LONDON (Reuters) - Mauricio Pochettino returns to his old club Southampton on Saturday trying to keep his Tottenham Hotspur side on course for the prize that he clearly does not really desire.
Tottenham are sixth in the Premier League, one above Southampton, and should they remain there they would automatically be rewarded with a Europa League spot.
The nature of Europe's secondary club competition means Thursday night trips to far-flung destinations and lots of Sunday kick-offs in the Premier League - a routine that puts an inevitable strain on domestic ambitions.
Tottenham slogged their way through to the Europa League last 32 this season before losing to Fiorentina, extra games that appear to have damaged their top-four challenge.
"The Europa League is not an easy competition, it's very tough, because it effects your domestic league," Pochettino, who transformed Southampton's fortunes in his 18-months on the south coast and took them to eighth, said at Tottenham's training ground on Thursday.
"I confirm because that was always my opinion at Southampton and I confirm that it's very difficult to manage the Europa League with the Premier League and domestic cups."