Mauricio Pochettino says his side’s ambitions for the season remain unchanged, and refutes talk of having nothing to play for between now and May.
Despite a setback at West Ham United last weekend Saints remain in touch with the top six in the Barclays Premier League, and with eleven matches still to play, Pochettino does not accept any reason to move away from the team’s target to finish the season as high up the table as possible.
“Our motivation is always there and never changes,” he told Saints Player ahead of Saturday’s game against Liverpool.
“At 1-0 against West Ham we were unlucky to concede that goal which was clearly from offside and then it became really difficult to overturn the game, but overall we were unlucky with that game, and we were unlucky with the refereeing decisions in that game, but I think now the team is very motivated to get a positive result against Liverpool.
“And more than anything it’s to play our way, the way we know how to, and of course, get something positive out of the game.”
This weekend’s visitors to St Mary’s currently sit fourth in the Barclays Premier League table, and Saints who have beaten Liverpool in both games under Pochettino, have the opportunity to become the first team to record a double of victories over the Reds in league this season.
“We’re fully aware that we’re going to be facing a very tough game ahead of us,” the Saints boss said.
“Liverpool are one of the candidates to actually win the Premier League. They have quality players as anyone can see. We just have to be able to play our game, in order to try and get something positive out of it.
“We studied the two wins against Liverpool on the videotape, but it’s clear that the game now is going to be completely different from those two games. There’s going to be two completely different teams as well in two different state of minds too, so it will be a very different game and we’ll try to face up to it as well as we can.”
In Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, Liverpool possess the most potent goal scorers in the Premier League at present, with the team also leading the way in the scoring charts with 70 goals notched in 27 matches. Saints’ key to success will undoubtedly be on keeping their forward line quiet, just as they did at Anfield in September.
“It’s clear that they’re a very attack-minded team that always goes out to try to score more goals and they’re very effective,” Pochettino explained.
“It’s a team that constantly demands that we’re at our best defensively and if you look at the names that are amongst the team you have [Philippe] Coutinho, [Raheem] Sterling, [Luis]Suarez, [Daniel] Sturridge, so they are a very attacking team so we just have to defend very well, we have to try and win possession against them, try to nullify any of their chances to actually get ahead and go on the attack, and we just be at a hundred per cent against a very good side.”
Central defender Dejan Lovren scored the winner for Saints in the reverse fixture, and Pochettino revealed that the Croat is closing in on a return to playing after being sidelined for six weeks with an ankle injury.
“It’s possible, but it’s still only possible,” said the gaffer. “We have one more training session before the game tomorrow and after that, we’ll assess if he’s fit and available to play in the game.
“We’re very close to full fitness with the entire squad. We still need to see the evolution of Victor Wanyama and Jos Hooiveld, but aside from these two players who still have some small problems, we’re very close to a one hundred per cent fully fit squad.”