Football: Spurs eye away day e-Poch

Last season's third-placed team seek three points on the road at coach's old stomping ground

LONDON • Tottenham 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 the Premier League's 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 Argentinian, 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 coach) 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."

MANY POINTS TO PLAY FOR

We can fight for the title... we have more than half the season ahead. All is possible in football... We want to attack the last three or four months with the possibility of fighting for the top four.

MAURICIO POCHETTINO, Tottenham coach, on not throwing in the towel just yet.

Spurs go into the game a mammoth 13 points below leaders Chelsea, but Pochettino is refusing 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 of fighting for the top four."

Tottenham have been boosted by the return of midfielder Mousa Dembele, striker Vincent Janssen and defender Toby Alderweireld, with only forward Erik Lamela still unavailable with a hip injury.

Southampton's 3-1 win at Bournemouth on Dec 18 means Puel's men have now gone three Premier League games undefeated since they were knocked out of the Europa League.

However, they are having trouble scoring at the St Mary's Stadium with the least number of home goals in the Premier League so far - just eight in as many matches.

Puel has called on his team to improve in the scoring stakes.

"Sometimes it's difficult for us to be clinical in our play. But it is important for us to take our responsibility in the last third," the Frenchman said. "We have good players but without the good attitude and desire to take the responsibility.

"It's important to try and shoot in the penalty area and then we can make the difference. We have to make progress on this."

He added that Spurs goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris, whom he coached at Lyon and who recently extended his contract to stay at White Hart Lane until 2022, will be a significant player in the match.

"He's an important player for Tottenham because he is clinical every time, he will make saves in every game," said Puel. "He was my player at Lyon and I gave him the role of captain. He was a young player but always an important player. It was important for Tottenham to keep him with a new contract."

Southampton will be without midfielder Jordy Clasie due to a groin problem.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

SOUTHAMPTON V TOTTENHAM
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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 28, 2016, with the headline 'Spurs eye away day e-poch'. Print Edition | Subscribe