08 Apr We can still win it
Mauricio Pochettino insists Tottenham still believe they can be champions despite Leicester’s hefty lead in the Barclays Premier League title race.
Leicester are seven points clear at the top of the pile and could be 10 ahead by the time Spurs kick off against Manchester United, as the Foxes take on Sunderland earlier on Sunday.
It means Pochettino’s men face a formidable challenge to lift their first league title since 1961 but the Argentinian refuses to give up hope with six games left to play.
“You need to believe in football that things can change,” Pochettino said.
“It’s important for us to be focused and prepared but we can’t play when Leicester play. We can only do our job and be focused on the three points.
“We will see what happens with Leicester. It’s important for us to believe and to fight. There are six games ahead and anything can happen in football.”
Even if Tottenham fail to catch Leicester, a place in the top four seems secure given they sit nine points ahead of United, albeit with the Red Devils having a game in hand.
Pochettino remained tight-lipped, however, on the possibility of extending the five-year contract he signed in 2014, which still has three years left to run.
“More than me the players deserve it,” Pochettino said.
“They are the principal actors who score, stop goals and get the points.
“The whole club deserves to be in the spotlight but so far the season is good.”
Eric Dier has been one of Pochettino’s star performers this term but the midfielder is only one yellow card away from his 10th of the campaign, which would see him incur a two-match ban.
Dier attempted just one tackle against Liverpool last weekend and avoided giving away a single foul, but Pochettino insists he will not be playing with caution at White Hart Lane.
“He’s a very clever player but in football you can get a yellow card,” Pochettino said.
“It’s a big risk for him but we have a strong squad. In football you always need to play 100 per cent and give your best without thinking too much.”
Dele Alli is another young gem to have flourished under Pochettino’s guidance.
The 19-year-old has scored seven goals and made 12 assists in his debut campaign in the top flight and is now hot favourite to win the league’s Young Player of the Year award.
“It would be fantastic. I think Dele Alli deserves it,” Pochettino said.
“A lot of things have happened during the season. It would be a big achievement for him and the club.”
Erik Lamela has recovered from a knock and is available to play on Sunday while Clinton Njie and Jan Vertonghen are both fit again following knee injuries.
Vertonghen has not played since January 23 but it remains to be seen whether the Belgian regains his place immediately, with Kevin Wimmer impressing during his extended spell in the first team.
“Vertonghen is working very hard to be back as soon as possible,” Pochettino said.
“If he’s available for Sunday, it’s because he’s 100 per cent. Players who are injured often work more than the fit players.”