Mauricio Pochettino has laughed off Claudio Ranieri’s suggestion that Tottenham are title favourites and insists Leicester are under just as much pressure in the race at the top.
Spurs sit two points behind league leaders Leicester ahead of two crunch London derbies, with a trip to West Ham to come on Wednesday before the grudge match on Saturday against Arsenal.
Ranieri has downplayed his side’s chances of being crowned champions in May and instead said it is Spurs who should be considered odds-on to lift the trophy. Pochettino, however, was not convinced.
“Mind games? No, it was a joke. I laughed a little bit,” Pochettino said.
“In football it is good to play a little bit like this too. Our objective at the end of last season was clear, to reduce the gap with the teams at the top.”
Pochettino added: “For me Leicester are at the top and they have the pressure too like all the teams below. We don’t feel that.
“Only for us it is important to keep our level, our fitness, our mentality and we’ll see what happens. It’s too soon to speak about the end of the season.”
Pochettino’s men have not lost away from home in the league since the first day of the season but they may have to do without Dele Alli at Upton Park, as the midfielder struggles to overcome a foot injury.
Alli kicked the ground during the warm-up before Tottenham’s win over Swansea on Sunday and while he played the whole 90 minutes of the match, he was later seen limping heavily when he left the stadium.
Mousa Dembele is out with a groin strain but could return in time for Arsenal at the weekend while Tom Carroll is available again after recovering from an Achilles injury.
“Dele had a problem before the game against Swansea,” Pochettino said.
“During the game he suffered some different things. We need to assess him tomorrow and then decide.
“Mousa is nearly back, maybe for the next game, but he is still out.”
West Ham are gunning for Champions League football themselves as they sit sixth, four points behind fourth-placed Manchester City.
The Hammers will also be eager to put a dent in Tottenham’s title ambitions and Pochettino expects a hostile atmosphere in both his side’s next two matches.
“It is a very important game, a derby, and you cannot split the emotion from the game,” Pochettino said.
“It is not only a game. It is not only three points, it means a lot more than three points because every time you play a derby like West Ham or Arsenal it is more important for our supporters and we feel the same.”
Pochettino’s first league game in charge at Spurs came at Upton Park in August 2014, when Eric Dier scored a last-minute winner to seal a 1-0 victory.
Tottenham’s rise since then has been as surprising as it has been impressive but Pochettino says he has believed in his players from the outset.
“Today it is easy to believe in the team we have,” Pochettino added.
“The most important thing is we showed we believed in them from the beginning of pre-season. It is for that they behave like this today.”
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