Tottenham players' bout with flu not to blame for Southampton draw - Poch
SOUTHAMPTON -- The Tottenham squad was struck down with a virus ahead of Sunday's 1-1 draw at Southampton but manager Mauricio Pochettino refused to use it as an excuse for the result.
Captain Hugo Lloris and Christian Eriksen both missed the trip through illness and Pochettino -- who returned to St. Mary's five years to the day since his first match in English football -- said that some of the players who featured in heavy rain on a muddy pitch were also ill during the week.
Spurs spent Sunday to Thursday last week in Barcelona for a warm-weather training camp, but the Spurs manager said the players had picked up the illness before leaving for Spain.
"A few players were affected last week but it's not an excuse, our performance wasn't the best, I admit," Pochettino told a postmatch news conference. "We need to be focussed on improving. There are a lot of reasons -- the pitch didn't help -- but in the end we must do better, play better. If we want to be in the top four, we need to improve our level."
Asked which other players had been ill, Pochettino said: "I'm not going to give names because they're OK. It's not an excuse. We tried. The draw is not because we're tired or had some problems."
Davinson Sanchez's own goal gave Saints a deserved early lead but Harry Kane's header, his 99th goal in the Premier League, levelled the score, before the striker missed Spurs' best chance to win it in stoppage time.
"Not frustrated -- disappointed because our game wasn't great, our performance wasn't the best," Pochettino added. "Credit to Saints, because they fight, they played well, it was a fair result in the end. True that massive chances in the last minutes for Harry Kane, but I think at the end, if you analyse the game, it's a fair result."
The result left Spurs two points behind fourth-placed Liverpool, who have a game in hand, with their next three league fixtures are against Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal.
Asked if the run could make or break Spurs hopes of Champions League football, Pochettino said: "Of course they will be important for us. It is important if we are going to take points and win games. It's true that we're going to fight, if not, it will be difficult. That's the idea. Try to win games and be consistent. At the end, we have the possibility to fight for the top four."
Pochettino reiterated he is "relaxed and calm" about Spurs' lack of transfer business in January so far and said he would not comment on the latest rumours linking Kane with Real Madrid.
"I don't want to speak about rumours -- because if I gave an explanation about one rumour, I would need to speak about many rumours at my press conferences," the Spurs manager said. "And to give my opinion and speak about rumours for Harry Kane or Mauricio Pochettino. It's not my problem to speak about rumours."
Dan is ESPN FC's Tottenham correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Dan_KP.