Pochettino: Spurs' mentality is 'perfect' ahead of Brighton clash
Manager says he doesn’t have to tell his side to focus on top-four finish
Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino has some injury concerns, with Harry Kane still out and Moussa Sissoko set to be missing for two weeks. Photograph: AFP
Mauricio Pochettino has said he does not even need to tell his squad to focus on the fight to finish in the top four of the Premier League rather than the impending Champions League semi-finals against Ajax because his players’ mentality is “perfect”.
Tottenham face Brighton in the league Tuesday night knowing they may well have to win their remaining four games to secure Champions League football next season. Spurs could also qualify by winning it this season but for the time being Pochettino has set his players two targets: to finish in the top four and to beat Ajax.
“We’re not thinking about Ajax, like we showed [against Manchester City],” he said. “We showed [against them] we were thinking of that competition, the Premier League. Now our energy is on Brighton. I think it is so clear we have two alternatives.
“One is to be in the top four at the end of the season and the other is to beat Ajax but we have to go step by step. The players, they know it, I think the behaviour and the mentality is perfect.
“You know very well if there is something wrong I see it and I am going to tell them but I think they were very professional at City, the performance was very good and very professional.”
Spurs will take confidence from being back at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, where they have won their opening three games, scoring seven and conceding none. And Pochettino wants more of the same. “We hope we can keep going, getting the same result,” he said.
“It is going to be fantastic and it is going to be helpful for us playing in the new stadium with our fans and we hope and wish to repeat the performances of the previous results.”
Spurs lost 1-0 at City on Saturday after conceding an early goal but were helped in their quest to finish in the top four on Sunday when Manchester United and Arsenal lost. Pochettino is also encouraged by the fact Tottenham have won all three games at the new stadium.
Pochettino has some injury concerns, with Harry Kane still out and Moussa Sissoko set to be missing for two weeks. “Moussa is not going to be fit for the next two weeks,” he said. “I hope he can recover before then but I’m not optimistic. And with Harry Winks, I don’t know. It’s a problem that one day is very good and one not so good. It’s about assessing every day. We will see, maybe he will be available for Brighton but I’m not sure.”
He hopes to have Hugo Lloris available after the goalkeeper missed the City defeat with a muscle injury.
Meanwhile, Southampton must be aggressive and clinical to beat Watford on Tuesday as they look to move further away from the Premier League relegation zone, manager Ralph Hasenhuettl said on Monday.
Southampton are 16th in the standings with 36 points following a 3-1 loss at Newcastle United on Saturday. The club conceded two goals in four first-half minutes and Hasenhuettl said they could not risk a repeat of that performance against Watford as they sit five points above the drop zone with four games left.
“I think we have the quality to win there [at Watford] or to take a point, but we need a really clinical and perfect performance,” Hasenhuettl said.
“The message must be that a little bit of playing football is not enough for us, so we have to be aggressive again. We have to work harder than we did on Saturday in the first half because otherwise against Watford, a very strong team, it is again a big problem to take something.”
Hasenhuettl will be without injured defender Jannik Vestergaard for the trip to Watford and he will make a late call on Yan Valery who is recovering from illness. “It will be difficult I think for Jannik,” Hasenhuettl said. “He had big pains in the training session on Friday and stopped in the training session.
“With Yan he had a high temperature in the night so we drove him home and we will have a look. There is not a lot of time between the games so we will have a look.”
Hasenhuettl could change Southampton’s formation, especially in defence where he has alternated between a back three and a back four in recent games. “As always I think we know that we are flexible when changing shapes,” he added. “We showed at Newcastle again that we can immediately change the shape and get more comfortable.”