What’s the team news for Sunday?
Mauricio Pochettino: “Erik Lamela and Vincent Janssen are still out, Ben Davies will be available again and then, no news. After that, the players who were involved against CSKA at Wembley are available to be selected.”
Is Toby Alderweireld in line to start?
Mauricio: “That is a good point. We need to decide to tomorrow if he is in good form to play 90 minutes but we are happy that after two months out he is back. It was good for him to feel competition again against CSKA for 25 minutes, it was fantastic for him and we’ll see. We have a lot of games ahead, a very busy period, we need all players fit so we will see if we decide to start him from the beginning of the game or if he is on the bench again.”
Do you think you have an advantage over Manchester United because of the clubs’ different schedules in Europe this week?
Mauricio: “It’s true that for us last season and the season before it was tough to play Thursday and then Sunday. Yes, it’s true that we have one day more, I don’t remember in two-and-a-half years that we had the advantage one day but when you play against a team like Manchester United they have a very good squad, a strong squad and they can rotate players. That is their decision but we know that it will be a very tough game for us, Manchester United are a great team and we can be sure that it will be a very competitive game.”
Manchester United haven’t always got the results they’ve wanted over recent weeks. Do you have any sympathy for Jose Mourinho or any manager in that situation?
Mauricio: “Sometimes it happens. For us, it was the same period one month ago – we dominated the games, had better starts than our opponents, then in the end we drew or sometimes lost. Sometimes it happens in football.”
Do you think Jose Mourinho is still ‘The Special One’?
Mauricio: “For me, he is The Special One and always will be. For me it was a reference when I started to work at Espanyol at the start of my career, he was always very kind with myself, he opened his door but always I try to assess my colleagues and try to be objective. I really believe that he is one of the best. In some periods in football, sometimes you struggle a little bit because it’s not easy to arrive at a new club and settle your ideas and your philosophy but for me he was, he is and will be one of the best managers in football history.”
Did you expect United to be closer in the title race at this point?
Mauricio: “I think the gap looks bigger but there are a lot of games ahead to finish the league. The Premier League is very tough, maybe now you are in a good or bad period but you always have the possibility to reduce the gap and when you have good players, a good squad and you are at a good club, that is always possible in football.”
Is it important for you that the club supports your ambition in the January transfer window?
Mauricio: “I think January is always difficult to find the right profile to help you. Always when you bring players in from outside, they don’t have too much time to settle into your club and your philosophy for many reasons. I think it will be difficult to find that profile that can help us but I think the club is doing a very good job to extend the contracts of the key players. That is how we can show our real ambition and how the players show their commitment with us. I think that’s a big statement from the club to show our ambition for the future.”
What’s your view on Zlatan Ibrahimovic?
Mauricio: “I think he is playing very well and he is scoring a lot of goals. It’s always difficult to come to a new league with the pressure that they have at Manchester United but I think he’s doing a great job.”
Do you think the gap between United and Spurs off the pitch has decreased in recent years?
Mauricio: “I think we are making a big effort to try to reduce that gap on the pitch. It’s true that our Chairman and our board are trying to work hard to build a new stadium and create new facilities like we have here now at the Training Centre to reduce that gap on the commercial side too and I think Tottenham is showing the ambition to be one of the biggest clubs in England and in Europe. The job that we are doing on and off the pitch is unbelievable and we need to recognise that work.”
Have you missed Toby Alderweireld over the last couple of months?
Mauricio: “Toby was one of our best players last season and like always you miss players when they are injured. We have 24 players and you want all the players fit to try to compete and then you choose one or another. Always it’s healthy to have all players fit to try to increase the competition in the training sessions, to try to push everyone to give their best.”
How do you sum up your season so far?
Mauricio: “This week it’s not too easy to explain my feelings because we are out of the Champions League and we’ve just played our last game in the Champions League at Wembley but if we compare with last season, we have two points more in the Premier League and we are in the same position because we have got qualification for the next round of the Europa League. We are in a similar position to last season but better because we have two points more. It’s too difficult to say if we’ve improved from last season, this Premier League is more competitive, it’s a different Premier League than last season but we are happy with the way we are playing after the problems that we’ve had over the last month-and-a-half. We’ve had a lot of problems and injuries that last season we didn’t have so for that reason, when we assess from the beginning of the season how the team is, we need to be pleased with the performance and the way that we are playing.”
How do you assess your December fixtures?
Mauricio: “Every game is difficult. Now we have a very tough game against Manchester United, then Hull and Burnley but it’s step by step. It’s important now that we are focused and try to win the next game and then look at another. It’s true that we have an opportunity now where we will focus only on the Premier League and try to get as many points as possible to try to reduce the gap at the top of the table.”
Is Erik Lamela still away dealing with his family issue?
Mauricio: “Yes, he is still in Argentina.”
Can you explain a bit about Vincent Janssen’s injury?
Mauricio: “He’s had an injection in his ankle but now he’s in a process to recover from his injury and we’ll see – maybe in 10 days, two weeks, he can be available again.”