Mauricio Pochettino plays down Balotelli and Spurs’ Liverpool past

• ‘Italian’s arrival is important for Liverpool but not for us’
• Tottenham signing Fabrizio Fazio unlikely to feature

Mauricio Pochettino believes Tottenham Hotspur must not let the circus surrounding Mario Balotelli distract them when the Italian makes his debut for Liverpool at White Hart Lane on Sunday .

Balotelli is expected to start alongside Daniel Sturridge in Liverpool’s attack after his £16m arrival from Milan this week and the focus on him will be intense. Yet Pochettino was not willing to discuss the former Manchester City striker’s return to England in great depth, saying that it was of no significance to Tottenham.

“I haven’t an opinion about that,” the Tottenham manager said. “The only thing is that he is a very good player, a star. For England, for our football, it is important that star players come here.

“ Mario Balotelli is an unbelievable player and he has very good skill. And, OK, it is important for football and for Liverpool, not for us.”

Tottenham face Brendan Rodgers’ side having secured their place in this season’s Europa League with Thursday’s 5-1 aggregate victory in their qualifier against AEL Limassol and they will be confident of reaching the knock-out stages after they were drawn in a group with Besiktas, Partizan Belgrade and Asteras Tripoli . It was said that Tottenham’s involvement in the Europa League hurt their form in the Premier League last season.

Pochettino has made a fine start to life as their new manager and has won his first two league matches. Tottenham showed good mental strength to win at West Ham United on the opening day after losing Kyle Naughton to a red card in the first half and they followed that victory by thrashing Queens Park Rangers 4-0 last weekend.

Tottenham were hugely impressive against QPR. Erik Lamela caught the eye after a difficult first season in England last year and the whole team’s form suggested that Pochettino is already turning them into a far more cohesive unit.

However, it is early days for Pochettino’s side and Tottenham’s credentials will be fully tested by Liverpool, whose 5-0 victory at White Hart Lane last season led to André Villas-Boas losing his job. Liverpool also beat Tottenham 4-0 at Anfield but Pochettino believes those results will have no bearing on Sunday’s match.

“The past is the past,” the Argentinian said. “I don’t want to remember the past. It is a new season, I think a different style, different philosophy.

“Liverpool invested a lot of money this summer and we went another way. We believe in our squad and added some players for the balance.”

Tottenham have indeed looked more balanced this season and there have been signs that Pochettino is succeeding in implementing the high-tempo pressing style he used to good effect at Southampton.

“It is an easy method,” Pochettino said. “It is not a difficult method. Our philosophy is play football along the grass, make good combinations, work hard and, at the moment, they are happy.”

Pochettino has been boosted by the £8m signing of Federico Fazio as a replacement for Michael Dawson, who has joined Hull City, although the former Sevilla centre-back is unlikely to be involved against Liverpool.

“Wednesday was the first training session in the afternoon and yesterday with the players not in the squad he trained in the morning,” Pochettino said. “We will see. It is important that he adapts to the squad and the new philosophy because he played in Sevilla.”

Although the arrival of Fazio could herald the end of Tottenham’s transfer business, Southampton’s Morgan Schneiderlin remains on Pochettino’s radar. But Southampton are showing no signs of wanting to sell the midfielder.


Jacob Steinberg

The GuardianTramp

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