Mauricio Pochettino is setting his sights on second place in the Premier League but insisted Tottenham’s focus is not on Arsenal, even though a draw at relegated Newcastle United on Sunday will ensure they finish above their rivals.
Despite a three-match winless run, Spurs are two points clear of the Gunners going into the final game and have a significantly superior goal difference, meaning a point at St James’ Park will be enough to finish as runners-up even if Arsene Wenger’s men win against Aston Villa.
Tottenham have not finished above Arsenal for 21 years but Pochettino, who ended speculation linking him with Manchester United when he signed a new five-year contract this week, is only interested in what second spot means for his club.
“The supporters and their feelings are very important but we are professional,” Pochettino said.
“To move on, we need to sometimes put out the emotions, to be clever, we need to fight first to improve ourselves and be strong in our ideas.
“I can understand it, for our supporters it’s special to be above Arsenal, but I want to be second not because we will be above our enemy, our opponent, but because we are ambitious.
“Maybe one day Arsenal finish eighth, we finish seventh, yes we are above but it’s not a success for us.”
Spurs will be confident of getting the draw they require having lost only one of their last 17 away matches in the Premier League.
Newcastle have only been defeated in one of their last eight at home in the league, but were relegated after Sunderland’s win over Everton on Wednesday followed their disappointing 0-0 draw away to Villa last time out.
Rafael Benitez could start defender Daryl Janmaat (hand) after he was an unused substitute against Villa, while Dele Alli and Mousa Dembele are suspended for Spurs. Nabil Bentaleb (knee) is still out.
Newcastle owner Mike Ashley – who is hoping Benitez decides to stay and manage the club in the Championship – penned an open letter to supporters ahead of their last game before the drop, insisting he shared their pain.
He wrote: “Newcastle United rightly has a proud and long tradition of competing at the highest level and I therefore understand and share the pain that supporters will be feeling at this difficult time.
“Many of you have expressed strong views about what we could have done differently. I respect those views but I would like to reiterate that it has always been my intention to try to achieve the very best for Newcastle United.
“Clearly it is now time for a period of careful consideration whilst we reflect upon the lessons that need to be learned from the last 12 months to restore this great club to the very top flight of English football.”
Key Opta Stats:
– Newcastle United have kept just one clean sheet in their last 22 Premier League matches against Tottenham.
– Only Leicester City (38) have picked up more points away from home than Spurs this season (34).
– Spurs have allowed fewer shots on target against them than any other team in the Premier League this season (112).
– Spurs have now recorded their highest tally of goals in a single Premier League season (68).
– If Spurs win this fixture, they will beat their highest ever points tally in a single season set in 2012-13 (72).
– Harry Kane needs one goal in this game to equal the record for most away goals in a Premier League campaign, currently held by Kevin Phillips with 16 in 1999-2000.
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