Mauricio Pochettino: Top four finish will be “difficult” for Tottenham Hotspur

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Tottenham Hotspur’s UEFA Champions League dream hangs in the balance, as Spurs are six points off fourth-placed Manchester United following their 3-0 defeat to the Red Devils on Sunday.

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After an awful first half from Tottenham which saw their defense implode and concede three times in the opening 45 minutes, manager Mauricio Pochettino was not a happy man.

With nine games to go Spurs sit in seventh place in the table and are out of the Europa League and the FA Cup as their dream of finishing in the top four is in tatters.

“It will be difficult [to finish fourth] because we are fighting with big sides,” Pochettino said. “It was a very bad day for us. I think that we all agree together in the changing room that our performance was poor. For us, we must not think too much about this result and try to fix the problem. I think that we feel too much we didn’t start a good game and we gave Manchester United the opportunity. We need to fix the problems.”

Spurs dug themselves a gargantuan hole at Old Trafford on Sunday, with slack defending from Eric Dier and Nacer Chadli to blame, plus Hugo Lloris will be disappointed with his reaction to Michael Carrick’s header for the second goal.

In his first season in charge of the north London club there’s no doubt that Pochettino has his men heading in the right direction but if they fail to finish in the top six then questions will be asked.

With nine games left and matches against fellow top four hopefuls Southampton and second-placed Manchester City the only games Spurs would expect not to win, all is not lost. They play five of the bottom seven teams in their final nine matches and if Pochettino’s boys can put their terrible display at United behind them, then six wins and a draw from their final nine matches would leave them on 69 points for the season.

That may not be enough for UCL qualification and would be the same tally as last season which was good enough for a sixth placed finish under Tim Sherwood after Andre Villas-Boas departure.

Even if their points and final position doesn’t say so, it is easy to argue that progress is being made under Pochettino and the real benefits will come in the 2015-16 season as his young team matures.

Hope springs eternal, Spurs fans.