Po­chet­tino rel­ishes Southamp­ton re­turn

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur man­ager Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino re­turns to for­mer club Southamp­ton to­day with a feel­ing of grat­i­tude, but also a burn­ing de­sire for a re­turn to form on the road. The north Lon­don­ers have not claimed an away vic­tory since Septem­ber, a run that has left them out­side of the Premier League top four.

But they have won four of their last five games over­all, which Po­chet­tino, who left Southamp­ton for White Hart Lane in 2014, be­lieves can be the spring­board to a ti­tle chal­lenge. “It’s al­ways spe­cial to go back,” said the Ar­gen­tine, who joined the south coast club in Jan­uary 2013 be­fore leav­ing 16 months later.

“It was a spe­cial place for me and my fam­ily to have the pos­si­bil­ity to start my ca­reer in the Premier League. “It will al­ways be a spe­cial place for me and a lot of peo­ple I still have a re­la­tion­ship with. It will be a good op­por­tu­nity to see all the friends there.

“(Southamp­ton man­ager) Claude Puel has done a fan­tas­tic job. I know him well from France. He’s a great coach, do­ing a fan­tas­tic job. They’re play­ing very well, with good re­sults.”

Spurs go into the game a mam­moth 13 points be­low lead­ers Chelsea, hav­ing played a game more, but Po­chet­tino re­fuses to give up on the ti­tle. “We can fight for the ti­tle at the end of the sea­son. It’s up to us to fight and be am­bi­tious and try to be our best,” he said.

“With 17 games played, we have more than half the sea­son ahead. All is pos­si­ble in foot­ball. “We are con­fi­dent. We are work­ing hard. We are fo­cused on try­ing to win points. This is a very im­por­tant pe­riod. “We want to at­tack the last three or four months with the pos­si­bil­ity to try to fight for the top four.”

Po­chet­tino still keeps in con­tact with for­mer player Jay Ro­driguez, who scored twice against Bournemouth last week to sig­nal his re­turn to form af­ter over a year out with a rup­tured an­te­rior cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment.

“I’m very happy for him,” the Spurs man­ager said. “I sent the text. I was happy to see him on the pitch again. He suf­fered a very bad in­jury and I re­mem­ber, fresh in our minds, that day at Man City. “He’s a top player, a top man and we were happy to see him score against Bournemouth. Now we will suf­fer him be­cause he will be our en­emy and our op­po­nent.

“I’m happy he’s back to his level. He’s a top per­son.” Southamp­ton’s 3-1 win at Bournemouth means Puel’s men have now gone three Premier League games un­beaten since they were knocked out of the Europa League.

Winger Du­san Tadic says spir­its are high as they look for­ward to the clash with Tot­ten­ham at St Mary’s. “I think we get a lot of con­fi­dence now from the last win and that was re­ally im­por­tant for us be­cause we had the dis­ap­point­ment of go­ing out of Europe and we needed the points,” he said. “It will be a re­ally dif­fi­cult match be­cause they have a re­ally good team, a good coach and they’re one of the best teams in the league.

“They al­ways have the same phi­los­o­phy, an at­tack­ing-minded phi­los­o­phy, and they want to dom­i­nate games and beat their op­po­nents. It will be dif­fi­cult, but we will pre­pare good for it.”

Southamp­ton will be with­out mid­fielder Jordy Clasie due to a groin prob­lem, while Tot­ten­ham’s squad should be strong de­spite winger Erik Lamela’s hip in­jury rul­ing him out again. “It’s a pity that Clasie has a groin pain and this is a difficulty for us,” said Puel. “I don’t know for the mo­ment how long he’s out for. Per­haps around 10 days, I hope.” — AFP

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