Mauricio Pochettino warned Chelsea that his Spurs side are ready to underline their credentials as a major force when the two sides meet in tomorrow’s FA Cup semi-final.
Spurs could deny Chelsea the league and the Cup
Pochettino's vibrant young side have emerged as the only serious opposition to Chelsea in the title race and on Saturday they face the ultimate test when they resume hostilities with their London rivals at Wembley.
Booking an FA Cup final place for the first time since they last won the competition in 1991 would be a huge psychological boost for a club dogged by decades of failure to turn potential into prizes. It is nine years since Tottenham won the League Cup for their last major trophy, while their wait to be crowned league champions stretches back to 1961.
Pochettino's inspired work on the training ground has earned plenty of plaudits during his two and a half year reign, but the impressive Argentinean knows some critics doubt the mental strength of his players after they choked when they had a chance to wrest the title from Leicester's grasp last season.
His team head to Wembley on the back of a seven-match winning streak that has elevated them to within four points of Chelsea in the table. And they face opponents who look vulnerable for the first time this term after last weekend's 2-0 defeat at Manchester United and a recent shock reverse against Crystal Palace.
Pochettino heaped a little more pressure on Antonio Conte's men by claiming their wealth of experience makes them favourites on Saturday, but he was quick to remind the Blues his own group are on the verge of fulfilling their potential.
He told reporters: "If there is one favourite it's more Chelsea because they are top in the Premier League table. Their players and manager have experience. We are talking of the team that maybe in the last five years has won European competitions, a manager that won the league with Juventus in Italy. When you fight the likes of Chelsea, you compare the players and they have players that won World Cups. I think it's a more experienced team than us. Our players have not won much; maybe some players have won some titles elsewhere. But we're in a good moment too - we're a hungry team and we're improving a lot”.
Tottenham won the most recent meeting with Chelsea
Tottenham can take heart from their 2-0 win over Chelsea at White Hart Lane in January, a dominant display that ended the west Londoners' 13-match winning streak in the league. But Chelsea won their other encounter this season, 2-1 at Stamford Bridge in November, and hope to capitalize on Tottenham's Wembley woes.
In Sunday's other semi-final, under-fire Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger will be back in the spotlight when his side face Manchester City.