November 30, 2018 / 3:15 PM / 12 days ago

Spurs are not title contenders, says Pochettino ahead of derby

LONDON (Reuters) - Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino has played down his side’s Premier League title chances ahead of the north London derby at fierce rivals Arsenal on Sunday, despite his side rising to third in the standings.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Champions League - Group Stage - Group B - Tottenham Hotspur v Inter Milan - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - November 28, 2018 Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino before the match REUTERS/Eddie Keogh/File Photo

Pochettino’s side impressed last weekend, inflicting a first defeat of the season on Chelsea with a 3-1 win at Wembley, which took them above Maurizio Sarri’s team in the league table, five points off leaders Manchester City.

Spurs were last English champions in 1961 but have not finished lower than third in the Premier League in the last three seasons.

Pochettino said, however, that Spurs were not at the same level as their top-four rivals especially as the north London side made no signings in the close season compared to the heavy investment made by others.

“I can’t say we’re a title contender. I think Manchester City is in a different level. Clubs like Liverpool, Chelsea, (Manchester) United and Arsenal make a bigger investment to us, a different level,” the Argentine told a news conference on Friday.

“They are the contenders, more than us. But we’re there. If we’re capable in the last few months of the season to be in a good position in the table we’re going to try.”

Sunday’s game at the Emirates will see Pochettino once again lock horns with Arsenal’s coach Unai Emery. The two faced each other seven times from 2009 to 2012 when the Argentine was coaching Espanyol and Emery was in charge of Valencia.

Since succeeding Arsene Wenger, Emery has led Arsenal to fifth in the table with eight wins out of 13 league matches.

“I have a very good relationship with Unai, he is a great manager, he’s doing a fantastic job there,” said Pochettino.

“Of course Arsenal have always been a good team with very good players and unbelievable management from one of the greatest managers ever.

“Now it is a completely different culture with a manager who is Spanish. It will be tough because they are doing a good job from the beginning of the season and signed very good players too.”

Spurs may be without Erik Lamela as he is being assessed after injuring his ankle in the 1-0 victory over Inter Milan in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Right back Kieran Trippier is close to return from a groin injury while midfielders Victor Wanyama (knee), Mousa Dembele (ankle) and defender Davinson Sanchez (hamstring) remain on the sidelines.

Spurs also announced on Friday a familiarisation event at their new stadium on Dec. 16 for around 6,000 season ticket holders as the completion of their long awaited venue appears to be getting closer.

Supporters will enter a ballot to be given access to the single tier south stand and surrounding areas.

“It makes me feel very, very happy. It makes me feel we are close to compete there. It’s an important thing for the fans to show our new home,” Pochettino said.

The new 62,000 stadium on the site of the old White Hart Lane was due to be opened in August but has been delayed until next year.

Reporting by Christian Radnedge; Editing by Toby Davis

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