Struggling Saints can rise again – Hassenhuttl
Southampton face former boss Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs desperate for points in their fight for Premier League survival.
Ralph Hasenhuttl feels returning Southampton to European competition would be a similar achievement to Mauricio Pochettino winning the Premier League title with Tottenham.
Spurs boss Pochettino was brought to English football by the Saints, spending 16 months in charge before moving to White Hart Lane in 2014 looking to further his career.
The ambitious Argentinian will be back at St Mary’s on Saturday with his third-placed side chasing a place in next season’s Champions League.
Struggling Southampton, meanwhile, have been on a downward spiral since twice qualifying for the Europa League in recent seasons and need points to drag themselves away from relegation danger.
Hasenhuttl is keen to manage expectations on the south coast and admits his club do not have the same level of ambition as their weekend opponents.
“I don’t know if that must be the goal for us, to become one of the top-six clubs in England,” said the Austrian.
“Sure, every fan wants to have as much success as possible but I think we also have our level where we can over-perform, where we make surprising moments.
“If we can maybe make it again in the Europa cup, I think it would be the same as Tottenham winning the Premier League.
“It’s about what you expect from a club and what they give you. For every Southampton fan, they want to see us higher in the table and at the moment we are struggling still to avoid relegation.
“Every club in the Premier League now has his spot. Ours is a lower one and we have to rise it.”
Pochettino, who has admitted he cried when he left St Mary’s, will be sitting in the stands against his former club after being hit with a two-match touchline ban following a charge of improper conduct for arguing with referee Mike Dean in the recent loss at Burnley.
The setback at Turf Moor, combined with a defeat to Chelsea and a draw against Arsenal, has contributed to his team falling out of title contention as his quest for silverware – which partly prompted his Southampton exit – continues.
Saints go into the game two points above the drop zone with nine matches remaining.
Their precarious position means Hasenhuttl will struggle to enjoy the challenge of taking on one of the division’s top teams.
“This game on Saturday, I appreciate it a lot,” he said.
“But I would enjoy it more if we have 10 points more because then it’s a completely different situation, not so much pressure on us and the fans can also enjoy these games more than when we need every point.”