Wednesday 16 January 2019
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todayonline - 5 days ago

Calm before the storm, as Spurs’ Pochettino prepares for big clash against Man United

LONDON — If Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino is feeling the heat from the club’s title chase or much-anticipated clash against Manchester United this weekend, there was certainly no trace of it on Friday (Jan 11). The 46-year-old Argentine even drew chuckles in the press conference room as he talked about his dog, or rather, likened Danish midfielder Christian Eriksen to his dog who needs to be trusted to run free in the park. He gave this cheeky reply to a reporter’s question about Eriksen’s contract - the player has been linked to a move to Barcelona. Affable and relaxed, Pochettino held court at the press conference and subsequent roundtable interview as he talked shop and even attempted to learn Thai to accommodate another reporter’s request for him to record a message for young fans in Thailand. While he is relaxed off the football pitch, Pochettino admitted that he is “more serious” on it, particularly as he described how Spurs had missed out on a “massive (title) chance” three years ago when they lost out to Leicester City at the final stretch. The Lilywhites are currently third on the table behind Liverpool and Manchester City, and Pochettino warned that the title chase is only going to get more heated. “It’s going to be so competitive, but today Liverpool, City are ahead of us and Chelsea, Arsenal, United can all be contenders,’’ he said. “It is going to be one of the toughest seasons to win, but we are going to try.’’ Spurs captain and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, 32, stressed that the next two months are the “most important time of the season”. “The main thing is to reach the top four for the third year in a row and then we will see where we are at the table for the last 10 games. “I hope we will be involved in the title race. We will try to reduce the gap but the competition is going to be hard and we need to be ready to get as many points as we can.” Rival fans have often dubbed Spurs as “bottlers” - a term used by the British to describe someone who has very little mental resilience - after a number of near misses in the English Premier League and other major competitions. But a 1-0 victory over Chelsea in the Carabao Cup semi-final on Thursday and a spirited run in the league this season could finally end the North London club’s hunt for silverware. Midfielder and England international Dele Alli certainly does not believe they deserve the “bottlers” tag. “People have their opinion, we ve proven how good we are, beating some of the best teams in the world,” said the 22-year-old. “As a team we’re improving every season and we keep stepping up our level so I don’t think we are far off winning things and we can compete against all the top sides in the world.” For now, the focus is on Monday morning’s big game against a rejuvenated Manchester United side, who have won all five games under caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. “Every time Tottenham and Man United play, it is always an exciting game,” said Pochettino. “Man United arrive with good momentum, and they got more time to prepare for this game. They have a great squad with a lot of quality. We are all so competitive, and no one wants to lose.” Fans may even get a chance to try another Dele Alli challenge. The player’s goal celebration against Newcastle last season went viral after many attempted to recreate his upside down “Ok” finger gesture. Smiling cheekily when asked when the next challenge would be, Alli said: “I haven’t got one planned yet, when it’s the right time and I have to let it come to me naturally. “You won’t see it coming!”

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