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Mauricio Pochettino needs a strong response when Spurs face Liverpool
Tottenham face Liverpool live on Sky Sports on Saturday
Last Updated: 15/09/18 9:19am
Tottenham's loss to Watford stalled their impressive start to the season. Mauricio Pochettino now needs to conjure another strong response from his side when they face Liverpool live on Sky Sports on Saturday…
Mauricio Pochettino did not pull any punches after Tottenham threw away a 1-0 lead to lose at Watford before the international break. Following the 3-0 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford just six days earlier, their complacency was difficult for the head coach to take.
"In the first half we were so relaxed, we dominated the game, but we were not aggressive enough and made a lot of unforced mistakes," he said in his interview with Sky Sports. "You need to show more strength, be more aggressive in your defending. You need to show you want to win."
Pochettino hammered the point home in his press conference, describing the result as "painful" and saying the first half resembled a friendly game "We need to show more respect to this competition," he said. "We need to compete much, much better. The Premier League is so, so tough. That's why after beating Manchester United, we need to be more cautious."
Pochettino rarely shows such frustration in public but the performance had fallen a long way short of usual standards. Tottenham looked lethargic in attack, mustering just two shots on target over the course of the 90 minutes, and were eventually undone by two routine set-piece goals.
The question now is whether Pochettino can lift his players for Saturday's meeting with Premier League leaders Liverpool. It is a daunting task. Following a busy summer in the transfer market, Jurgen Klopp's side are a different proposition from last season, when Spurs hammered them 4-1 in the same fixture.
Liverpool have only conceded once in their first four games and their front three have picked up where they left off last season, but what's encouraging for Spurs is that they have already developed a knack for recovering swiftly from setbacks. Complacency remains an issue, but Pochettino's side tend to step it up after disappointments.
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Last season, they only lost consecutive games once - an EFL Cup defeat to West Ham which was followed by a 1-0 reverse at Manchester United in October - and many of their best results came straight after some of their most disappointing.
That 1-0 loss to United is a good place to start. Anthony Martial's late winner came as a sucker-punch at Old Trafford, but just four days later they produced the greatest European performance in their history, outplaying Champions League holders Real Madrid to claim a 3-1 win at Wembley.
Spurs responded in similar style to their 2-0 defeat by Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium in November. In the cauldron of Borussia Dortmund's Westfalenstadion just a few days later, they came from behind to secure another famous Champions League win. "A lot of people doubted us and we wanted to prove them wrong," said Kane afterwards.
Those doubts resurfaced again when Spurs were comprehensively outclassed by Manchester City in December, losing 4-1 at the Etihad Stadium. A trip to Burnley, who had won four of their last five games at Turf Moor, was a tough fixture to follow it up with, but Spurs emerged 3-0 winners thanks to a Kane hat-trick.
Even the biggest blow of Tottenham's season prompted an emphatic response. The 2-1 defeat to Juventus which cost Tottenham a place in the Champions League quarter-finals might have floored another team, but Spurs came from behind to hammer Bournemouth 4-1, prompting a four-game winning streak which included a 3-1 victory at Chelsea.
For Pochettino, of course, the long-term priority is to eradicate the complacency which leads to results such as the defeat to Watford in the first place. For now, however, he would settle for exercising those powers of recovery once again. A victory over Liverpool at Wembley would be the perfect response to their latest setback.
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Watch Tottenham v Liverpool live on Sky Sports Premier League HD from 11.30am on Saturday