Europa League.

“This season realistically it’s very difficult to reach the top four,” Pochettino said.

“(But) never is it a problem when you have the possibility to play in Europe.

“In football you need to try and take the positive result and always win.

“If you achieve the Europa League it might not be the dream of the club or the supporters but you need to play it because it is good for the financial side of the club.

“The most important thing is to be ambitious or to understand we need to try and build a strong team for next season to fight for the top four.

“It’s very difficult to manage the Europa League with the Premier League and both cups. You spend a lot of energy when you play in the Europa League and it’s not easy, but you never know.

“It’s true the experience last season with Liverpool and now with Manchester United, I think it’s a clear example that maybe you will have the opportunity to stay closer to reaching the top four if you only are focused on the Premier League and the cups.”

Pochettino dismissed the prospect of goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, who could return after missing three matches with a knee injury, seeking a move if Spurs miss out on the top four this term.

“Hugo wants to play the Champions League here for Tottenham and I think this is a rumour and nothing true,” added the Spurs boss, whose only definite absentee is Kyle Walker.

“Hugo is very happy here and wants to reach the Champions League with Tottenham. This is his dream.”

Pochettino is looking forward to returning to St Mary’s with Spurs after leaving Southampton last summer.

The Argentine headed a host of departures – including key players and the backroom staff – leaving successor Ronald Koeman to rebuild.

“We finished last season eighth in the table,” said Pochettino, recalling his time at Southampton.

“We played very well and it was the end the project of five years with Nicola Cortese and Markus Liebherr.

“We stabilised the club in the Premier League and top 10 and I’m very happy it was good for Southampton because I love the people of Southampton, the players.

“Koeman has continued to develop the project, or a new project, and it’s a fantastic job and he deserves the praise.”

Pochettino is uncertain what reception to expect.

“I don’t expect nothing special,” he said.

“I love the people at the club, the players, because in one-and-a-half years I enjoyed a lot because it was one of the best periods of my life.”

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