In-form Tottenham relishing chase of Chelsea
LONDON: Tottenham Hotspur have the chance to exert psychological pressure on Premier League leaders Chelsea when they open the weekend programme at home to Watford on Saturday.
An 11th consecutive home league victory in the lunchtime kickoff would cut Chelsea's lead to four points before Antonio Conte's side play away at Bournemouth in the day's late game.
It seemed Mauricio Pochettino's Tottenham side had blown any chance of reeling in Chelsea when they trailed Swansea City 1-0 in the 88th minute on Wednesday. But an extraordinary late burst earned them a 3-1 win that kept Chelsea in their sights.
Their fifth consecutive victory maintained the seven-point gap and means Pochettino's side have amassed 29 points since the turn of the year - more than any other side.
While Chelsea's gritty 2-1 victory over Manchester City means it appears to be their title to lose, Tottenham are clearly revelling in the chase, as they did last season in an ultimately futile pursuit of Leicester City.
"I believe that we can win every game if we play like we did against Swansea - and then we'll see," said Pochettino, whose side host Bournemouth the following week.
"We're still pushing, believing, pressuring Chelsea. It's important we are showing we learnt from last season."
Conte is well aware of the threat posed by Tottenham and believes six wins from their final eight games could be required to keep Pochettino's in-form side at bay.
Bournemouth, who notched an impressive 2-2 draw at third-placed Liverpool on Wednesday, are a tricky obstacle for Chelsea, who a week later travel to Manchester United.
City's defeat at Stamford Bridge meant Pep Guardiola's side have gone four games without a win in the league, and a top-four finish is not a formality in the Spaniard's first season.
They host Hull City on Saturday, needing a victory to maintain their four-point gap over Arsenal and Manchester United, who are fifth and sixth respectively.
Third-placed Liverpool are also looking over their shoulder as they prepare to travel to Stoke City. They are two points above City and six ahead of Arsenal and United, although they have played more games than their rivals.
Arsenal, bidding for a 21st consecutive top-four finish, are at Crystal Palace on Monday while United, with three draws in their last four games, face bottom club Sunderland on Sunday.
While Sunderland look doomed to the drop and 19th-placed Middlesbrough, who host Burnley, are favourites to join them, at least four other clubs are still sweating on survival.
One of them, West Ham, have lost five games in a row and their clash with third-from-bottom Swansea has all the ingredients of the trademark "six-pointer".
Defeat for West Ham, who are five points above 18th-placed Swansea, would leave them firmly in the mire.
"One win will change everything," West Ham manager Slaven Bilic said after Wednesday's 3-0 loss at Arsenal.
"Three points at this stage would be massive."