London (AFP) – Mauricio Pochettino insists Tottenham cannot allow themselves to be distracted by the fluctuating form of their nearest rivals as they step up their bid for a top four spot.
Pochettino’s side welcome Southampton to Wembley after a round of weekend matches that strengthened the position of the north London club.
A comfortable 3-0 victory at Burnley moved Spurs up to fifth place, one point behind Liverpool in fourth, as Jurgen Klopp’s side were held by Arsenal and Chelsea and Manchester United both drew.
The contest to fill the places behind runaway leaders Manchester City is expected to go to the wire and after an inconsistent campaign, Pochettino will hope his side can enter the new year on the back of a winning run.
“We cannot think about another club. We need to keep the momentum, to try to win again, to be consistent,” Pochettino said.
“If we want to fight to the end for big things, we must try to be consistent.
“But I’m sure the team are focused. The team are in a good way. It was so important to believe again and to smile again by winning at Burnley, after the defeat at Manchester City.
“I think we need to focus on the challenge of Southampton. We cannot think about second, first, third or top four. I think the most important thing is the next game.”
The central importance of Harry Kane to Spurs’ cause was reinforced by the striker’s hat-trick at Burnley that took his tally to 36 goals in the calendar year, matching Alan Shearer’s 22-year-old Premier League record.
The England forward, 24, now has 93 Premier League goals to his name, but Pochettino admits Kane will have to maintain that consistency if he is to beat Shearer’s record of 260 Premier League goals.
– ‘Massive respect’ –
“The record of Alan is fantastic. He was a fantastic player. Harry is doing so well. But Alan as consistent for more than 10 years,” he said.
“You need to show massive respect for that, because he did some amazing work.
“Now Harry is doing well. We hope that continues, because to have a player like Harry Kane is fantastic. I hope and wish that every season he scores 15 or more than 15.
“I think he can still improve. He is 24. Players arrive at their best when they are 27, 28, 29.
“It depends on how professional you are. If Harry Kane can keep that mentality every day and never changes that mentality, then he can play for as long as he wants. But he can still improve.”
Southampton face Spurs on the back of a 1-1 home draw with Huddersfield which was overshadowed by a clash between Saints striker Charlie Austin and Town keeper Jonas Lossl.
Huddersfield manager David Wagner claimed the forward allowed his boot to connect with Lossl’s head and Austin has been charged with violent conduct by the Football Association.
Austin also picked up a hamstring injury in the game that is likely to keep him for at least two weeks, depriving Saints of the in-form goalscorer for the trip to Wembley.
Virgil van Dijk is also likely to be missing after the centre-back – a target for Manchester City and Liverpool – was left out for the Huddersfield clash that left Southampton in 13th place.
“There is a lot of speculation about him,” said Saints boss Mauricio Pellegrino.
“I cannot control this but I have to think about the next game. We train tomorrow and then decide if he can play.”
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