Eddie Howe believes he will be going up against one of “the very best” coaches in Mauricio Pochettino when Bournemouth host Tottenham on Saturday.
Bournemouth were taught a harsh lesson by Pochettino and Spurs in the two clubs’ first top-flight meeting in October 2015, the Cherries losing 5-1 at home despite Matt Ritchie’s opener in the first minute.
The return fixture at White Hart Lane was not quite so crushing, but Spurs still cruised to a straightforward 3-0 win – Harry Kane leading the way with a double, just as he did at the Vitality Stadium.
Howe is convinced Bournemouth are now “hardened” to the rigours of the Premier League and will put up more of a fight this time, though he feels he is going up against one of the country’s best coaches.
“Tottenham haven’t been beaten or conceded a goal from open play in the league this season, so they’re certainly in good form,” he said.
“For me, last season they, along with Manchester City, were the strongest side we faced. We had two very tough games against Spurs last season, but we’ve definitely learnt from those experiences.
“I think we’re better prepared for these kinds of games. We’re more hardened to Premier League football and our belief and confidence levels are better than what they previously were, but we have to prove it on the pitch.
“It’s going to be a real test for us. They have an outstanding manager who in my opinion is up there with the very best.
“The intensity at which his sides play makes them difficult opponents. They are genuine title contenders.”
Bournemouth have picked up three Premier League home wins in succession since the opening-day defeat to Manchester United and Howe is looking for their home form to sustain them as they approach a tough run of fixtures against the likes of Leicester City, Liverpool and Arsenal.
“We’re certainly on the right track at home,” he added. “Last season it was difficult and I think we expected that given that it was our first season in the Premier League.
“It’s our bread and butter really – you always aim to win and pick up point in your home games. We also try to do that in an entertaining way for our supporters.
“So we’re certainly moving in the right direction, but we have some really tough games to come. It’s still early in the season and a lot can happen in the coming weeks.
“Yes, we’re confident and happy with the way the team is developing, but we’re not getting carried away.”