Mauricio Pochettino admits Tottenham’s players were hit by a virus last week but insisted that was no excuse for their sloppy display against Southampton.
Christian Eriksen was a surprise absentee from the Spurs squad as he and Hugo Lloris were both struck down by illness and unable to travel to the south coast.
Harry Kane cancelled out Davinson Sanchez’s own-goal but a below-par Tottenham were held to a 1-1 draw and missed the chance to move into the Premier League’s top four.
They will fall five points behind Liverpool if Jurgen Klopp’s men beat Swansea on Monday.
Pochetttino, who took his team on a warm-weather training camp to Barcelona last week, would not name the players affected by illness as he maintained they had all recovered.
“A few players were affected last week but it’s not an excuse,” Pochettino said.
“We are disappointed because our game wasn’t great, our performance wasn’t the best. The game was even and full credit to Southampton because they fight and play well.
“I think it is a fair result in the end, 1-1. There were massive chances we had in the last minute with Harry Kane but at the end if you analyse the game, it’s a fair result.”
Pochettino also referenced the bobbling pitch at St Mary’s, which contributed to an attritional match, full of loose touches and misplaced passes.
Spurs now find themselves in danger of losing touch with the Champions League spots, ahead of three crunch league games against Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal.
“Of course they will be important for us,” Pochettino said.
“It is important if we are going to take points and win the games, be sure that we are going to fight and if not, it will be difficult.”
Pochettino refused to be drawn on more reports linking Kane with a move to Real Madrid and also played down the club’s chances of making new signings this month.
“The other clubs find a way to sign players that can improve and help their team and squads,” Pochettino said.
“Nothing to say but for us it is difficult and will be difficult for different reasons. It is obvious.”
For Southampton, who stay 18th, this was a point gained in their fight to avoid relegation and in particular for their under-fire manager Mauricio Pellegrino.
Marco Silva’s availability after being sacked by Watford threatened to pile more pressure on Pellegrino but there was enough in this gutsy display to suggest a revival may still be within reach.
“They don’t fight just for me,” Pellegrino said.
“They fight for themselves. They fight for the club.”
Pellegrino was also optimistic when asked about the prospect of Southampton adding new players before the end of the transfer window.
“Hopefully next week will be a good week for us,” Pellegrino said.
“But in the market everything can change in one second. It is football. Negotiation is about two sides.