Mauricio Pochettino admits Tottenham cannot afford to let Manchester City pull any further ahead at the top of the Premier League table.
City’s perfect start means they sit four points clear of Spurs as the sides prepare for their crunch clash of first against second on Sunday.
Tottenham endured a sluggish opening to the season last year and paid the price as champions Leicester established an early advantage and never looked back.
Pochettino insists this weekend’s match at White Hart Lane cannot be taken as a gauge of his team’s title credentials but admits they must halt City’s charge.
“It’s very early to start to speak about whether it’s an important game to prove something,” Pochettino said.
“It’s only the beginning but we know three points is already important to reduce the gap. It’s a very important game for us and them but it’s only a game.
“At the beginning of the season, we play against City who are unbeaten in the Premier League, it’s first against second in the table, a very tough match and very important for both teams.”
Tottenham are unbeaten in the league so far and have won their last three games in a row to make their best start to a season since 1965.
Pochettino also has form for upsetting Pep Guardiola after he led Espanyol to a 2-1 victory against the Spaniard’s scintillating Barcelona team in 2009.
Barca had gone six months unbeaten heading into the game but Pochettino pulled off a surprise triumph as Espanyol won at the Nou Camp for the first time in 27 years.
“I don’t like to talk about the past – football is present and future,” Pochettino said.
“For me, the most important thing is to meet them, play well, show our quality, get three points and, of course, to say hello to him.
“We share a lot of time together as players and managers, we shared time, him at Barcelona, me at Espanyol.
“He is the best manager in the world, he showed quality at Barcelona and Bayern Munich. It’s always tough to arrive in the Premier League but it’s exciting to play against him.”
Pochettino hopes to have four first-team players available again for the match as Eric Dier, Mousa Dembele and Danny Rose all near returns from hamstring injuries.
The trio will be assessed on Saturday along with Moussa Sissoko, who took a bang to the head last weekend against Middlesbrough.
Harry Kane remains out with an ankle ligament injury, meaning summer signing Vincent Janssen is likely to start again up front.
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