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Tuesday 23 September 2014

Poch shrugs off Balotelli fever

Published 29/08/2014 | 11:56

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Tottenham's perfect start will not go to Mauricio Pochettino's head

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino understands the hullabaloo surrounding Mario Balotelli's return to the Premier League, but is giving the Italian little thought ahead of his potential Liverpool debut at White Hart Lane.

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Just 18 months after leaving Manchester City to join boyhood club AC Milan, the 24-year-old this week completed his shock move to Anfield.

Balotelli arrived in a cut-price £16million deal in what Reds manager Brendan Rodgers was quick to label the striker's "last chance" to thrive at the top level.

The Italy international's career has been punctuated by controversy on and off the field, although the prospect of making his brilliance more than an occasional delight is an exciting prospect for Liverpool.

Balotelli could make his debut at White Hart Lane on Sunday against in-form Tottenham, whose manager is happy to see the striker back in England, but not jumping on the rather excitable bandwagon.

"I haven't an opinion about that," Pochettino 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 that he has very good skill.

"And, okay, it is important for football and for Liverpool, not for us."

For Pochettino, his sole focus is on maintaining his 100 per cent start to life at the helm - a run that increased to four matches with Thursday's 3-0 defeat of AEL Limassol in the Europa League play-offs.

Liverpool will undoubtedly be Spurs' toughest opponents to date and the game offers a timely opportunity to gain vengeance.

Last season the Reds thrashed Tottenham 4-0 at Anfield having earlier in the campaign won 5-0 at White Hart Lane - a match which led to Andre Villas-Boas' sacking.

"The past is the past," Pochettino said of those losses. "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 add some players for the balance. Two different ways [of approaching things]."

It is a case of so far so good for Spurs as they embrace the approach which served Pochettino so well during his time at Southampton.

"It is an easy method," the former Argentina international 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."

That mentality may be easy to grasp but Pochettino suggested there may not be enough time for Federico Fazio to adapt to it before the Liverpool match.

The Argentinian defender arrived from Sevilla on Wednesday as replacement for Michael Dawson and was paraded on the pitch ahead of the AEL match.

"Wednesday was the first training session in the afternoon [with Tottenham] 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.

"Today it is too early to say if it is possible whether he will be involved in the squad for Sunday."

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