Football

Spurs manager: This is not a team ready for title fight

Pochettino lashes out at 'sloppy' Tottenham for poor first half

Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino accused his players of failing to deal with the pressure of an English Premier League title race, after they were outplayed in a 2-0 defeat by Liverpool yesterday morning (Singapore time).

The London side were lucky to be only two goals down at half-time at Anfield as a Sadio Mane double brought Tottenham's nine-game unbeaten run in the league to a halt.

It was the manner of the defeat - only second-placed Tottenham's third of the season - that was most concerning though, as they appeared overwhelmed by the occasion.

Victory would have cut Chelsea's lead to six points, but defeat had Pochettino conceding the title race.

"Liverpool were better than us and fully deserved to win. We started the game very sloppy," said Pochettino.

"It is difficult to understand. I am very disappointed in our first-half display. Second half we reached their level, but it was really late. The whole team were poor.

REALITY CHECK

"If you show like today that you cannot cope with the pressure to play to win the league, then it is difficult to challenge and fight for the title.

"In the first 45 minutes, you saw a team who are not ready to fight for the Premier League."

With a two-week gap before their next league game against Stoke City at White Hart Lane, Pochettino said it was time for his team to take stock and focus on their top-four challenge.

"A reality check is important sometimes. We need to be clever, to be strong, to analyse, to find out why and to change," the Argentinian said.

Meanwhile, Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp believes the victory over Spurs has sparked their season back into life.

It was the Reds' first win in the EPL since they beat Manchester City on New Year's Eve and the German feels his players are now back up and running - even if their new-found momentum will be interrupted by a 16-day break before their next outing at Leicester.

That period may turn out to be even longer, as their Feb 27 match at the King Power Stadium could be postponed if the Foxes need an FA Cup replay to get past Millwall.

"Now we are back in this race and we have to use this situation," said Klopp.

"Even though we didn't perform fantastically in January, we are still in a really good position in the league.

"Really, it's not a shame (about the length of break). I love football, but I have no problems with a few days for us to really train. The boys will have a little bit of a rest and then we will start a pre-season, that's how we understand it.

"We want to use the time and, hopefully, everybody can see that it would make sense."

Liverpool are likely to go away for a warm-weather training camp and there will be some rest and recuperation, after a hectic month saw them play 10 matches in 32 days to the end of last month.

However, Klopp will also work on how to ensure his team do not suffer similar problems to the ones they have had over the last six weeks in struggling to break down defensive-minded teams.

"I don't want to find excuses for the not-so-good games or whatever," he said.

"I know that it will come up before the Leicester game and everybody will ask, 'What will you do now against a counter-attacking team... Deep defending?'.

"It's not that we have no idea about it, but we need the boys in the best shape and then you need to make the right decisions on the pitch." - WIRE SERVICES

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