By Ken Ferris
LONDON (Reuters) – Tottenham Hotspur have only themselves to blame for slipping behind in the Premier League title race but must put a shock defeat by Burnley behind them and finish the season strongly, manager Mauricio Pochettino said on Tuesday.
Spurs are six points behind leaders Liverpool and five off Manchester City after the 2-1 loss at Turf Moor last weekend, which the Argentine described as a must-win game, and next visit Chelsea on Wednesday before hosting Arsenal on Saturday.
“In the last 10 to 12 games we must be strong,” Pochettino said at the club’s training ground. “What we showed on Saturday was we’re a good team but not (good) enough to win the league if we’re not able to beat Burnley playing for the title.
“It’s going to be tough to win the Premier League because of us, not because Liverpool or another (team) is so much better. We need to show that we are fighting for big things.”
Pochettino’s frustration resulted in an FA improper conduct charge, which he has accepted, after he appeared to vent his anger at referee Mike Dean on Saturday in a furious exchange on the pitch at the end of the Burnley match.
“I think we missed a massive opportunity to be in a better position and put pressure on the teams that are at the top,” he added of his third-placed side. “It’s difficult to move on but we need to, we have to and we need to think about Chelsea.
“It’s going to be tough (at Stamford Bridge), a derby and we need to be ready to compete. Personally, I’m still disappointed and still feel the pain of the three points we lost at Burnley but you need to move on and translate good energy.
“Yesterday (Monday), I was involved in training more than normally and, of course, the players feel disappointed, we all feel disappointed but we need to be ready for the next game because the competition doesn’t wait.
“Burnley was, for me, most important but now we can’t change that result or performance. We need to start again at Chelsea.”
Chelsea have had problems of their own including a row between manager Maurizio Sarri and goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, who refused to be substituted before the penalty shootout in Sunday’s League Cup final defeat by Manchester City at Wembley.
However, Pochettino played down the suggestion it may be a good time to visit their London rivals who could be suffering from fatigue after facing extra time in the final at Wembley.
“Playing Wednesday then Sunday, I think you have time to recover,” he said. “I don’t think they are going to be tired… It’s such an important game for them too.
“After the defeat in the Carabao (League) Cup final they are back in front of their fans and they will want to win again.
“We need to be ready. For them it’s an important game and for us too. It will be a battle and we need to be ready to fight — our mentality is to go there and try to win.”
(Writing by Ken Ferris; Editing by Toby Davis)