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Mauricio Pochettino expects Chelsea to be in Champions League contention


Mauricio Pochettino, pictured, is looking to heap more misery on Jose Mourinho and Chelsea

Mauricio Pochettino, pictured, is looking to heap more misery on Jose Mourinho and Chelsea

Mauricio Pochettino, pictured, is looking to heap more misery on Jose Mourinho and Chelsea

Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino still expects Chelsea to challenge for the top four this season.

The Blues are enduring a nightmare start to their title defence and will arrive at White Hart Lane on Sunday 10 points and 10 places behind their London rivals.

Spurs, in fifth, are favourites to pick up three points and heap more misery on Jose Mourinho's stuttering side.

But Pochettino is conscious Chelsea have had two more days to prepare for the clash against a Tottenham squad who only arrived back from a gruelling 5,000-mile round trip to Azerbaijan on Friday morning.

"Chelsea have very good players and a great manager," Pochettino said. "It's always difficult to speak about another team because when you are outside that club you do not know what is going on and it is difficult to analyse.

"Sometimes teams have bad results and that can change a very good team. But they have time to recover and come back still this season.

"They also have extra days to prepare for our match. I am expecting a very tough game because they have very good players."

Tottenham won the corresponding fixture last season 5-3 on New Year's Day - a result Pochettino admits gave his side the belief they were ready to mix it with the big boys.

Mourinho did not speak to his opposite number after that match and, although Pochettino has a good relationship with the Chelsea chief, he will be hoping to get under his skin again on Sunday.

"That match was very special," the Argentinian said. "It was very important for us. It was an important time to believe in ourselves and for the young players.

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"For many players it was that belief that we can achieve important things. Now our mentality is that every time we play we need to show we have the quality to win every game.

"When you work hard and you play well you need a positive result to be confident and to believe. The positive result was the victory against Chelsea. It helped the team to believe more.

"We started to feel that the players believe, they are confident and comfortable in the way we play, the way we train, and I think that is the most important thing.

"It was difficult for (Mourinho) because he was very upset and didn't speak. I could understand - it has been like that some games for me.

"Sometimes when you have lost you don't want to speak to anybody. But we have a very good relationship and I am sure we will say hello before the game on Sunday.

"This weekend we will be enemies because we both want to win the game. But I have respect for him.

"He was very good with me when I was at Espanyol and he was at Real Madrid. He is not a close friend but I have a very good relationship with him."

Dele Alli is suspended for Spurs but Kyle Walker, Danny Rose and Mousa Dembele return after they were rested for Thursday's 1-0 Europa League win over Qarabag in Baku.

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