Mauricio Pochettino

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Pochettino: Spurs won’t sell any key players this summer

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Two seasons in a row now, Tottenham Hotspur has been the only club to come close to challenging for the Premier League title in any month that comes after February.

[ WATCH: Kane scores 4 to take charge in Golden Boot race ]

Most impressively, Tottenham have done it with a squad of players that’s A) the youngest in the PL (average age: 25.7 — nearly a full year younger than Liverpool, the PL’s second-youngest squad), and B) heavily reliant upon a core of English players (five of 11 first-choice starters — four of whom made their England debut since Mauricio Pochettino took over at White Hart Lane).

With success — make no doubt about it, what Spurs have done under Pochettino has been a major success, trophies or no trophies — comes recognition. With recognition comes interest from any number of “bigger” clubs from all around Europe. While the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United, Barcelona and Real Madrid may be interested in the likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Toby Aldeweireld and Kyle Walker, Spurs won’t be forced into any sales that weaken the first-team squad — quotes from the BBC:

“The players we want to keep will be here next season. If any players leave, it’s Tottenham’s decision.”

“I think we are so, so, so calm about our big players and they are so happy here. We are building a very exciting project. The players must feel they are part of us and want to share in our success.”

On the other end of the transfer market, there won’t be any shortage of players lining up to sign for Spurs this summer. With one or two key additions to the squad another title challenge looks to be no the cards, in the event of a serious uptick in results at Wembley Stadium, of course.

[ RECAP: Kane gets 4, Son gets 2; Spurs increase record points total ]

As for Kane, who bagged four goals on Thursday to take total control on the 2016-17 Golden Boot race, Pochettino remains convinced (with evidence spewing out of his eyes, ears and nose) that the 23-year-old academy product ascended to world-class heights long ago:

“Harry Kane’s a special player, he loves Tottenham.”

“Harry Kane means a lot for the team. I tell you always that he’s one of the best strikers in the world. His performances show that we are right.”

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Typically quick to praise his teammates and place team success above his own statistics and accolades, Kane was rightly beaming after his four-goal performance and basking in the possibilities of winning his second straight Golden Boot:

“It is the first time in my professional career that I’ve scored four. There has been a bit of build-up in the race for the Golden Boot and I wanted at least one or two to put the pressure on, but to get four is amazing.

“I think this is my best season. I missed 11 weeks and worked hard during my injury to ensure I came back in better shape than I started.”

Premier League Preview: Leicester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur

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  • Drew 1-1 at WHL on Oct. 29
  • Last five head-to-head: 1W-3D-1L
  • Spurs lead all-time 52W-21D-34L

Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur aim to finish their season in good form, one year after finishing 1-2 in the Premier League (Watch live, 2:45 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

King Power Stadium saw the Foxes win the league last year, with Spurs the runners-up.

Tottenham is now locked into second place and enters the match with 80 points, 10 behind Chelsea.

Leicester’s 43 points are good enough for 11th, two points behind Southampton, West Bromwich Albion, and Bournemouth. The Foxes can still finish eighth by winning Thursday vs. Spurs, again on Sunday, and getting a little help from Saints.

The Foxes are limping to the finish line due to injuries, not form. Wes Morgan, Robert Huth, Andy King, Danny Drinkwater, and Nampalys Mendy are among those who are either big question marks or ruled out for Thursday’s match.

Tottenham took a shot, too, as Danny Rose needs surgery and could miss the beginning of next season.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

What they’re saying

Leicester’s Craig Shakespeare on the injury woes: “It means other people get their opportunities. The players can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I expect us to have a real good go, to finish as high as we can.”

Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino on next season’s motivation“Next season and during the summer we need to find a way to inspire them, to motivate them to push further in our performances and to find different ways to play. Then try to add more quality, maybe, if we are capable of finding this type of player that can help us for the next season to play better, to be better and try to compete better in different periods of the season.”

Prediction

Closer than you think, but Spurs will continue to pile up points by denying Leicester more than a few sniffs at goal. 2-1 Tottenham.

Pochettino after title hopes fade: “Difficult to take off this feeling”

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Credit Mauricio Pochettino for his honesty in a difficult time.

The Premier League’s latest Manager of the Month has admitted there’s been a let-down around the training ground after the club’s disappointing 1-0 loss to West Ham essentially assured that Tottenham won’t catch Chelsea in the race for the Premier League title.

[ MORE: Badstuber to Man City? ]

Few would pretend that everything is fine after such a disappointment, but Pochettino has been especially candid in not proffering bogus “We’ll fight to the death” bravado.

