Mauricio Pochettino urges Tottenham to retain focus in case Chelsea slip up
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino has told his players to learn from last season's title race by staying second in case Chelsea slip up.
Spurs were Leicester's chief rivals at the top of the Premier League last term but their pursuit ended in disappointment as they dropped to third behind Arsenal on the final day.
Pochettino's men are now playing catch-up again as they sit second in the table, nine points adrift of Chelsea with 15 games left.
"For me, the most important thing is to be ready to take the possibility if Chelsea give the possibility," Pochettino said.
"Last season, we arrived at the last game second in the table but we finished third. If the possibility was to win the league we would have missed the possibility to win the league.
"We have to be ready. It is up to us. All that we can do is be there if the possibility exists. If not, okay. But if Chelsea drop their performance and their results, we need to be ready to take their place.
"That is one lesson we learned from last season. It is about us. If Chelsea lose, we need to make sure not another team takes our place. Now we are second, we need to keep that."
Tottenham have a chance to close the gap on Saturday when they host Middlesbrough while the Blues are at home to fellow title challengers Arsenal.
Danny Rose will miss the match at White Hart Lane, however, after the left-back sustained a knee injury during Tuesday's 0-0 draw at Sunderland.
Rose had a scan on Thursday and will see a specialist on Monday to determine the extent of the damage.
"He is very positive, in a very good humour," Pochettino said. "Now we need to wait until Monday to see the specialist and then we will explain."
Erik Lamela is also out but the winger is back in training as he continues his recovery from a hip problem.
Lamela returned to his former club Roma for treatment last month, prompting speculation he may look to leave Tottenham at the end of the campaign.
Hugo Lloris is available again this weekend after missing the goalless draw at the Stadium of Light through illness, but Kieran Trippier is still out with a hip problem.
Jan Vertonghen is also sidelined with an ankle injury.
Aitor Karanka has warned Middlesbrough not to expect any favours as they attempt to drag themselves away from a fight against relegation.
Boro head for Spurs sitting just two points above the drop zone and hoping the Londoners turn in the same kind of lacklustre performance they did against Sunderland.
However, Karanka is anticipating nothing other than a desperately tough afternoon at White Hart Lane after enduring painful experiences already this season.
He said, with a smile: "I don't know why, but everybody is really good against us.
"I was watching the Manchester United v Hull game and against us, they (United) looked like they were flying and on Wednesday, they were walking on the pitch - or that was my impression.
"But I am confident with our players, with our performances and I am just thinking about us because it's the only way."
Boro have won just once in their last nine league games, collecting only six points in the process, a return which has seen them slip from a comfortable mid-table position to one which leaves them perched precariously above the developing battle for survival.
But while an unwelcome combination of results this weekend could see the Teessiders drop into the bottom three, Karanka is comforted by the fact they head for Spurs level on points with reigning champions Leicester.
He said: "Of course we knew at the beginning of the season that it was going to be a tough season, but if you look at the table, we are in the same position with the same points as the team which won the Premier League title last season.
"We were playing in the Championship last season and we are on the same points as Leicester today, so I am really positive looking at the table and looking at the team and their attitude."
If Karanka will head for north London expecting a backlash after Spurs' drab goalless draw at the Stadium of Light, he will do so also knowing his team can compete with Pochettino's title challengers if Boro play to their potential.
They did not during the first half of the reverse fixture at the Riverside Stadium in September and duly paid the price as Son Heung-min fired the visitors into a 2-0 lead after just 23 minutes.
However, Boro responded after the break and although the goal they got back was not enough to earn a point.