Pochettino identifies area Spurs must improve on against Middlesbrough

Tottenham Hotspur boss Mauricio Pochettino has urged his side to start the game against Middlesbrough strongly on Saturday – bucking the trend of recent fixtures.

Spurs have laboured in the early exchanges of recent matches and had to rally in the second-half of games to record results.

This started with an underwhelming first 45 minutes against Manchester City and a 2-0 deficit to overcome against Wycombe Wanderers in the FA Cup, while Pochettino was unhappy with the first-half showing against Sunderland in midweek.

Spurs need to record a victory against Aitor Karanka’s side if they are to stand any chance of staying in the Premier League title race and the Tottenham coach has stressed the importance of coming out of the blocks strongly.

“Sometimes to keep the same level in 10 months is difficult,” he told the club’s official website.

“If we assess every team, every team in different periods has ups and downs. In the last few games against Wycombe and Sunderland, we were not happy with our first 45 minutes and it’s true that with different players and different formations we struggled a little bit.

“That is something that we have talked a lot about after Sunderland but we hope that we can turn that situation and play how we played against Chelsea and West Brom and give our best from the beginning.”

Tottenham have watched Chelsea beat Arsenal in Saturday’s early game and will know that a win over Middlesbrough can distance themselves from the other side in North London.

Pochettino has a number of selection dilemmas ahead of the game with Jan Vertonghen and Danny Rose set to be notable absentees.