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 By Ben Pearce

Tottenham's Dele Alli: Facing Premier League's big guns brings out best in me

Despite Mauricio Pochettino's belief that Dele Alli is the best player in the world at his age, Shaka Hislop begs to differ.

Tottenham midfielder Dele Alli has said he thrives against the top Premier League teams because they give him more space than bottom-half clubs.

Alli scored in both league fixtures against Manchester City last season and struck four times in three matches against Chelsea and Arsenal.

His tally this season has been lower -- 12 goals compared to 22 in 2016-17 -- but he scored twice in the 3-1 win at Chelsea, struck in October's 4-1 victory over Liverpool and got a double against Real Madrid in the Champions League.

"When you play in the Premier League against the top six, as opposed to bottom-half teams, the game is always a lot different," Alli said as Spurs prepare to host City at Wembley on Saturday.

"The top six really go at it with you. Both teams want to win and there's a lot more space. Both teams are looking to attack.

"Teams in the bottom half, they still have a lot of qualities and they can hurt you at any time, but they're more likely to sit off and close the gaps in between the lines so it's a lot more difficult for a No. 10 to get on the ball and create chances."

Alli said he felt City could be hurt after losing their last three games, including both legs of the Champions League semifinal against Liverpool.

"Man City are an amazing team, they've been very good this year, but we want to win every game and we fancy ourselves against anyone," he said.

"Of course it [an attacking approach] can work. They're only human, they can make mistakes. They're an incredible team with incredible players all over the pitch, but we're going to try to play our football as we always do."

Dele Alli
Dele Alli scored twice in Tottenham's win at Chelsea.

Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino has described Alli, 22, as the best player in the world of his age.

"There are a lot of great young players around the world," Alli said. "I'm still young and I'm part of a great team, and it's a joy to be playing here.

"There are certain people where, when they comment, it means a lot to you, and there are certain people that, when they say stuff, you don't really listen to it.

"The gaffer here is definitely someone that, when he says stuff about you or to you, you really take it in and it means a lot. He's an amazing manager."

Ahead of the City game, Pochettino said he also felt that good opponents brought out the best in Alli.

"He's so competitive," he said. "For him, he needs strong opposition to give his best. It's his character.

"He's a special talent, a special character. He has a special energy. I think you can improve [without natural gifts] but you need to be born with this character and mental strength.

"You need people that help you improve, but if you don't have it from your parents it's so difficult. You can improve a little bit, a small percentage, but it's not a thing you're going to buy at the market."

Ben is ESPN FC's Tottenham blogger. Follow on Twitter: @BenPearceSpurs.

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