Mauricio Pochettino: Players will deserve statues if Tottenham win title

• Spurs manager says beating Leicester would be monumental achievement
• Pochettino eager to overcome longstanding Stoke hoodoo

Mauricio Pochettino says that his Tottenham Hotspur players ought to have statues made of them if they overhaul Leicester City and win the Premier League title. The manager enjoyed a boost on Sunday, when Leicester could only draw 2-2 at home to West Ham United, meaning that his team could cut the gap at the top of the table to five points with victory at Stoke City on Monday night.

In almost any other season, Tottenham might be able to count on a measure of popular support in their role as surprise championship challengers, particularly as there has been so much to like about their football and many of the club’s individual storylines. But this is not any other season.

Neutral fans in England and around the world are willing Leicester – who were 5,000-1 shots in pre-season – to one of the greatest upsets in football history and Spurs find themselves cast, in some quarters, as the potential wreckers of the fairytale. Pochettino, unsurprisingly, is having none of that.

“If we won the championship, I think that every player would deserve a statue,” Pochettino said. “The challenge is big because the gap is big but to keep fighting in the way that we have fought and, in the end, win the title – all the people would recognise our value. And we would be happy, too. We cannot fight against all that happens around Leicester. We need to fight against them, and against us and our opponents, and it’s a very good challenge. We know that all the people want Leicester to be champions but we need to believe that we can change the story.”

Pochettino watched Leicester’s dramatic draw with West Ham after training on Sunday but he is consumed by what he can influence – continuing with the visit to Stoke. They have been a bogey team for Pochettino, who has failed to beat them on six occasions, with his former club, Southampton, and now Tottenham.

His two matches against them at White Hart Lane have been particularly frustrating. Last season, Stoke won 2-1 and, at the beginning of this one, they came back from 2-0 down late on to force a 2-2 draw. The game at the Britannia Stadium at the end of last season finished in a 3-0 Stoke win.

“It’s true, they have been very frustrating moments for us,” Pochettino said. “But in football, you always look for another opportunity to win or to fix that and we have, in front of us, a very good opportunity to try to win and fight for big things. That is to be in the race for the title. It’s like with Manchester United. We hadn’t beaten them at home for 15 years but we did it last Sunday. Maybe, I change the history against Stoke.”

Pochettino has been keen to stress football’s unpredictability, and no doubt Spurs would have taken heart from Leicester’s result against West Ham. “In football, anything can happen,” Pochettino said. “One thing can change things. We are in love with football because it is not predictable. I am a very positive person and I always believe that good things can happen.”


David Hytner

The GuardianTramp

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