What’s the team news ahead of the trip to St Mary’s?
Mauricio Pochettino: “It’s still too far ahead but still Erik Lamela will be out, maybe Vincent Janssen will recover and be available to be selected and then everything is okay. Toby Alderweireld is okay, he is training well and he will be good.”
What sort of a message does Hugo Lloris signing a new contract send out?
Mauricio: “I think it’s fantastic for the club, it’s a very good thing that our players want to be involved in the project for a long time. I think that is a fantastic thing for us. I think it’s a very, very, very good signal, a very good message for the people, for the club. I think that the players showing their commitment to the club is because they believe in the project and that makes us very, very proud.”
Did you ever feel like you were close to losing the services of Hugo?
Mauricio: “No. In two-and-a-half years he showed his commitment to me, I never felt that (we were) about to lose him but we know him very well, he is one of the best keepers in the world and always the temptation can arrive for another club or for him but nothing changed because the feeling was always that Hugo wanted to show his commitment to the club and now is a great opportunity because he’s signed a new contract. To be honest with us, with the club and to really believe in that project, I think it’s very good news for us.”
Is it emotional for you to go back to Southampton?
Mauricio: “It’s always special to go back to Southampton. It was a very special place for me and for my family because I had the possibility to start my career in England and in the Premier League there. I think it will always be a special place for me, (there are) a lot of people that we have a good relationship with, it will always be special for me and it’s a good opportunity to see all my friends there.”
What have you made of the job Claude Puel is doing at Southampton?
Mauricio: “I think he’s doing a fantastic job. I know him very well from France, I think he’s a great coach and he’s doing a fantastic job. I think they are playing very well and with the good results I think he is doing a very good job.”
Is it a concern to you that Harry Kane hasn’t scored in the last few games?
“No, I am not worried about him. I always repeat the same – for me he is one of the best strikers in the world. For different reasons maybe he didn’t score in the last few games but there’s no doubt that it’s only a few games. He’s a fantastic player, he’s a top scorer and I have no doubt he will start to score as soon as possible.”
Is winning the title still a realistic possibility?
Mauricio: “If you have time to see the table last season, I think it was the same – seven or eight points (away from) Leicester. I think it’s realistic because the gap is 10 points and there are a lot of games to play. It’s up to us to believe, be ambitious and try to give our best to try to improve every week and every game. Of course, today it is realistic, today we are on 17 games with more than half the season ahead. All is possible in football.”
Do you take confidence going into this period of fixtures because you did very well around this time last season?
Mauricio: “We are confident, we are working very hard and I arrived late now (for this press conference) because the training session was more than two-and-a-half hours. Then we’ll see what happens. We are very focused on trying to win points and it’s a very important period. It’s not a decisive period but it’s important to cross that period in a very good position and to attack the last three or four months in the Premier League with the possibility to try to fight for the top four.”
Some Premier League teams are losing players to the Africa Cup of Nations. Is it an advantage that you don’t have that problem this year?
Mauricio: “I think it’s positive because we don’t have any players involved in that situation. I think it will be positive for us.”
Do you expect to be busy in January?
Mauricio: “Maybe. Like before, it’s too difficult to improve your squad in January for all the clubs. I don’t expect too much.”
Do you think Hugo Lloris will finish his career at Spurs?
Mauricio: “That is a question for him. I think for a keeper, you have a lot of examples where if you keep your body fit, you can play. It’s different to another position on the pitch. I think it’s a question for him. I don’t know but we are very happy. To start to talk about how he finishes his career, I think it’s too far ahead. He’s only 29 years old, for a keeper he’s still very young.”
Brad Friedel played here into his forties. Is Hugo fit enough to do something similar?
Mauricio: “Yes. Hugo is fit enough, like Brad. He has an exceptional body and if he keeps fit, only he can decide when he stops playing.”
What are your thoughts on Jay Rodriguez coming back into the fray at Southampton and scoring two goals last week?
Mauricio: “I’m very happy (for him). I sent him a text, I was very happy to see him enjoy (his football) on the pitch again. He got a very bad injury, I remember it well – we have that day very fresh in our minds against Manchester City at the Etihad but he’s a top player, a top man and we were very happy to see him enjoy (his football) again and score against Bournemouth. Now we will suffer him because he will be our enemy and our opponent but I am very happy that he is back and recovering his level because not only is he a top player, he’s a top person too.”
Is Mousa Dembele fit for the Southampton game?
Mauricio: “Dembele is okay, he has been training very well. At the moment it’s only Lamela (who is out). With Janssen, we hope that he will be good, Toby is okay, only Lamela will not be available for Southampton.”
Will the new deals for Hugo Lloris and Michel Vorm have any bearing on whether you try to make Pau Lopez’s loan move into a permanent one?
Mauricio: “No, it’s nothing to do with Pau. The three keepers are in different situations, different positions, different levels. Pau is more about the present and future but the contracts are nothing to do with Pau.”
Do you think the 10 days between games represents a mini winter break for you?
Mauricio: “We play on December 28, some teams play on December 26 but I think we are all in the same situation. We will play against Chelsea with one day less in between (games) and I think we are all in the same positon in the end.”