April 1 (Reuters) - There was a new air of defiance and optimism in Mauricio Pochettino’s voice as the Tottenham Hotspur manager promised his side were ready to fight for the Premier League title after they had learned of a Saturday sensation back in London.
After his injury-hit team had displayed real character to win 2-0 at Burnley, Pochettino revealed how they had trooped back to the dressing room at Turf Moor to discover that leaders Chelsea had lost 2-1 at home to Crystal Palace.
It meant that what had increasingly been presumed to be a straightforward voyage for the Blues towards regaining the title had hit the most unlikely of road blocks.
That left Pochettino feeling very different about his side’s task with Chelsea’s lead now reduced to seven points.
”This was massive for us -- we heard after the game Chelsea had lost,“ Pochettino told the BBC. ”When you reduce the gap to seven, it’s completely different to 10.
”It was important for us to be there if Chelsea failed -- and we are there. We’re there fighting for the Premier League. We must be very proud today.
“There’s still a lot of work to do. It depends on whether Chelsea fail and the moment they do, if we do our job, we can be there at the end of the season trying to fight for the title.”
The next chapter in the scrap comes on Wednesday as Spurs are expected to win at struggling Swansea City while Manchester City will present a formidable obstacle for Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
So, perhaps Pochettino really does sense that Chelsea’s lead could be reduced to just four by the middle of the week.
The win at Turf Moor, never the easiest place from which to pinch three points, certainly suggested to him that he now has a team with the character to take the battle all the way to the wire.
“It was a really tough game for us, a really difficult game to play. We showed really good character, and I feel very proud and pleased,” he said.
First, there was the difficulty of again being without their striking talisman Harry Kane through injury, leaving them looking like a blunt attacking force in the first half.
The problems were compounded when Victor Wanyama and Harry Winks then both had to go off injured just before halftime.
Pochettino said he hoped Wanyama’s back knock was not going to be a “big issue” but he was still unsure about the extent of the injury to Winks, who had to be taken to a nearby hospital for examination of the damage to his ankle ligaments.
The better news for Spurs is that Kane, according to Pochettino, was “close” to making a return for the major tests ahead after suffering an ankle injury last month. (Reporting by Ian Chadband; Editing by Toby Davis)