Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino believes Dele Alli is becoming a target for opposition teams trying to wind him up.
Alli could face a retrospective three-match ban after the PFA Young Player of the Year appeared to punch West Brom midfielder Claudio Yacob in the stomach during the sides’ 1-1 draw on Monday.
The 20-year-old had been upended twice in the early stages by Yacob at White Hart Lane but his reaction could see him miss the rest of Tottenham’s campaign if found guilty of violent conduct.
It is not the first time Alli has landed himself in hot water this season.
He was lucky to escape punishment for throwing a ball in the face of Sunderland defender Patrick van Aanholt in January and then a month later he seemed to drag his feet over an opponent’s back against Fiorentina in the Europa League.
Pochettino admits the youngster has a competitive edge but also believes players are starting to provoke him.
“I hear some comments but I have no time to see the action,” said Pochettino of the incident with Yacob.
“Sometimes the opponent find him and try to provoke, they know he has a strong character and may react.
“I don’t know what has happened, we will see. I have nothing to comment now but Dele has a strong character if you wind him up.”
The draw against the Baggies means Leicester can win the title with victory at Manchester United on Sunday as they sit seven points clear of second-placed Tottenham with just three games remaining.
Craig Dawson’s own goal had put the hosts ahead in the first half but the defender made amends, heading home with 18 minutes left to leave Spurs’ title hopes hanging by a thread.
“It is not over,” Pochettino said. “The gap is seven points and we have ahead three games.
“It is true that it is very difficult, more difficult than before the game, but we still believe and we are still fighting.
“We have to hope Leicester drop points and we get three points at Chelsea (next Monday).
“It is important to still fight. The objective is still there. It is more difficult than before but the gap with Arsenal and Manchester City (in fourth and third) is five points and we need to keep this gap.
“It is important to win in case Leicester drop points so we can win the title.”
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