Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola / AFP PHOTO / Oli SCARFF /
Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino wants his players to demonstrate their Premier League title credentials in Saturday’s crunch clash with Pep Guardiola’s ailing Manchester City.
Tottenham climbed to second place in the table last weekend by outclassing West Bromwich Albion 4-0 and are seeking to register seven successive league wins for the first time since 1967.
City were on the wrong side of the same scoreline at Everton, but Pochettino is more concerned by leaders Chelsea’s seven-point lead than the six-point gap his side could open up over Guardiola’s men.
“We have to try to show that we can be real contenders for the Premier League,” he told reporters at Tottenham’s Lilywhite House offices on Thursday.
“That’s the real challenge. It’s more important that we can show ourselves, rather than show Manchester City.
“We need to show ourselves we are capable of dealing with that pressure and to try to win games to achieve big things. I think it’s not important today the gap that we can take (over City).
“The most important thing will be our performance — to show that we have improved a lot and learnt from last season.
“It will be a very tough game. I think when you play against a team like Manchester City, you must always give your best.
“To try to get the three points, that’s our challenge. But it’s too early to talk about decisive games, or decisive points. There are a lot of big things ahead.”
City had won their first six league games under Guardiola prior to their 2-0 defeat at White Hart Lane in October’s reverse fixture and they have not been the same team since.
Last weekend’s 4-0 defeat at Everton was Guardiola’s heaviest in league football and left City 10 points adrift of Chelsea in fifth place, two points off the Champions League berths.
Guardiola conceded defeat in the title race after the match and then saw right-back Bacary Sagna fined for questioning the referee’s impartiality after the recent 2-1 win over Burnley.
– Jesus saves? –
Having known practically nothing but success in his managerial career to date, Guardiola is under pressure to prove that the stardust from his Barcelona and Bayern Munich days has not deserted him.
There was a glimmer of sunlight through the gloom on Thursday when Gabriel Jesus completed his £27 million ($33.3 million, 31.2 million euros) transfer from Palmeiras.
The 19-year-old Brazil forward could make his debut at the Etihad Stadium and he has admitted that adapting to the ferocious pace of the Premier League could prove a steep learning curve.
“I’ve watched it and I notice that it’s a very hard, intense style of play. I hope to adapt as quickly as possible,” Jesus, City’s new number 33, told the club website.
“I know it isn’t going to be easy, but it only depends on me to put in the effort to help with the transition.”
He added: “I can’t feel scared, being given an opportunity like this to change my life.
“There are more challenges and opportunities to change the lives of my family members and so give them opportunities, so I can’t be scared of anything.”
Spurs have been flying in their new 3-4-2-1 system and Guardiola may elect to revert to a back three to counter it.
He will be once again without Fernandinho, who is serving the third game of a four-match suspension, and Ilkay Gundogan (knee) remains a long-term absentee.
But captain Vincent Kompany is expected to return to the squad after two months on the sidelines with knee ligament damage.
Pochettino must make a defensive reshuffle after centre-back Jan Vertonghen sustained an ankle injury against West Brom that is likely to keep him out for around six weeks.
Winger Erik Lamela, who is receiving treatment on a hip problem at his former club Roma, is Spurs’ only other absentee.