Mauricio Pochettino: Tottenham in 'ideal situation' for Champions League place
LONDON -- Mauricio Pochettino has played down fears that Tottenham Hotspur could miss out on Champions League football next season, insisting they enter the final week of the season in "an ideal situation."
Spurs need to win their remaining two league matches against Newcastle and Leicester City to guarantee a top-four finish, after their 10-point lead over Chelsea was reduced to just two points over four games.
While Spurs fans are growing alarmed, Pochettino said everyone would have taken the position at the beginning of the season and pointed out that they will finish third if they win the two home games.
"If you analyse all the context, I think it's an amazing season," Pochettino said. "To have the possibility with two games left to finish third, I think it's massively successful.
"But I understand people want more. We want more. We're ambitious. We need patience, we need to work hard. Sometimes we're disappointed. Sometimes you need to start again. Sometimes you need to be focused on maybe doing some different movements.
"For me, to create a team capable of winning, to build a winning mentality is like a marathon. It's not an explosive 100 metres, standing and stopping in nine seconds. It's 42 kilometres and it's a long-term development with ups and downs but always going up, and I think that is the progression of the club and the team.
"I am sure disappointed of course if we don't achieve in the next few years a title, of course, but what we cannot do is to forget from where we came from. I think today to be competitive, to arrive in this moment with the possibility to be third, I think if you look at the past and the history of the club, I think this group of players deserves a lot of credit, and the club of course for making all that situation happen.
"Of course it's never enough in football and I always told the players, after working hard for two hours in a training session 'yes well done but it's not enough, it's not enough. You can see that it's not enough to have the possibility to fight for the Champions League."
Spurs finished as runners-up behind Chelsea last season and challenged Leicester City for the title in 2015-16 but Pochettino said finishing third or fourth would still represent progress for the club, given they have spent the entire season playing at a temporary home.
"For me, amazing progression," he said. "First of all because you need to compare every season in context, not out of context. Last season at White Hart Lane we played 19 games in the Premier League and we won 17 and drew twice. The team was complete, unbelievable with the fans, without the corner, remember, at White Hart Lane. We were playing fantastic, we were very confident about winning.
"After, you move to Wembley. You finish second in the league, you move to Wembley and of course there's a lot of fears because the Champions League wasn't great the previous season."
Pochettino is facing a midfield crisis for Newcastle's visit to the national stadium on Wednesday, with Mousa Dembele and Harry Winks (both ankle) joined by Eric Dier (illness) on the sidelines.
"Last night he started with vomiting and fever and now it's normal that he needs a minimum of 48 hours to recover to be available again for training. We don't know the reason why," Pochettino said of Dier.
"Yes, we hope he will be available [against Leicester] for the weekend. I hope yes and I believe he can be available. At the moment only we need to help him. The doctors are helping him. Tomorrow we'll see how he is and after tomorrow we see if he starts the training again."
Dan is ESPN FC's Tottenham correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Dan_KP.