The 1-0 loss halted Southampton’s seven-match unbeaten run in all competitions but Pochettino said: “We have a lot of respect for every competition. We had a bad night and we didn’t hand a good performance.
“I can understand the fans’ disappointment. We all feel the same frustration as we wanted to win and progress to the quarter-finals.
“Against Sunderland, we put out a team that was fresh and that we thought could get the job done. We didn’t progress because we didn’t play our best as a team not because of the team selection.
“The one thing that saddens me is that, in saying certain things, one lacks respect for those players that went out and played on Saturday.
“All my players are capable of playing in the Premier League and playing for Southampton. They are all professional.”
And Pochettino believes his players will have to raise their game if they are to win a club-record third league away game at West Ham today.
Victory at Upton Park would also see the Saints make it six wins on the road in the Premier League season, an historic achievement for the club.
“West ham has improved a lot in recent games,” said Pochettino. “They are doing a great job defensively. We need to increase our level in order to win.
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I can understand the fans’ disappointment. We all feel the same frustration as we wanted to win and progress to the quarter-finals
“They are strong and hard to play against. They have good players. They know what it is to fight in these situations.
“This is a time in the competition where every game is a battle and it’s hard. Every match from now on demands a lot of effort both physically and mentally.”
Southampton are eighth in the standings with 39 points and on course to defend their top-flight status for a second straight season.
“We are fighting to defend our position in the standings,” said Pochettino. “The Premier League is one of the strongest competitions in the world and it’s not the same to finish seventh than eighth or ninth.”
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