Spurs v Southampton: The lowdown on the Saints
09:00 23 March 2014
PA Wire/Press Association Images
Southampton boss Mauricio Pochettino has no interest in a late surge into Europe - but a number of his players will be hoping to secure spots in this summer’s World Cup.
Given that Spurs have faced Chelsea, Benfica and Arsenal in the last couple of weeks, and are yet to visit Anfield before the end of March, this weekend’s showdown against Southampton has largely gone under the radar.
Of course, if the Lilywhites were still realistically chasing the top four, this is exactly the sort of game where they would drop points.
But, as it is, there is little at stake. Tottenham are playing for a Europa League spot that they’re not entirely sure they want. And, while Southampton would earn a lot of credit if they could make up a six-point gap and finish in the top six, their manager Mauricio Pochettino isn’t too keen on the continental competition either.
“In my opinion the Europa League is not an attractive competition,” he said last month. “That is my opinion, not the club’s opinion.
“I think it is a competition that kills you in the sense that there are a lot of mid-table teams that put a lot of effort into the Europa League and then are not able to do anything in the league.”
So what do Southampton have to play for? Jose Fonte has the answer: “We will keep pushing hard and try and finish as high as possible – and people want to go to Brazil. People want to perform to be on the plane to play at the World Cup.”
There will be plenty of England candidates on show at the Lane on Sunday – and most of them will be on the visiting team.
Meanwhile, Pochettino may be facing his own audition at the Lane – the Argentinian is one of the men being touted as a replacement for Tim Sherwood if Spurs chairman Daniel Levy opts for another managerial change this summer.
ONES TO WATCH…
Rickie Lambert, Jay Rodriguez and Adam Lallana have all made their England debuts this season, and 18-year-old left-back Luke Shaw made his bow against Denmark at Wembley two weeks ago.
Lambert came off the bench against Norwich on Saturday to score his 12th goal of the season – including two strikes in England colours – and the 32-year-old then teed up Rodriguez, who struck for the 14th time this campaign.
It is unlikely that both strikers will go to Brazil, and midfielder Lallana has the best chance out of the Saints contingent.
The 25-year-old has eight goals to his name this term, and he set up Daniel Sturridge’s winner against Denmark on March 5.
This World Cup may come too soon for Shaw, but he is likely to attract some big offers this summer. Meanwhile, French midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin is eligible to play for the Three Lions under the five-year residency rule.
And, having been overlooked by France, he says he would consider switching allegiances. “Never say never. Don’t give me any time limit, I’ll just see,” he said.
Tottenham have won all three of their meetings with Southampton since their return to the top flight.
Last season, Gareth Bale scored in both games against his old club, getting the opener in a 2-1 away win and then performing customary heroics with a late 25-yard winner in a 1-0 home victory.
The last meeting was Tim Sherwood’s first league game in charge of Spurs, who went behind to a Lallana goal – but Emmanuel Adebayor equalised before a Jos Hooiveld own goal put the visitors ahead.
Lambert levelled five minutes later but, five minutes after that, Adebayor hit the winner in a 3-2 triumph.
Spurs tend to be below par after European trips and, as they have lost their last three games, a draw would be an improvement – 1-1