Mauricio Pochettino urges Spurs to improve record at top-six grounds

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Mauricio Pochettino urges Spurs to improve record at top-six grounds” was written by Amy Lawrence, for The Guardian on Friday 10th February 2017 22.30 UTC

Mauricio Pochettino has identified away wins in the lair of top opponents as an area he wants to see improvement as Tottenham Hotspur try to close the gap to Chelsea and stay ahead of their rivals for a top‑four place.

Spurs travel to Anfield still searching for three points on the road at any of the clubs in the upper echelons of the Premier League.

“We are looking at that,” Pochettino said. “[We struggle at] top-six clubs because we have had some draws and some losses. It’s true that this is a good opportunity to change that stat.”

Pochettino pointed out that this seems to be an affliction with which many of Spurs’ rivals are struggling (although Jürgen Klopp’s team are unbeaten against the top six) and the Argentinian is not unduly worried. However, who would not crave those standout victories that bring not just three points but an extra edge, an extra injection of self-belief as well?

Depending on the fullness of your glass, you could choose to interpret Tottenham’s away stats with a promising slant in that once they have returned from Merseyside they do not have any more away matches against top sides for the rest of the league schedule, which augers well if they are sitting in second place – the best of the rest in Chelsea’s wake – with so many difficult assignments ticked off. Their record at White Hart Lane is excellent, with only Chelsea recording a higher win percentage at home. In overall away results they are sixth so it is obvious where they need to improve to make a more formidable title challenge.

Even though Liverpool’s form and confidence has dipped lately, Pochettino is hardly expecting a canter. Spurs have won only one league game at Anfield since 1993.

“We had the same problem in November – every club can have ups and downs. They are not in a good run but have very good players, one of best squads in England or even Europe, they will be motivated as this is always a big match. When we play them it will be very high-tempo and intense. If we win it will be important to keep our good position and put pressure on Chelsea. It’s not decisive but it’s important.”

The league table might make Chelsea heavy favourites with a nine-point advantage, but nobody at Tottenham is minded to throw in any towels just yet. Pochettino urges his team to aim high, first of all for themselves, and then to see what fates may befall those around them. “It is not about sending a message to Chelsea. We are competing with ourselves, like we were last season. We are our own enemies,” he said.

“It is true in the last four or five games when you need to reduce the gap you are not only thinking of winning games, you are looking to reduce the gap to your opponent. But today it is about you. You need to be able to keep that level about winning, winning, winning games, then hope afterwards that Chelsea drop points.”

Pochettino doubts that Antonio Conte will be losing sleep over Tottenham leading the chase. “No, no, no. Chelsea aren’t worried about that,” he said. “Conte wants to keep the motivation high and keep them pushing and fighting. I think they are worried about themselves, like every other team.”

Tottenham have not scored from open play in the past couple of matches – relying on Harry Kane’s penalty to see off Middlesbrough after a goalless draw at Sunderland – so Pochettino is hoping for more ruthlessness in front of goal.

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