Mauricio Pochettino: Midweek losses by Spurs, Arsenal won't affect derby
LONDON -- Mauricio Pochettino is confident that midweek defeats for Tottenham and Arsenal will have no affect on Saturday's North London derby at White Hart Lane.
Spurs' run of six successive league wins was halted by Wednesday's 1-0 defeat to West Ham in the final meeting between the rivals at the Boleyn Ground, while Arsenal's title challenge was further dented by a shock 2-1 home loss to Swansea -- their third defeat on the bounce.
The North London duo's defeats left leaders Leicester three points clear of Spurs at the top of the Premier League, with Arsenal a further three behind their neighbours.
It's often said that form is irrelevant in derby matches, a point emphasised by Pochettino, who insisted neither club will be affected by past results and stressed that his players remain in good spirits.
"Our players are confident. We only lost one game. It is our fourth defeat in Premier League since the beginning of the season. It is not about feeling pressure to be on the top," the Spurs head-coach told a news conference.
"I didn't hear the criticism [of Arsenal]. I can only say that derbies are always different. We are not affected by the past -- and they shouldn't be too. The derby is a different game, a different environment. We know and they know it's a very exciting game and important game because it means more than three points.
"All London derbies are exciting -- last night too. But they're in the past and the most exciting game is the next."
Spurs' young team appeared overwhelmed by the atmosphere at Upton Park and Saturday promises to be another heated London derby.
Pochettino is unconcerned about his side's lack of experience and believes they have matured since last season's 2-1 win over Arsenal at the Lane.
"Last season we were capable of winning the game. Today we have the same team, the same players but with more experience. It is not a problem for Saturday to have big emotion on the pitch. The players are good to feel the stadium is behind us."
A win for Spurs -- and another victory for Leicester at Watford -- would all but end Arsenal's title hopes and give Tottenham their best chance to finish above the Gunners for the first time since the 1994-95 season.
Pochettino, however, dismissed claims that this campaign -- in which Manchester City, Man United, Chelsea and Liverpool have all stuttered -- represents his side's best chance to finish above their rivals and claim a maiden Premier League title.
"One year ago we always spoke about reducing the gap with the top four. Now we are second in the table. Who knows what will happen in the future? Now we need to focus on the present. We need to enjoy life and football and all. Life is present and football is present. We cannot waste time thinking about the future."
Arsenal will be without goalkeeper Petr Cech and centre-back Laurent Koscielny after both players picked up injuries in the defeat to Swansea.
Pochettino said: "You play against Arsenal, not against different players. For them, we have some injured players but they play Tottenham, not some players. For me, it's not important. We need to be aware. It's important to know [who is fit] because it's true the players are different."
The Spurs boss said Mousa Dembele could "possibly" make a comeback from a groin complaint on Sunday and revealed Nabil Bentaleb had asked to be involved in the under-21s trip match against Reading on Thursday.
Tottenham are still without Jan Vertonghen and Clinton Njie, who both suffered long-term knee injuries.