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Mauricio Pochettino wary of Jermain Defoe

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SunderlandSunderland
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Mauricio Pochettino will be wary of a familiar foe when Tottenham play Sunderland and in-form striker Jermain Defoe.

Defoe, who has had two spells at Spurs, has scored five times in his last two games for the Black Cats, including a hat-trick in the midweek win at Swansea.

"A great player, a top goalscorer. His quality is great. It's not new for us," Pochettino said.

Spurs, seeking their own striker to relieve the goalscoring burden on Harry Kane, are aiming to respond from their midweek loss to Leicester against a side they beat 1-0 in September.

Since then Dick Advocaat has been replaced by Sam Allardyce and Pochettino can anticipate how the former West Ham boss will shape his side.

"He has time to improve in the way he wants to play, (it was) a long time ago that we played (at Sunderland)," the Spurs boss added.

"All the teams Allardyce has managed are very tough. (But) you need to be careful with all the opponents.

"Always in the Premier League games are very tough. We will expect another tough game against Sunderland."

Allardyce's sides have a reputation of being difficult to break down, particularly away from home.

Pochettino must be hoping for a repeat of the response from the prior defeat, to Newcastle, when Spurs went on a three-match winning run.

He recognises Spurs must get better in every area of the game.

"We need to improve in all areas and all aspects," he said.

"For me football is about a lot of things, not only one, because it's a collective effort, collective game. It's impossible to speak of only one thing."

Spurs are unchanged, with Ryan Mason (ankle), Clinton Njie (knee) and Alex Pritchard (ankle) absent.

Meanwhile, Allardyce has told Tottenham's young guns Champions League qualification would be just reward for their efforts, even if they do miss out on the Barclays Premier League title.

Pochettino's men are currently fourth, seven points adrift of leaders Arsenal, ahead of Saturday's visit of the Black Cats.

Their brand of attacking football, spearheaded by Kane and Dele Alli, has won them many admirers and led some to tout them as potential champions.

Having seen former Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson successfully rebuild his team on several occasions, Allardyce knows how difficult it can be for a young team to go all the way, but is tipping Spurs to secure a top-four finish.

He said: "I'm not so sure they can hold their nerve - Brendan [Rodgers] couldn't hold his nerve to win the title with Liverpool a few years ago.

"Right when they needed to be resilient or hold on to the result they got, they didn't quite do it and that can be because of that lack of experience of what you need to do to win a title.

"Listening to my old mentor, Sir Alex, the hardest one is always winning the first one for your players, and particularly the players who are as young as Tottenham's, so it would be nice if they did.

"But I think their main aim would be to finish in Champions League and if the title came around, that would be one of those seasons they dream about."

If Tottenham do manage to upset the traditional big four - and Chelsea's difficulties have made that eminently possible - they may not be alone with Allardyce warning people not to write off surprise package Leicester.

He said: "It would be great if Leicester and Tottenham finished in the top four. I don't hear anybody talking about Leicester too much, they're only talking about Tottenham. I don't think you can write Leicester off either."

Sunderland's ambitions for the campaign are far more modest, although they have given their survival hopes a significant boost with back-to-back league victories over Aston Villa and Swansea.

They have not won three in succession since the end of the 2013-14 season, when they went on to claim four successive victories on their way to a remarkable escape - but will arrive in north London buoyed by the 4-2 triumph at Swansea which dragged the Welsh club firmly into the relegation mix.

Allardyce said: "Hopefully the win spurs them on. It was more important winning that game than getting anything against Tottenham because that was a six-pointer.

"Imagine the distance we would have had to catch up if Swansea had beaten us. It would have been massive."

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