Football: Tottenham are still in the EPL title race, says manager Mauricio Pochettino

Tottenham’s Harry Kane (left) celebrating with Dele Alli after scoring Spurs’ second goal against Arsenal. The 2-0 win ensured that Spurs remain in the title race, four points behind leaders Chelsea with four games left.
Tottenham’s Harry Kane (left) celebrating with Dele Alli after scoring Spurs’ second goal against Arsenal. The 2-0 win ensured that Spurs remain in the title race, four points behind leaders Chelsea with four games left. PHOTO: REUTERS

Tottenham can close gap to just 1 point on Friday to pile pressure on leaders Chelsea

LONDON • Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino is relishing the opportunity to load more pressure on Premier League leaders Chelsea following his side's superb derby win over Arsenal.

Chelsea took a step closer to the title by winning 3-0 at Everton earlier on Sunday, but Tottenham are still snapping at their heels - their dazzling 2-0 defeat of north London rivals Arsenal leaving them four points off the pace.

Tottenham can close the gap to a point if they win at West Ham United on Friday - which would leave Chelsea to stew for three days before their home game with Middlesbrough.

"We are in the race for the title," Pochettino said at White Hart Lane on Sunday. "We reduce again the gap with Chelsea and that for us is the focus now because we have another important game ahead on Friday against West Ham."

Asked if victory at West Ham would represent a psychological blow in the title race, Pochettino replied: "It will be. We will have the chance to play before them and, if we are capable to win against West Ham, which will be another tough derby game, then we'll see what happens with them against Middlesbrough."

Tottenham's win was a fitting way for the team to bow out in the final north London derby at White Hart Lane, which will be demolished to make way for their new 61,000-seat stadium.

  • EPL TITLE RUN-IN CHELSEA (81 POINTS)
     

    May 8: Middlesbrough (h)

    May 12: West Brom (a)

    May 15: Watford (h)

    May 21: Sunderland (h)


    TOTTENHAM (77 POINTS)

    May 5: West Ham (a)

    May 14: Man United (h)

    May 18: Leicester City (a)

    May 21: Hull City (a)

Dele Alli broke the deadlock in the 55th minute, sliding home the rebound after Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech had saved from Christian Eriksen, with Harry Kane adding a nerveless penalty three minutes later.

Had it not been for the acrobatics of Cech, the home side might have won by a landslide.

It was Spurs' ninth straight victory, their 13th successive home win and ensured they will finish the season looking down on Arsenal in the standings for the first time since 1995.

"I can understand our fans being excited to finish above Arsenal, but I don't feel the same because for me it is about trying to win the title," said Pochettino. "Our challenge is not only to beat Arsenal but 19 teams in the Premier League."

Arsenal lie six points off the Champions League places, but have games in hand on fourth-placed Manchester City and fifth-placed Manchester United, both of whom also dropped points on Sunday.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has asserted that talk of a north London power shift is premature and he suggested the 17-point gap that separates his team from Tottenham was misleading.

"The points are the points," said the Frenchman, who tasted defeat for only the eighth time in 50 North London derbies. "They don't come from heaven. You earn them on the pitch. Often in the final part of a season, that can go one way or the other without really reflecting the difference between the teams."

Wenger, whose side will face Chelsea in the FA Cup final on May 27, attributed his side's defeat to "soft defending" and a "soft penalty", awarded for a swipe at Kane by Gabriel.

Arsenal host United on Sunday and Wenger conceded his team face a battle to earn a top-four finish.

"It will be very difficult now, but we have to fight," he said. "We have a Cup final. We have still a chance to get in the top four. We have to recover from today and prepare for our next games."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 02, 2017, with the headline 'Spurs 'still in title race''. Print Edition | Subscribe