Mauricio Pochettino has denied that his players are only capable of triumphing as underdogs in the Barclays Premier League.
This weekend, Southampton entertain European Champions Chelsea at St Mary’s, a venue which has become a fortress for the hosts after seeing off the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool, whilst Arsenal were also held to a draw here at the turn of the year.
Lesser teams than Liverpool and City have departed with points from St Mary’s since Pochettino’s arrival, but the Argentine manager refutes suggestions that the team can’t play at the same tempo in every game.
“I don’t fully agree with that,” Pochettino told Saints Player.
“If you look at the victories we got against Manchester City and Liverpool it might look like we raise our game against those games, but I don’t think that is the case because we played well against Wigan and Norwich, but perhaps weren’t lucky enough to get the three points in those games.
“We had a very good result against Liverpool and when you get a result like that you want to carry on playing games trying to get more results like that.
“We are just really focused on playing well on Saturday and getting three points against Chelsea and our maximum effort has to go into winning that game. We know full well that we are facing one of the best teams in England with top quality players so we have to be on top of our game.”
Saints have had a week’s break due to the international calendar, and although Pochettino concedes it would have been better to have everyone training together, he has been happy with the progress made in that time.
“We knew all about the calendar and that the international break was coming, so there was nothing we could do to change that, we just need to be really focused and on top form for the visit of Chelsea.
“We have worked really well with the players that were available to us over the two weeks. It was a shame that when we have a lot more time available to work that the international players are not available, but that is the way things are and we have to accept that.
“We hope that all the international players report back uninjured and fully focused on the game at the weekend,” Pochettino continued. “Everyone has arrived back apart from Gaston who will arrive on Friday morning because his flight back from Chile was delayed due to a fault with the plane, so we will see how he arrives and make a decision on him.
Although Rafa Benitez coached in Spain at around the same time as Pochettino’s involvement with Espanyol, the two only crossed paths a handful of times, so he looks forward to meeting the Chelsea gaffer on Saturday.
“As a player I came up against a team that he was managing, and one time I managed against him at Espanyol in the inauguration of the new stadium in Barcelona against his Liverpool side,” the Saints manager explained.
“Rafa is a manager who arrived mid-season by which time Manchester United had already developed quite a gap at the top of the league.
“Like us managers say all the time, I think people will need to analyse how he has done at the end of the season because they are still competing for two titles and also the league, so at the end of the season we will see how he has done.”