Spurs target top 4 after another loss

LONDON • Mauricio Pochettino has claimed it is now "impossible to fight Manchester City and Liverpool" for the English Premier League title after Tottenham slumped to a 2-0 defeat at Chelsea on Wednesday evening.

He was already pessimistic about their "tough" chances in the lead-up and his mood was further darkened as his team failed to show they could "fight for big things" at Stamford Bridge.

Spurs did not muster a single shot on target for the first time in the league under Pochettino, while Chelsea netted from the only chance they had through Pedro and a farcical own goal from Kieran Trippier.

The Argentinian admitted his players now had to turn their focus to the top-four fight as "the competition (had) put us in our place".

He said: "It's a 10-month competition, not just three or four months. We are disappointed now.

"After Burnley, I said it was difficult, and tonight... only they (City and Liverpool) can win the league, we must fight to win games and to be fair."

However, the Spurs boss refused to panic despite his players suffering from jitters with their second successive loss in the league.

If they lose to Arsenal tomorrow, the 10-point gap they had over their north London rivals a week ago will be down to one.

Asked if he was concerned, Pochettino said: "I am not afraid. I have the same feeling as before. We need to enjoy playing football.

"Everyone from the beginning of the season would have signed up to be in that position before playing on Saturday... with the possibility of playing against Arsenal at Wembley with the gap at four points. The pressure is on them (the other top-four contenders), not only us.

"If people are scared now about the top four, that is football. It's a massive business for sure, but we need to enjoy it, playing football."

But while Pochettino attempted to put on a brave front in the face of his team's flagging form, Maurizio Sarri felt the victory could be the springboard for a positive end to what has been a turbulent season.

The Blues manager, who dropped his first-choice goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga after his insubordination in last weekend's League Cup final, said the result was "really very important because we are fighting for the top four".

The Italian added: "We hope this is the turning point. Maybe, with this result, we can involve Tottenham in this battle (for the Champions League positions). The gap is very large, seven points, but maybe.

"The problem (with Kepa) wasn't so big as you write. In this job, you are under pressure every day, or if you are lucky, every six weeks.

"Kepa made a big mistake and then paid (for it) with the club. In this match, he has to pay for the team. It was only a message for all the team. Now we stop the question, it is behind us and in the future, Kepa will be with us."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2019, with the headline 'Spurs target top 4 after another loss'. Print Edition | Subscribe