Mauricio Pochettino has warned Chelsea that his Tottenham side are ready to capitalise on any more slips from the Premier League leaders.
Tottenham closed the gap on Chelsea to seven points on Saturday as they won 2-0 at Burnley while their London rivals were crashing to a shock 2-1 home defeat against lowly Crystal Palace.
With nine games remaining, Pochettino’s second-placed team suddenly find themselves with a chance to put real pressure on Chelsea for the first time this season.
The title fight could swing further in Tottenham’s favour on Wednesday evening as Chelsea face a tough fixture against Manchester City at Stamford Bridge, while Tottenham travel to struggling Swansea.
With Chelsea showing signs of vulnerability, Pochettino stressed Spurs must take full advantage if they stumble again.
“It’s now seven points, it’s completely different to 10,” he said.
“But there’s still a lot of work to do. It’s not dependent on us; it’s dependent on if Chelsea fail. But in that moment if they fail we need to do our job.
“If we do our job we can be there until the end of the season and try to fight for the title.
“We are at seven points now and it is important to be there if Chelsea fail. We are there fighting for the Premier League.”
Despite that rare home defeat against Palace, Chelsea still have the fate of the title in their own hands.
They require 21 points to be certain of lifting the trophy, but Antonio Conte acknowledged it is far too soon to start planning any celebrations.
“Anything can happen, above all in England,” he said.
“Every game is very tough against a strong team like Manchester City.
“It’s important to prepare in the right way for this game. Another difficult game.”
Fourth-placed City need the points themselves as they look to cement Champions League qualification via a top-four finish.
– Formidable –
Pep Guardiola’s team twice squandered the lead in Sunday’s 2-2 draw at Arsenal and are without a win in their last three league games.
City have a five-point lead over fifth-placed Manchester United, who have a game in hand on their local rivals.
Guardiola admitted playing back-to-back away games against two such formidable opponents is a major test.
“We play against a team who is stable in what they do. We don’t have too much time to prepare but we go back to Manchester now and recover and then come back to London,” Guardiola said.
Still, City ended their trip to the Emirates Stadium with more satisfaction than Arsenal, who are in sixth place, seven points behind fourth-placed City.
With Arsenal fans once again calling for Arsene Wenger to resign during a pre-match protest march, the Gunners boss desperately needed a dominant display from his team.
Instead, Arsenal twice had to come from behind to avoid a third successive league defeat.
Wenger knows the pressure of Arsenal’s struggles and the fans’ anger is taking its toll on his players.
“We are in a tough battle for the top four,” Wenger said.
“The test was mental. We had to come back after half-time and we got a point after a time that has been so stressful for us.”
Zlatan Ibrahimovic returns from suspension for Manchester United’s clash with Everton at Old Trafford.
Ibrahimovic has been sorely missed and Saturday’s goalless draw with West Bromwich Albion prompted United manager Jose Mourinho to blast his team’s misfiring forwards.
It was the eighth time in the Premier League this season the Red Devils have had to settle for a point from a home game.
“It’s disappointing. We’ve lost a lot of points like that,” United midfielder Marouane Fellaini said.
“It’s not easy to play at Old Trafford, they came to take a point or win with a counter-attack. But we have to find a solution to win the game.”
Fixtures (1845 GMT unless stated):
Burnley v Stoke, Leicester v Sunderland, Manchester Utd v Everton (2000 GMT), Watford v West Brom
Arsenal v West Ham, Chelsea v Manchester City (2000 GMT), Hull v Middlesbrough, Liverpool v Bournemouth (2000 GMT), Southampton v Crystal Palace, Swansea v Tottenham