Pochettino on the rise as Tottenham Hotspurs aim high

Steven GRIFFITHS
Mauricio Pochettino wants his Tottenham stars to ignore speculation over their futures and focus on making a final push to win the Premier League

After refusing to rule out a move to Barcelona, Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino has an opportunity to show why he is so highly regarded when his Premier League title chasers face Everton on Sunday.

Pochettino, who coached Barca's city rivals Espanyol between 2009 and 2012, has emerged as one of the most respected young managers in Europe following his impressive work with Southampton and now Tottenham.

With Barcelona boss Luis Enrique announcing this week that he will step down at the end of the season, Pochettino found himself named as a potential candidate to take charge of the Spanish club.

"I saw. It's a big list, 100 names," Pochettino said. "That's the business I know very well.

"I understand that business, that my name will be on a list."

The Argentine's approval ratings would climb even higher, and possibly persuade Barca's power brokers that he is the man for their coveted job, if he can coax a serious title charge from Tottenham in the final months of the season.

Currently 10 points behind leaders Chelsea, Pochettino's second placed side could close the gap on the Blues, who travel to West Ham on Monday, with a victory at White Hart Lane this weekend.

While Pochettino signed a five-year contract with Tottenham last year, it would be hard for him to resist the lure of managing Lionel Messi and company at the Nou Camp.

But for now, he is more than happy developing Tottenham's prodigies Harry Kane and Dele Alli and, ideally giving Chelsea a run for their money after failing to catch Leicester in last season's title race.

"I understand I am at one of the biggest clubs in Europe, Tottenham is one of those," Pochettino said.

"We are in a position where you can see we play good football, an exciting team with very good players, but it's normal we call the attention of the rest of the clubs, of football people around the world.

"We are one of the exciting teams to watch. I don't think about being flattered. We are part of that business and our name appears on the list."

- Special moment -

Pochettino has a slight concern over the fitness of Toby Alderweireld, who came off with a groin strain in last weekend's 4-0 win over Stoke, but Kane, who sustained a knee injury in that fixture while scoring a hat-trick -- his third in his last nine appearances -- should be fit to feature.

Tottenham have won their last 10 matches at White Hart Lane, in what is set to be their final season at the ground while their new stadium is completed next door and Pochettino wants them to harness the stadium's atmosphere to help see off Everton.

"I think we feel a very special moment every time that we play at White Hart Lane, the energy is special," Pochettino said.

"The fans are unbelievable. Every time we play there, we feel a special moment. That is one of the keys of our good performances and results."

Everton's nine-match unbeaten run in the league is likely to come under threat in north London.

Stoke boss Mark Hughes described Tottenham's attack as the most dangerous they have faced in the league, but Everton manager Ronald Koeman is confident his side can do better.

"That's an easy answer if you lose 4-0. I saw the game. We will defend differently than they did," Koeman said.

"In the first half Stoke had two big chances to score a goal but you need to stop the strengths of Tottenham.

"They have really good offensive football in the team, but they will have those types of questions also about how Everton will play."