What’s the latest on Danny Rose and when can he return to training?
Mauricio Pochettino: “I am not a doctor but I can explain that he is very positive, we are very positive and he is happy. I was talking with him before the press conference and we are happy after he visited the specialist. It’s not a big issue, it’s a small problem and we’ll see, we hope that as soon as possible he can be available again.”
Is there a chance that he might not be out for an extended period of time, as has been reported in the press?
Mauricio: “I think it’s too many rumours and we need to be patient when players are out. That is a rumour that is not true. We cannot control everything that is in the media or on the internet. The most important thing is he is very optimistic, we are optimistic with him, we are happy and we will see what happens – it’s only time.”
What about Jan Vertonghen and Erik Lamela?
Mauricio: “I think we’ve explained a lot on the situation about Jan Vertonghen. Maybe next week he will be available to start work with the team. We are very positive and optimistic too, like with Danny Rose. With Erik Lamela we are very happy, very positive and very optimistic but I cannot give the date that maybe he can meet his team-mates to start to work.”
And Kieran Trippier?
Mauricio: “He started training with the group on Monday, he is well and we hope that after today and tomorrow he will be available to be selected.”
How significant is this game against Liverpool?
Mauricio: “Like all the games, Middlesbrough and now Liverpool, every game is important because always you play for three points. It’s true that this is not a decisive game because there are a lot of games ahead to play. It will be an important game and if we are capable of winning and achieving the three points it will be important for us to keep our position in the table and try to put pressure on Chelsea. It’s true that it’s not a decisive game but it’s a very important game.”
If you win, you will be seven points in front of Liverpool. That’s quite a margin…
Mauricio: “Yes but I am thinking at the top of the table so that is not a problem today. The important thing is to try to get the three points because our objective is to try to reduce the gap to Chelsea and for that we need to be ready to fight because it will be a very, very difficult game. They are not on a good run but Liverpool have very good players – for me it’s one of the best squads, not only in England but in Europe. Be sure that they will be motivated because always Liverpool v Tottenham is a big match.”
How do you explain Liverpool’s difficult spell in 2017 so far?
Mauricio: “I can’t explain, I cannot speak about another team that is not mine, only I can say that we had the same problem in November when we were playing in the Champions League. After Manchester City I think it was seven or eight games without a victory and always in 10 months, during a whole season, every club and every team can have ups and downs. For us it was the same but for me the most important thing is they are a very good team, they have very good players and they will be motivated like us. We need to be motivated and ready to fight because it’s a different game when you play against teams like Liverpool.”
Both teams employ a pressing style. How do you deal with that?
Mauricio: “Liverpool and Tottenham have clear ideas of how we want to play. Maybe we are similar but not the same in our principles. I respect Liverpool a lot and the way that they play, we need to be clever like they will be to try to beat us and I think like always when we play Liverpool it will be very high-tempo and intense. It will be a very, very tough game for both sides.”
Will you have to change the way you play to combat Liverpool’s threats?
Mauricio: “We never change. Sometimes we use different formations or different players to play but in our principles, we never change – like them or like Chelsea, United or Southampton. All teams have their principles and then they move a little bit to the left or right, up or down, but every coaching staff has their style and nobody wants to change, they only want to impose their ideas.”
Do you feel like you’ve got a lot of leaders and potential captains in your dressing room?
Mauricio: “Yes and that is good. For me, every player has the quality and the capacity to be a leader. The hierarchy is very important because we have Hugo Lloris who is captain of France – an experienced player – and it’s true that he can give better advice than maybe another younger player. Then we have a player like Dele Alli with his personality and character, he can maybe become a leader in a few years, but for me every single player in our squad has qualities to be a leader, they only need time to develop that quality.”
Do you think that gives Spurs something of an edge at the moment?
Mauricio: “It’s important to have good character and always work to win – not say you want to win but show you want to win with your performance, your behaviour, your attitude and your own motivation. I think it’s very important. If you have character and good personality and you are a leader, that is a quality that is natural in all the players and must be natural. I am happy with the personality, the way that they move in the changing room and our performance on the pitch. We can win or we can lose because football is a game but I am very happy.”
Do you think you’re the only realistic challengers to Chelsea in the Premier League title race?
Mauricio: “No, we are not the only realistic (challengers) in the table. After Chelsea it’s us and it’s a fact that we are a contender today but then there are a lot of teams that are contenders and there are a lot of games ahead. It’s true that Chelsea has a massive gap because nine points is massive but it’s not decisive.”
With Victor Wanyama and Mousa Dembele working so well in midfield, is that having an influence on the way you’re developing Eric Dier as more of a centre-back again?
Mauricio: “For different reasons I am very happy with Eric Dier. If you remember, two-and-a-half years ago when he arrived at the club, he scored in my first official game against West Ham in injury time. He started to play like a centre-back next to Younes Kaboul, then Kyle Naughton was sent off and he moved to right-back and he finished like a winger because the goal was unbelievable! Then he developed different possibilities to play, playing in the (England) Under-21s and in his second season here and that is very important. He is very young and every time (he plays in) different positions it doesn’t affect him in his performances. He plays well as a full-back, a centre-back or a midfielder. That is a big advantage and he is a very good player for us.”
With a lot of the players having signed new contracts, is there a point where you need to start winning trophies?
Mauricio: “The most important step is that the players believe they can achieve their dream. That is very, very important. If you believe that Tottenham is the right place to achieve your dream you will be very close to winning trophies. For me, it’s the first time that it’s happened where in the last few months I and maybe 80 per cent of the players showed their commitment and want to be here long-term. It’s my first experience like this. When I was at different clubs it never happened (like it is) happening here and that is very good news for us. For me, to achieve big things, the players need to dream and (for them) to show their commitment to us, to Tottenham, is because they dream that they can be important here, can lift trophies and can achieve their dream.”