May 4, 2018 / 2:10 PM / 17 days ago

Soccer: Pochettino pleased with European impact of Arsenal exit

(Reuters) - Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino is pleased that the Premier League’s top four teams are guaranteed a Champions League group stage spot next season following Arsenal’s Europa League exit on Thursday.

Soccer Football - FA Cup Semi-Final - Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - April 21, 2018 Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino before the match REUTERS/Hannah McKay/Files

If Arsenal had won the Europa League this season, the fourth-placed league team, currently Tottenham, would have been forced to play qualifiers early next campaign to seal a Champions League spot.

Arsene Wenger’s team slumped to a 2-1 defeat by Atletico Madrid in the Europa League semi-finals, meaning the league’s top four sides are guaranteed a Champions League group berth.

“Now it is guaranteed that top four means you are going to play in the Champions League,” Pochettino told a news conference.

“Of course I am not happy about (the result), I’m not a person who enjoys when another team loses, but for our interests always our focus is to finish third and if it’s not possible then fourth.”

Tottenham are a point behind third-placed Liverpool, who have played a game more, and six adrift of second-placed Manchester United but Pochettino is hopeful that his team can grab second place if Jose Mourinho’s team slip up.

“Yes, it is not up to us. In our hands is to finish third because we have one game more than Liverpool,” Pochettino told a news conference. “We need to win the three games but we have to wait for Manchester United to lose.

“All can happen in football, which is why it is such an amazing sport.”

Chelsea are challenging Tottenham for a fourth-placed league finish but Pochettino is confident that his team can hold on as their fifth-placed rivals sit five points behind, having played a game more.

“No, I wasn’t worried and I am not now. I am worried about being focused on performing better than Monday, to perform better and be sure that we are going to win the games ahead. That is my only worry,” he added.

The Argentine boss said that midfielder Mousa Dembele was a doubt for Saturday’s league trip to West Bromwich Albion due to an ankle injury.

A win for Tottenham or a draw at the Hawthorns will ensure West Brom’s relegation to the Championship.

Reporting by Aditi Prakash in Bengaluru; Editing by Keith Weir

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