LONDON • Tottenham Hotspur are fast discovering the mind games that Premier League title contenders often have to deal with.
A day after Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri moved to take the pressure off his leaders by tipping Tottenham as title favourites, West Ham boss Slaven Bilic claimed today's visitors to Upton Park are the best side in the top flight.
West Ham are unbeaten at home in the league this season but Bilic suggested that his side have to up their game against second-placed Spurs.
"We need to improve against Spurs, we will need to be more lethal than we were in the second half against Sunderland," he said, referring to their 1-0 victory over the Black Cats on Saturday. "Spurs are playing the best football and they deserve to be right up there."
Leicester were two points clear of Spurs going into the 28th round of fixtures, but Ranieri suggested the Foxes are only fourth-favourites to win the title.
"Tottenham, in my opinion, are favourites, then Arsenal, Manchester City," he told reporters. "Tottenham are strong in every situation. When they defend and when they attack, they know what they want.
"We are the surprise, that is fantastic, a good energy, but if we are realistic the real competitors are City, Arsenal and Tottenham."
Spurs have won their last six league games and have not lost in an away match since the opening day of the season.
But in a press conference previewing today's London derby, Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino laughed off suggestions that Spurs are in pole position to end a 55-year wait for the league title.
"It was a joke and I laugh a bit. In football, it's good to play and joke a bit like this but we have known since the start of the season what our objective was," he said.
"If you remember the end of last season, our aim was to reduce the gap to the top teams, and we have learnt and improved a lot in that respect...
"Leicester are at the top and they have pressure like all the teams below. We have to keep our level and maintain our fitness, keep our mentality and we will see what happens."
WEST HAM V TOTTENHAM
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Years since Tottenham Hotspur won their last English top-flight league title