LONDON • Tottenham Hotspur boss Mauricio Pochettino praised his team's newfound mental resilience after an eighth successive Premier League win on Wednesday trimmed Chelsea's lead at the top back to four points.
Tottenham will go into the north London derby on Sunday conscious that victory against sixth-placed Arsenal would ensure they finish above their bitter rivals for the first time in 22 years. But Pochettino has urged them to "think about bigger things".
A 1-0 victory at Crystal Palace, courtesy of Christian Eriksen's goal 12 minutes from time, proved his side's strength of character following an FA Cup semi-final defeat by Chelsea and the Blues' win the night before.
It was exactly the kind of pressure-packed situation that was Tottenham's downfall last season, when they allowed Leicester City to wrap up the title. But Pochettino is convinced the way his team saw off a formidable Palace outfit bodes well for their chances of being crowned English champions for the first time since 1961.
"We are showing that we learnt a lot from last season as a team," said the Spurs manager. "That is so important because improving on last season was a big challenge.
"One area that was key for us to improve was in our mental attitude, and the team are now showing we are ready. We are ready this season to fight and, next season, we'll be even better.
"It's not about sending a message to Chelsea. It's more about us building confidence, building faith that we can win, generating that winning mentality.
"Now we have five games ahead, a very exciting period, and an exciting weekend ahead."
Chelsea travel to Everton on Sunday afternoon before Tottenham host Arsenal.
"The possibility of finishing above Arsenal is not a motivation or a distraction," Pochettino said.
"We are just focusing on trying to beat Arsenal... We know what Arsenal means, this game, for our fans. But we are not thinking about being above Arsenal. Our challenge now is to try and reduce the gap to Chelsea again and think about bigger things than only to be above Arsenal. To win big trophies and achieve big things, your mentality must be bigger than that."
Palace, 12th in the table with 38 points - seven points above the drop zone with four matches left, are virtually safe despite the loss.
But Mamadou Sakho, on loan from Liverpool, faces an anxious wait to see if his season is over after he was carried off with a serious-looking knee injury while stretching to tackle Tottenham striker Harry Kane.
THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE