LONDON (Reuters) - Tottenham Hotspur have developed a big-game mentality this season which they proved by beating Premier League leaders Chelsea, their manager Mauricio Pochettino said on Friday.
The 2-0 win over Chelsea, which ended their London rivals’ 13-game winning run, came weeks after Spurs handed Pep Guardiola his first defeat as Manchester City manager. Their only losses to top-six rivals this season were at Manchester United and Chelsea.
“It’s true that it’s no more than three points, no more than another game. But after Chelsea’s run, it is a team that is at the top, it was a good opportunity to show we improved and learned from last season,” Pochettino told reporters.
”I was very pleased after the game because we showed that we are very competitive. In this type of game sometimes you don’t need to play your best, but be competitive. It’s what we missed last season, to challenge and win the Premier League.
“That for me is a big statement and a big step forward, that the team need to keep that mentality. If you are competitive you will always be close to winning the games.”
Midfielder Dele Alli has earned plaudits in recent weeks, drawing comparisons with England greats Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, as his brace against Chelsea took his goal tally to seven in his last four games.
“I don’t want to compare. In the last few days appear a lot of comparisons with other players but I think he (Alli) is a very special player, completely different,” Pochettino said.
“He’s Dele Alli and it’s difficult to compare. His potential is massive, big gap to improve but he’s showing now unbelievable qualities and great performances. He’s one of the best players in the Premier League but with potential to improve.”
Pochettino will probably field a few fringe players in Sunday’s FA Cup third-round clash against second tier Aston Villa.
“For us it’s an important competition. It’s a good opportunity for us to play players who have not played regularly,” the Argentine added.
“We need to try to take the better decision to help the players, the team... It’s sure that we make some changes.”
Reporting by Shravanth Vijayakumar in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond