Mauricio Pochettino wants his Saints side to finish the season strongly, starting with Saturday’s trip to Tottenham Hotspur.
His team lost for the first time in seven matches last weekend, but the Argentine gaffer has called on the squad to use the disappointment of the defeat to West Bromwich Albion as encouragement to fare better at White Hart Lane.
“We’re going to be facing a really good team,” Pochettino acknowledged to Saints Player.
“They have very good footballers, but in football anything is possible, and we have our own strengths and weapons, whilst we also hope that we play better than we did last week.
“I think the last game that we played was one of the matches where we created the least number of chances so we have to be able to express all of the anger that we have from the West Bromwich game and channel that into a positive way for the game against Tottenham on Saturday.
“We have to be confident in our abilities and at one hundred per cent on the day so that we can win.”
Spurs were 2-1 winners over Southampton at St Mary’s back in October, with former Saints man Gareth Bale amongst the scorers for the visitors on that day. Earlier this week, the Welshman collected the PFA’s Player and Young Player of the Year awards before going on to pick up the Football Writers’ award.
Pochettino insists that it is not all about one player this weekend, but knows all about the quality of Tottenham’s top scorer.
“I’m not really surprised because he’s shown himself to be one of the best players in this league,” the manager said when asked if Bale was a worthy winner.
“Tottenham are not just Gareth Bale. They have other very good quality players so, as we always do when we play any of the big sides, we have to focus on the team and not just one player.”
The Saints manager is an admirer of the achievements of his counterpart Andre Villas-Boas who has led Spurs into contention for a Champions League place next season, but is keen to motivate Saints towards an away success in North London.
“I have the maximum respect for Villas-Boas because he has had a great career so far. I like his brand of football and so I will have a chance to say hello to him and share a few moments with him.
“After the defeat that we suffered last week we need to focus on recuperating our players’ mental state, but of course as we do with every single game that we face we try to introduce new concepts and fresh ideas to try and motivate our players for the next game ahead.”
Luke Shaw could return for the visitors after Pochettino confirmed that the full back had overcome an ankle injury during the week, and the manager will be eager to have the youngster available following the suspensions to Gaston Ramirez and Danny Fox following their red cards against West Brom.
Those suspensions have dented hopes of topping the ‘Fair Play’ league this season, a tally which takes into account bookings and suspensions throughout the season with the possible reward of entry to the Europa League via the backdoor, but Pochettino confessed that even if his side were still to qualify for a European place that way, the club would not accept it.
“It is a just a possibility and it is something that we have been speaking about with the Chairman Nicola Cortese,” the gaffer revealed. “We’ve decided not to accept it in case we awarded it because I think that in order to play in a European competition you have to earn that right on the pitch and you do that by scoring goals, playing on the pitch and being in the right position in the table to win your position rather than just being given it.
“We also agree that it would be a poisoned chalice for us and we need to be focused on our season, so in case we are awarded it we’ve said we’ll turn it down.”