Motivated for london derby

Pochettino insists Spurs are not 'a soft side'; Emery wants team to play with confidence

LONDON • Despite claiming that Tottenham's English Premier League title hopes are over, Mauricio Pochettino believes his players will still be motivated to give their best shot when they host Arsenal at Wembley today.

Spurs were dreaming of a title challenge just a week ago, but back-to-back defeats by Burnley and Chelsea mean that even their top-four spot is now in danger.

But the Tottenham manager remained hopeful for today's north London derby, saying: "Of course to motivate for this type of game is an easy job.

"We don't need to motivate the players. We know very well what it means to play against Arsenal.

"We know that we're going to be very motivated and we'll have a team that is very motivated, too."

Third-placed Spurs are on 60 points and their lead over the Gunners is down to just four, with Manchester United and Chelsea also close behind in the race for the final two Champions League places next season.

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"Of course it's going to be tough, They have very good players, they are doing a very good job," the Argentinian added.

"But my team is doing a fantastic job in the last five years. I can talk from where we have arrived. We are changing that perception that Tottenham were a little bit soft."

Following today's match, Tottenham still have to travel to title-chasing Liverpool and Manchester City in the final nine games of the league campaign.

Much of the damage done in the past week will be forgotten should Spurs bounce back in the derby and open up what ought to be a decisive seven-point advantage over Arsenal.

For Unai Emery, a thrilling 4-2 win over Tottenham in early December was the highlight of his first season as Arsenal boss.

However, in contrast to their stunning form at the Emirates, Arsenal have won just once on the road in the Premier League in their past seven games and that was at rock-bottom Huddersfield.

Emery's embarrassment of riches going forward was demonstrated in a 5-1 thrashing of Bournemouth on Wednesday.

However, the Spaniard has struggled to find the right balance as Arsenal have not kept a clean sheet away from home in the Premier League all season.

There would be no better way for him to win over a still-unconvinced fan base than by curing his side's travel sickness today and delivering another blow to Spurs and solidifying Arsenal's own position.

Emery, though, knows it is no easy task to play at Wembley.

"There was a 10-point difference two weeks ago and now it's four points. We are playing for three points and more," he said at his press conference yesterday.

"But each derby is different. Playing home and away can be very different. Matches like tomorrow the players know it's important first to get three points and because it is special for the supporters.

"We must play with confidence and keep our minds free."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 02, 2019, with the headline 'Motivated for london derby'. Print Edition | Subscribe