Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino relishing pressure-free title challenge
Mauricio Pochettino insists the pressure of leading Tottenham's title charge is nothing compared to when he was first appointed head coach.
Spurs take on struggling Aston Villa on Sunday, desperate to get back to winning ways. They managed only a point from two London derbies against West Ham and Arsenal last week before being thrashed 3-0 by Borussia Dortmund on Thursday in the Europa League.
It means Pochettino's men are without a victory in three matches and they can ill-afford to let that run continue, with league leaders Leicester already five points clear at the top of the table.
The Tottenham boss, however, believes the team's recent dip pales in comparison to when he first took over in 2014, as Spurs dropped to 14th after losing five of their opening 12 matches.
"Is the Aston Villa game now crucial? Crucial was last season when we were 14th in November," Pochettino said.
"We have been in a good run. There is no doubt about the team. Sometimes you expect you cannot perform always the same. Football is difficult.
"I am happy with team and now we need to lift the players because it was a big hit for us (against Dortmund).
"We need to finish strongly. If not maybe we have a problem but always you try to fight. The whole season has been good."
Villa are rooted to the bottom of the table and nine points adrift of safety, having lost five of their last six matches.
Spurs are confident Dele Alli can overcome a niggling ankle problem to be available while Eric Dier will face a late fitness test on a knock to his ankle.
Both players, along with Danny Rose, who is nursing a sore calf, were spared the trip to Germany in midweek, with Pochettino instead choosing to field a weakened side against Dortmund.
"I think we need to show respect to Aston Villa, we are wrong if we do not," Pochettino said.
"The players are not machines. We come from a very busy period and we play a lot in different circumstances.
"They are a proud team and if they have a chance to survive in the Premier League, Sunday is important. We need to put this idea in the mind of the players."