Tottenham draw on underdog status

Dele Alli is pumped up after putting Tottenham 3-0 up against Watford. He scored again in the second half of the 4-1 win which lifted them above Man City into fourth place on goal difference, ahead of yesterday's matches.
Dele Alli is pumped up after putting Tottenham 3-0 up against Watford. He scored again in the second half of the 4-1 win which lifted them above Man City into fourth place on goal difference, ahead of yesterday's matches.PHOTO: REUTERS

Boss hopes rivals will cheer them against Chelsea as win will lift others' hopes too

LONDON • Mauricio Pochettino wants to harness the feeling that surrounded Leicester's run to the title last season when Tottenham face leaders Chelsea tomorrow, and believes the rest of the Premier League will be cheering for his side.

They stayed within 10 points of Antonio Conte's team by defeating Watford 4-1 on Sunday.

The manager suggested the chasing pack, led by Liverpool, will now will the home side to win at White Hart Lane, claiming that, when Tottenham were fighting at the top with Leicester, it was their then-rivals who attracted similar goodwill.

Their wishes were granted as a stormy 2-2 draw delivered the championship to the King Power Stadium.

"Maybe we will feel how Leicester felt last season," Pochettino said when asked whether he expects the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal to be rooting for Tottenham to stall what currently seems an irresistible force - Chelsea made it 13 wins in a row with a 4-2 triumph over Stoke on Saturday.

GIVE US A LIFT

Maybe we will feel how Leicester felt last season. It was all the teams with them and against us.

MAURICIO POCHETTINO, Spurs manager, on other teams backing Leicester in their title-clinching game last season.

"It was all the teams with them and against us. Maybe (Chelsea) will feel the same as us last season."

It is not an outlandish thought that a Tottenham win would bring them back into contention, such is their current level of performance, but Pochettino was keen to point out that the division as a whole might benefit from Chelsea's winning run coming to an end.

"Chelsea arrive in a very good shape, we too, and it will be a very tough game but a great opportunity for us to try and stop them and reduce the gap," he said.

"I think it is important for the Premier League and for us that we try and win. Then our challenge is to be in the top four."

The latter, at least, is reality at present and Pochettino was delighted with the performance that took Tottenham to fourth place before yesterday's matches.

Two goals apiece from Harry Kane and Dele Alli saw Spurs record a fourth successive victory.

It left them on 39 points from 19 games with 37 goals scored and 14 conceded and only two defeats, none at home.

At the same stage last season, when a first title since 1961 looked a possibility until they faltered in the face of a relentless Leicester side, they had 35 points from 19 games with 33 goals scored and 15 let in.

"I think it was nearly a perfect game," said Pochettino. "The shame was that we conceded a goal in the last minute but there were a lot of positive things and I'm very happy."

His players adapted well to his switch to a three-man defence, a system he has felt comfortable using since the autumn, but he gave no hint that he would approach the next match - for which Kyle Walker and Jan Vertonghen are available after suspension - similarly.

"We'll see," he said. "The formation we choose to play is not important... Most important is the idea, the philosophy, and what we want to do with the ball - I think you give too much importance to the shape."

After successive 4-1 wins on the road, Kane said Tottenham could not be in a better mood ahead of the Chelsea game.

"We're excited, it's a massive game," Kane, who has returned to his best form after a slow start to the season, told Tottenham's website. "It will be a great atmosphere."

Tottenham lost 1-2 at Chelsea in November, having led until just before half-time and he said that will give them the confidence that they can halt Chelsea's surge.

"We know we can beat them," he said.

THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 03, 2017, with the headline 'Tottenham draw on underdog status'. Print Edition | Subscribe