Chelsea vs Tottenham: Spurs aim to end jinx after finally tuning in to Mauricio Pochettino's way

Spurs haven't won at Chelsea since February 1990

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The Independent Football

Mauricio Pochettino wants his Tottenham Hotspur side to build on their best performance of the season at the weekend and end their 25-year  hoodoo at Chelsea tonight – and the manager has form in ending hoodoos.

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Spurs’ 2-1 victory over Everton on Sunday certainly felt like a turning point, given the team’s repeated failures at home this season. They played with the bravery and intensity that Pochettino demands, chasing down opponents and counter-attacking with the same intensity that his Southampton team showed last season.

Pochettino now has hard evidence to back up his claim that Spurs are moving in the right direction, although producing the same level at Stamford Bridge this evening against league leaders Chelsea will be far harder. “We had a very good performance and realised how we wanted to play,” Pochettino said yesterday of Sunday’s result. “It’s a good example. It’s not easy to keep this intensity or this level over the season. We need time to train hard after coming to this level.”

This early into his tenure, making progress is still just as important as winning points to Pochettino. Winning at Chelsea for the first time since February 1990 would certainly be welcomed, but the priority is to keep moving in the right direction. “I’ve been saying for weeks, we believe we are going the right way,” Pochettino said, “and it is very important to keep going forward, even if the results are not always as positive as we want.”

 

The problem with Pochettino’s way, of course, is that pressing as high and hard as he demands is so physically draining. With Christmas fixtures on the way, managing conditioning will be crucial to Spurs’ prospects of further improvement. Harry Kane ran 13 kilometres on Sunday, which makes him less likely to play tonight, with Pochettino still considering his options up front.

“After we have a lot of games you need to analyse not only the performance but also the fatigue,” Pochettino said. “We need to understand  that a player maybe needs some rest. We have a lot of games ahead.”

This time of the season is busy for all teams but Pochettino argued that because Chelsea’s results have been better, they would find recovery easier than Spurs.

“When you win each week, you are top of the Premier League, top in the Champions League and in the quarter-final of the Capital One Cup, it is much easier to recover, because you are happy. When you laugh, you recover easily,” Pochettino said, contrasting Chelsea’s record with Spurs’. “When you lose four games at home, it is difficult to recover easily for the players and the supporters because you are sad and you don’t sleep. It is difficult.”

It does not make for an optimistic picture. But although Spurs have not won at Chelsea for 25 years, Pochettino isn’t worried as he knows a thing or two about jinx-smashing. In one of his first games as Espanyol manager, in February 2009, he masterminded his team ending an even longer run without a win.

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Jose Mourinho looks on from the touchline

“Espanyol had not beaten Barcelona in the Camp Nou for 27 years,” Pochettino recalled yesterday. “It was my first season in charge, and Pep Guardiola’s first season in charge of Barcelona.

“Barcelona were at the top and the plan was to press high and to surprise them. I remember Barcelona had Samuel Eto’o, Thierry Henry, Yaya Touré, Eric Abidal, Carlos Puyol, Andres Iniesta and Xavi, and they were surprised how we played. And we are a little bit lucky during the game. We won 2-1, a very special victory.”

Not that Pochettino is confident of a repeat tonight. “Mourinho knows me and I know him.”

City will be hoping the league leaders have another off day like Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Sunderland. But Jose Mourinho insists that Chelsea will be as focused as ever. His aim is to amass as many points as possible not to finish the season unbeaten.

“We are not playing for that,” Mourinho said, “because if you play for that, if that is the one objective, maybe you draw so many matches, you don’t take risks to try and win matches. You are happy just to be undefeated. Ten draws gets you ten points. If you win five and lose five, you make 15 points. I’d prefer 15 points and lost matches than 10 points and undefeated.”

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