Mauricio Pochettino

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Pochettino: Derby matters, but this is about title not “Totteringham”

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Mauricio Pochettino is a focused boss, one many of us wouldn’t mind as our manager.

The longtime Espyanol man knows a thing or two about being relegated to second fiddle in town, with Catalan rivals Barcelona enveloping the spotlight 99 times out of 100.

That’s why he’s not even bothering with treating Arsenal and “St. Totteringham’s Day” — the Gunners’ annual celebration of clinching a spot above Spurs in the standings — like anything than a derby date.

“I really don’t think about which position Arsenal are in. My view and focus is to try to win every game and try to win the Premier League.

“For me (finishing above Arsenal) is not a motivation. The motivation for me is to win because it’s a derby and I know what it means to win a derby. My motivation is to try to win some titles with Tottenham, and my players improve every day and show we are better than the opposition.”

Spurs as a club is growing in big ways, and aiming to sit atop the Premier League standings every year. Yes Premier League derbies are important, but aiming to finish above a rival versus above all rivals is short-sighted. Pochettino’s got it right.

Pochettino: “Challenge is to keep going” ahead of North London Derby

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Mauricio Pochettino was thrilled to see Tottenham Hotspur’s title push continue with a win over in-form Crystal Palace on Wednesday.

Spurs won 1-0 on a beautiful Christian Eriksen goal from distance, moving back to within four points of Premier League leading Chelsea.

[ RECAP: Palace 0-1 Spurs ]

Pochettino’s men didn’t stop fighting for the winner despite relentless fight from the home side, with improving mettle on display this season.

“Unbelievable. Very good performance. I think second half we played much better than in the first half. It was difficult in the first half for us to move the ball and find the space but we changed the shape at half time and it was more fluid, we started to find the space and started to push Palace deeper and deeper.”

After two tough London Derbies — Spurs fell 4-2 to Chelsea in Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal — Tottenham now has the big one: a visit from Arsenal in the North London Derby.

“It was good to get the three points and be alive in the race for the title. The challenge is to keep going. It is always better to win but it is true [the Arsenal game] is a big derby, perhaps the last at White Hart Lane and I think it will be an exciting game.”

We’re ready for it. Spurs will be favored to pick up all three points, but all bets are off when it comes to the NLD. That’s especially true considering the ticking Top Four clock for Arsenal and the title fight for Spurs.

Pochettino calls out Xavi for Dele Alli-Man City “lie to lie to lie”

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“He tried to destroy our focus to win because he hates me because he’s Barcelona.”

Even half-kidding, the Derby Barceloni is alive and well for longtime Espanyol man Mauricio Pochettino and Barcelona legend Xavi.

At least that’s why the latter is trying to sabotage the former’s Premier League title fight, Pochettino says.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Speaking from his club team in Qatar, Xavi claimed that Manchester City is going to bid high for Spurs’ young star Dele Alli.

Tottenham boss Pochettino says that’s just not true. Pochettino was joking a bit when he answered questions on the topic, but then told a story about Xavi diving for a penalty in the derby. Here are a few of his thoughts, from The Telegraph:

“It wasn’t a penalty but Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored for Barcelona and they won the game. After in the replay it was very funny because it was clear no one touched him. Come on! It goes from lie to lie to lie.”

“He is working for Manchester City, maybe? He wants to help Guardiola and [Vincent] Kompany.”

Perfectionist Pochettino piles pressure on Chelsea

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LONDON — Being four points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea isn’t enough for Mauricio Pochettino.

He wants more. He always seems to want more.

[ MORE: Spurs hammer Bournemouth ]

With his side 2-0 up in the first half on Saturday in their eventual 4-0 win against Bournemouth, Pochettino was bellowing instructions from the sidelines and was left infuriated whenever his team missed a tackle or a pass.

That didn’t happen often but whenever it did the Argentine boss let his players know about it. He’s a tough man to impress.

Pochettino demands perfection and explained his irritation when asked post-game.

“You should be focused on the game, not on myself,” Pochettino laughed. “I saw some signs, some details you are maybe disappointed with and when you are involved, sometimes you are more than other games. I think three points was a must win because we want to put pressure on our opponents. Our idea was to translate to the players that emotion that nothing is enough. To always play better, be very concentrated and very focused on the game. I don’t remember for what, but sometimes I was a little disappointed.”

