Southampton 'are attracted to the Champions League' says Mauricio Pochettino

The Saints manager has loftier ambitions than the Europa League

Mauricio Pochettino has dismissed the idea of taking Southampton in to the Europa League - because the Saints manager has even bigger ambitions.

Southampton were among the favourites for relegation last term, but they stayed up with ease and they currently lie in sixth position this term after taking 11 points from their opening six matches.

There is a bullish confidence inside the Southampton camp, and some are predicting that the south-coast club even could challenge for European qualification this season.

Sunday's visitors Swansea defied the odds to qualify for the Europa League last season, and they have already provided their fans with a memorable 3-0 away win over Valencia in the competition.

Pochettino played in the Europa League for four seasons as a player, but he never got a crack at the big time and he now wants to do that as a coach.

"To be honest I am not keen on the Europa League," the Southampton manager told a press conference.

"I think we are all attracted to the Champions League.

"The Europa League is a competition that I don't look forward to because (if you are in it) it kind of means that you haven't been good enough to actually make it in to the Champions League so I think all managers are aiming one step of competing in the Champions League, so it's not a competition that is attractive to me.

"It is something I have always looked forward to competing in."

Pochettino has refused to start contemplating an assault on the Champions League this term, despite the team's impressive start.

"We're only concentrating on the next match," he said, diplomatically.

But that does not mean he has a problem with his goalkeeper Artur Boruc, who believes Southampton are capable of becoming a Champions League side.

"I like that our players are ambitious," the former Espanyol, Paris Saint-Germain and Bordeaux defender said.

"This is what makes them work even harder to achieve those things. "That also requires you to be work hard in every game and every training session.

"In order to be successful and ambitious and to win big things, that also forces you to be self-demanding so I am happy that they think that way."

Pochettino may have brought flair and dynamism to Southampton, but like his predecessor Nigel Adkins, he is also reliant on a good core of English players.

Rickie Lambert was key to Southampton's survival push last season, scoring 15 goals to make him the joint-top English scorer in the Barclays Premier League.

The 31-year-old has scored twice for Saints this term and he has been rewarded with three England call-ups, the most recent one being for next week's crunch double-header against Montenegro and Poland.

Pochettino was delighted to hear of another call-up for his star striker, who scored a stunning free-kick in the 2-0 win over Crystal Palace last weekend.

"Ricky has worked hard in the last few weeks," Pochettino said.

"His fitness is great, and the fact that he has been called up to the national side again is good news for him and Southampton."

Pochettino has a slight concern over left-back Luke Shaw for the Swansea's visit.

"Luke Shaw was ill during the week, but he has recovered now and we will see (on Saturday) if he is fit for the game," the 41-year-old said.

PA

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