Mauricio Pochettino is concerned that Tottenham Hotspur’s hopes of claiming a place in next season’sChampions League could be damaged if they end the current campaign having qualified for the Europa League.
Pochettino’s side currently lie sixth in the Premier League and travel to face his former club Southampton, positioned one point and one place below them, on Saturday.
With just five games remaining and a seven-point gap separating them from the top four, Tottenham manager Pochettino knows a Champions Leaguespot is now beyond the north London club.
Victory at St Mary’s Stadium, though, would move Spurs ever closer to a return to the Europa League and after a disappointing run in the competition this season, Pochettino said the demands of the second-tier tournament had affected his side’s domestic efforts.
“The Europa League is not an easy competition, it’s a very tough competition because it affects your domestic league,” he said.
“It was my opinion when I was at Southampton, when I was asked a lot about this and, having had a Europa League season, I can now confirm that it is very difficult to manage the Europa League with the Premier League and both (domestic) cups.”
The Argentinian added. “I think that you spend a lot of energy when you play in the Europa League and it’s not easy.
“It’s true that the experience of last season with Liverpool and now with Manchester United –- I think that is a clear example that you will have the opportunity to stay closer to the top four, if you only have to focus on the Premier League and the cups.”
Pochettino’s first return to the south coast club since he left for White Hart Lane after the end of last season will give this clash an extra edge.
Ronald Koeman, Pochettino’s successor, has arguably been even more successful at St Mary’s, reviving Southampton after the departure of their manager and several key players to rival Premier League clubs.
Koeman is unequivocal in his desire to steer Saints into Europe, even though there is an element of disappointment that his side were not able to maintain their challenge for a top four finish.
– Contract rumours –
But Southampton’s preparations have again been accompanied by suggestions they may suffer another raft of departures this summer.
This week midfielder Victor Wanyama appeared to suggest on social media that Arsenal were interested in him – allegations Wanyama denied –- while Morgan Schneiderlin and Nathaniel Clyne have also been linked with moves away from the Saints.
“I spoke to Victor this morning,” Koeman said Thursday.
“We had a meeting with all the players because what we need is now to really have the focus on the last five games. We play for a European position on the table.
“We have a massive game this Saturday and no interest in talking about rumours in the press about future contracts,” the Dutch great added.
“That’s difficult but it’s not true what they put in the press and I believe the player (Wanyama).”
He added: “I think now is the moment to really focus on what we have to do which is to win the games and not about the future of players.” – Agence France-Presse