Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino was proud of what he called his team of heroes despite a 2-1 Premier League defeat by Liverpool on Sunday leaving them with one point from the last 15 in their bid for a top four finish.
However, the Argentine said Spurs’ recent slump in form has exposed the “reality” of where his team stand in English football’s pecking order.
Tottenham are now level with fourth-placed Manchester United — after being 13 points ahead of them in December — and in a real battle to secure a Champions League qualifying spot.
A 90th minute own goal from Toby Alderweireld robbed Spurs of a point on Sunday from a game the could have won against a Liverpool team who are two points clear of Manchester City at the top having played a game more.
“Overall I think we were better than Liverpool. I am very disappointed but in the same time, it is difficult to explain, I am proud of the performance,” said Pochettino, who contrasted it with his side’s recent defeats by lower ranked teams.
“I am proud of the recovery from the losses against Southampton and Burnley.
“We were talking a lot in the dressing room that we are in the top four, we are in the quarterfinal of the Champions League, we have seven games in the Premier League, we need to forget everything and focus ahead,” he said.
Spurs will open their new stadium against Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Wednesday and host Manchester City in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal on April 9.
Pochettino said Tottenham’s performances this season had to be considered alongside the fact that their new stadium at Whote Hart Lane was delayed and they had to continue playing in their temporary home at Wembley Stadium.
“I think the players they deserve massive credit with all the circumstances again. Yes, disappointed of course. I was so disappointed and very critical after Southampton but today I can say nothing. We bounced back,” he said.
“The second half is the way you want to play and that feeling you need if you want to be a real contender.
“I am so happy with this side. On the other hand, I am disappointed because you want to win and not lose. We deserve a little bit more but playing that way you will be rewarded for the football,” he added.
“My players are heroes and deserve a lot of credit and whatever happens at the end of the season, I’m going to be happy my players are heroes.”
But while he sees Spurs are now in a ‘mini-league’ for two Champions League qualification spots behind title contenders Liverpool and Manchester City, Pochettino said Spurs’ position in the table also reflected a reality about the club.
“Liverpool and City fighting for the title. It is a shame we are not close. We were, but in the last few weeks, we find our reality, our place,” he said.
“I am disappointed but [being] realistic we must be happy. We have seven games, it’s in our hands to be in the top four and Champions League next season,” he said.