That fact that Pochettino was, at times, upset with a dominant display from start to finish says it all. His team are on top form.

Spurs broke records on Saturday, winning a seventh-straight PL game for the first time and also winning 15 home games for the first time in a single season as they’re unbeaten in 17 home games in the league at White Hart Lane.

They’ve done their job in each of the past two weekends, securing back-to-back 4-0 wins in the early games to pile the pressure on Chelsea. With their London rivals heading to Manchester United on Sunday, Pochettino knows his team could be right back in this title race.

“Our job is to get three points and we got the three points. Now the pressure is on Chelsea to win at Old Trafford and I’m sure that tomorrow will be a very tough game for them,” Pochettino said. “There are still a lot of games to play. It would be fantastic tomorrow night, after the game, if we keep the gap to four points.”

Pochettino believes Chelsea are “still the favorites” to win the Premier League but compared to the fanfare they were up against last season as they crumbled late on in the campaign and the world wanted Leicester to win the title, this challenges seems easier to overcome.

Pro Soccer Talk asked Pochettino if playing earlier than Chelsea in recent weeks has been a big bonus for his team and he revealed just how tough last season was mentally to overcome the euphoria surrounding Leicester.

“If you win, like today, it is a big thing for us to put pressure on our opponent. Last season we never had the possibility to play before Leicester,” Pochettino said. “It was good, if you hear before the Palace v Arsenal game, Claudio Ranieri recognized the world was for us, trying to help Leicester. Maybe last season when I told you that, maybe you said ‘this guy is a little bit crazy’ no?

“But now that you hear from him, now I think you can be put in my position and the players’ position that it was so, so difficult because the team that all the world tried to kill was Tottenham. Impossible to understand why, but it was very good to hear from Claudio Ranieri that comment because it means a lot. It was fully deserved for Leicester but now I think you understand more our behavior and Chelsea again, I don’t know. Now you recognize the situation that was so, so difficult for us.”

Still, with the gap to Chelsea four points and goal difference a potential tiebreaker, Pochettino is, as always, demanding more from his players as he builds a winning mentality at Tottenham.

“The only way to build that winning mentality is always playing with the same tempo, focus and concentration during 90-95 minutes. Never give up,” Pochettino said. “1-0, 2-0, 3-0, 4-0… the team must forget the result to always try to go forward and score goals. That is the mentality we are building.”

Premier League Preview: Tottenham vs. Bournemouth

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  • Spurs unbeaten in 3 career PL matches vs. Cherries (2W, 1D)
  • Tottenham trails leaders Chelsea by seven points
  • Cherries have won just two road matches all season

Tottenham continues to keep within striking distance of league leaders Chelsea but Spurs must find victory on Saturday when the club hosts Bournemouth at White Hart Lane (Watch live at 7:30 a.m. EDT on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Mauricio Pochettino‘s men have done their very best to keep pace with Chelsea to this point, however, Spurs will need to hope that the Blues slip up if they are to boast a first-division title for the first time since 1960/61.

After missing time with an ankle injury, Tottenham should receive more good news with the return of star striker Harry Kane, while Victor Wanyama is also expected to be fit for Saturday’s clash.

[ MORE: Top PL storylines for Week 33 ]

Meanwhile, Bournemouth has a seven-point cushion above the bottom three, but the Cherries cannot let their guard down or else the results could be catastrophic for PL side.

Since the turn of the new year, the Cherries have won just two of their 13 matches in league play and have allowed 28 goals in that span.

What they’re saying

Mauricio Pochettino on trying to pull Chelsea back to the pack“I think we’re playing and fighting for bigger things. If we look at the bigger picture it’s to try to reduce the gap with Chelsea. I think today it’s not important the gap we have with Arsenal. The most important thing is to do our job, try to win games and try to reduce the gap with Chelsea.”

Eddie Howe on possibility of gaining another result against Spurs“We’ll need to match our performance from the home game earlier this year or even surpass it to get a result at White Hart Lane. Mauricio Pochettino has done an outstanding job. I admire his style of play and the way he improves players.”

Prediction

If Chelsea’s form hadn’t been as good for as long as it has been, Spurs would be running away with the league right now. Pochettino’s men have taken points in 15 of their last 16 PL matches, and I anticipate they won’t slip up against the Cherries.

Tottenham 3-1 Bournemouth