English Premier League

Mauricio Pochettino relishes Southampton return with Tottenham Hotspur

Spurs head to St Mary’s looking for a first away victory since September, although they have won four of their last five games overall

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 December, 2016, 11:25am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 December, 2016, 11:08pm

Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino returns to former club Southampton on Wednesday 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 Argentinean, 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.

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“[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.

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“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.”

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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.

“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,” winger Dusan Tadic said ahead of the meeting at St Mary’s.

“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.”

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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.”