Is Sunday’s game the ultimate test of how much your team has improved?
Mauricio Pochettino: “No, I think it’s a very important game for us and for them, but it’s only a game. We are at the beginning of the season, it’s true that we’re playing against Manchester City who are unbeaten in the Premier League, it’s first against second in the table, I think it will be a very tough, very important game for both teams but it’s very early to start saying that it’s an important game to prove something. For me, I think it’s only the beginning (of the season). The three points are very important, it’s important to reduce the gap but be sure that my speech if we win will be the same as if we don’t get the three points. The most important thing is to be solid, to show that we believe in the way that we play. It’s too early to start to speak about aims at the end of the season but I agree that it’s a very important and exciting game.”
How much are you looking forward to taking on a Pep Guardiola team again after your rivalry with Espanyol and Barcelona in Spain?
Mauricio: “This was in the past and you know that I don’t like to speak too much about the past. For me, football is about the present and future and the most important thing is to match them, play well, try to show our quality and get the three points. Then, of course, to say hello to Guardiola because we shared a lot of time together up against each other, him at Barcelona and me at Espanyol. It’s important to see all the staff, too – Mikel Arteta and some of the other staff are very good friends of mine. It will be very good to see all of them.”
What do you make of the impact Guardiola has made at Manchester City?
Mauricio: “He’s one of the best managers in the world, he showed his qualities at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and now Manchester City. At the beginning it’s always tough when a manager arrives at a new club in the Premier League but I think that it’s exciting to play against him.”
What’s the latest on Harry Kane’s recovery?
Mauricio: “He is very positive, the scan was very positive last Monday and the expectation is that he can be available sooner than we expected.”
What’s the latest on the other injured players?
Mauricio: “I am very positive about the players that have had injuries. I need to assess them tomorrow but I am very positive on a few of them. We need to assess them – today, all are maybe at the same level. We are very positive on them but we have one training session more tomorrow and then I will take a decision. Only Harry (Kane) is a little bit behind.”
Do you think it’s possible for Tottenham to compete with teams like Manchester City in the long-term?
Mauricio: “Long term, yes. Maybe we are a little bit behind them now in the project but I think that our expectation is, in the long term, to compete with all the big clubs. We are building, after two years, a different philosophy, a different project – to build a new stadium and the unbelievable training ground that we have is to set a principle to be a big, big club. Our ambition is to be one of the biggest clubs in the world but for that you need time and a process. I think that balance is the most important thing in football. We have an unbelievable academy, people who work very hard to try to provide the first team with very good players and then we need to bring in players who can settle quickly into our philosophy. That is very important. It’s a process where we are working very hard now to set the principles to arrive in the new stadium and try to show how big our club is.”
Is Georges-Kevin Nkoudou at the required fitness level to be able to start games yet?
Mauricio: “He’s not 100 per cent at the level that we want him. He is very young and we need to work a lot for him to arrive at his best level but it’s true that, for the way that we want to use him now, he’s a perfect forward to be on the bench and make an impact like he did against CSKA.”
Do you think we’ll see Vincent Janssen start to score goals around this time, as he did last season for AZ Alkmaar?
Mauricio: “We cannot compare it to when he was with his former club or when he was in Holland. The Premier League is very tough, it’s different to the Dutch league. We are happy with the way that he’s working – it’s true that he needs to score because strikers (have that focus) like Harry Kane but he only needs to be patient. He’s working, he’s adapting his qualities at a new club in a new league and it’s always difficult but we are very happy with the way that he’s working.”