Mauricio Pochettino urges Spurs to turn screw on Manchester City and Liverpool

• ‘Burnley on Saturday will be like a final,’ says Spurs manager
• Tottenham striker Harry Kane back after ankle injury

Mauricio Pochettino has urged Tottenham’s players to take advantage of the timing that could make this a pivotal weekend in the Premier League title race. Spurs travel to Turf Moor on Saturday with the message from their manager that victory would heap pressure on to Manchester City, otherwise engaged at Wembley on Sunday afternoon, straight after Liverpool’s game at Old Trafford.

City are competing in the Carabao Cup final and Liverpool face a difficult challenge at Manchester United so Pochettino knows there is a chance that Spurs could be within two points of both by the end of the weekend. Spurs have still to play both clubs, moreover, which is why he describes his team’s fixture with Burnley as being like a final – fail to win and the upcoming fixtures against Chelsea and Arsenal will lose some of their appeal.

“It could be a massive weekend,” said the Spurs manager. “The football is like a final for us at Burnley. It’s going to be key in the future of the Premier League. It’s a massive three points. If we’re going to be capable of winning the three points, to see us close to them [Liverpool and Manchester City], things will happen in different games. But whether we get close to them or keep distance, we’ll see.”

Having the opportunity to put extra pressure on the teams above them is an advantage that Pochettino did not enjoy so much when competing against Leicester in the 2015-16 title race when, partly because of his team’s Europa League commitments, only two of Spurs’ last 12 matches took place on Saturdays. Pochettino grumbled about that at the time so he is pleased the situation is different now.

He is also happy that Harry Kane is pencilled in to return from injury. The England captain scored a hat-trick on his last trip to Turf Moor and is eager to play after an ankle injury forced him to miss Spurs’ past seven matches. However, Pochettino will not rush him back and, with his team having collected maximum points during the striker’s absence, says suggestions that his team are dependent on Kane are unfounded.

“I have never believed that and I am never going to believe that,” he said. “Harry Kane is one of the most important players for us, one of the best strikers in the world. But football is about the collective. Sometimes it’s very frustrating for us [to hear talk of dependency on Kane]. It’s so unfair that the perception is different to what we see.”


Paul Doyle

The GuardianTramp

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