From the BBC:

“We have three games to play, we still feel disappointed from last week and it is difficult to take off this feeling. We missed a good opportunity to put pressure on Chelsea and to fight nearly to the end. Now it is in their hands to win the Premier League and it is so difficult for us to win. Before the game we thought anything was possible, but afterwards it was a big disappointment and it was difficult to lift everyone.”

Pochettino admitted that the last home match at White Hart Lane assures that Spurs will be laser-focused for the game, so it’s not like he’s setting the table with excuses.

Yet it’s refreshing to hear a confident manager admit to the challenge when so many would head to a spin zone of “We’re still Top Four, and we’ll keep going.”

Conte: If not for us, “Tottenham would win the title without difficulty”

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Antonio Conte‘s quest to break the spirt and resolve of every Tottenham Hotspur supporter continued this weekend, and Chelsea are yet to even play their lone game this week.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Speaking ahead of Monday’s home clash with Middlesbrough (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com) in which Conte’s side could go seven points clear of Tottenham in the Premier League title race, Conte has once again dangled a carrot in front of Spurs supporters, forced them to dream of what could have been, only to yank it away from their outstretched fingertips at the very last moment — not too dissimilar to what the Blues did in the FA Cup semifinal last month, and have done on the whole of the 2016-17 season.

In Conte’s estimation, if not for his side’s miraculous turnaround after a disastrous 10th-place finish last season, Spurs would be the ones closing in on the PL title over these final three games of the season. Maybe that’s a bit too obvious — “well, clearly, because they’re second and Chelsea are first” — Conte doubled down by saying Spurs would have won the title “without difficulty,” and souls were crushed across north London — quotes from the BBC:

“I think Tottenham have an advantage, if you compare Tottenham to Chelsea. This is my first season and I found a lot of situations, a lot of players. Mauricio Pochettino has been working there for three years and has changed a lot of players and is working very well.

“For me, Tottenham are a really strong team and it’s normal to see them fighting for the title.”

“In this season, if Chelsea had not performed in this way, Tottenham would win the title without difficulty.

“Only this great season from us is pushing them to fight and, maybe, to win or not to win the title.”

For the briefest of moments, if they try really hard to do so, Spurs fans can surely see the likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Toby Aldeweireld and Christian Eriksen jumping up and down, PL trophy above their heads, at midfield on White Hart Lane’s final day of occupancy. And then, so suddenly you can actually feel your heart sink into the pit of your stomach, you remember that one tiny, important detail… Chelsea do exist, and they’re going to win the title.

Cruel, Antonio. So very cruel.

Premier League Preview: West Ham vs. Tottenham

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  • Tottenham has not conceded in PL in 438 minutes
  • West Ham won at home last year 1-0
  • Hammers have not scored in 223 PL minutes

It’s crazy to say that Spurs, after nine wins in a row, has to win a game. Nevertheless, that is the current situation. With Chelsea’s soft schedule down the stretch and a four point gap at the top of the table, Tottenham likely has to win out the season to have a shot at the title. Dropped points on Friday (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) – or anywhere else, for that matter, likely ends the race altogether.

So, here we sit, with Spurs needing a win at a place they lost last season. Travel is light, having played a home London derby last week and now playing another on the road.  Mauricio Pochettino will likely have Danny Rose and Kyle Walker to choose from, with the former out since the end of January.

The Hammers, meanwhile, seem to have turned their misfortunes around somewhat as they sit unbeaten in four, but a closer inspection reveals all may not be well. A pair of 0-0 draws against Everton and struggling Stoke earned two points, they failed to beat the bottom team, and pipped Swansea by a single goal.

West Ham has struggled with injuries all season long, and that’s no different here, as Andy Carroll and Arthur Makuatsu are doubts, while Michail Antonio is out for sure. Slaven Bilic will have Manuel Lanzini at his disposal, a big boost as eight of his 13 goals this Premier League season have come within the confines of the English capital.

What they’re saying

Slaven Bilic on his job security: “It is not about individuals, it is about the club. I am calm and totally focused on the game. The only thing I am thinking about is the match against Spurs. This is a big match anyway,” Bilic said. “It is a derby, whether you need the points or not; it’s a derby game against Spurs at our stadium. They need points, we need points, so it is a massive game for us and a massive game for them.”

Mauricio Pochettino on West Ham stadium: “I have a very good relationship with [Bilic] and he is a great guy as well as a very good manager. It is always difficult when you move stadiums and you saw that with us and Wembley — we tried to make Wembley our home but it is just so difficult. So I think he is doing a really good job and it will be good to see him on Friday.”

Prediction

Sure, West Ham would like to secure its mathematical safety, but Tottenham needs the points here far more. Mauricio Pochettino is one of the best at preparing his teams for a particular challenge, and he will do that here. Spurs wins comfortably 2-0 against a Hammers side struggling for every single point.