Po­chet­tino vows to de­liver ti­tle be­fore sta­dium move

Tot­ten­ham head coach sets tar­get for 2018 Chelsea wary of threat from White Hart Lane

The Daily Telegraph - Total Football - - BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE - By Matt Law Foot­ball News Correspondent

There will be lit­tle room for ma­noeu­vre in the Stam­ford Bridge di­rec­tors’ lounge ahead of Chelsea’s Pre­mier League game against Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur tonight, thanks in no small part to the num­ber of ele­phants in the room.

But Spurs chair­man Daniel Levy no longer needs to hide be­hind the rear end of a metaphor­i­cal ele­phant or any other large ob­ject he can find in­side Chelsea’s home ground, with head coach Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino promis­ing this sea­son’s Pre­mier League ti­tle chal­lenge is just the be­gin­ning of a “bril­liant fu­ture”.

Even be­fore Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabre­gas made pub­lic the ABT (Any­one But Tot­ten­ham) feel­ing in­side Chelsea re­gard­ing this sea­son’s ti­tle race, which will be over if Spurs fail to win at Stam­ford Bridge - and they have not won there in 29 matches go­ing back to 1990 - there was plenty of re­cent water un­der the bridge be­tween the clubs.

The de­ci­sion of Ro­man Abramovich to choose Chelsea over Tot­ten­ham in 2003 re­set the bal­ance of power be­tween the ri­vals and sparked more than a decade of the Blues tak­ing great en­joy­ment in get­ting one over their city ri­vals. There have, of course, been a few ex­cep­tions – the 2008 League Cup fi­nal, Tot­ten­ham’s re­fusal to al­low Luka Mo­dric to move to Stam­ford Bridge and last sea­son’s 5-3 vic­tory that ex­posed the first chinks in the armour of Jose Mour­inho – but Chelsea have largely had it all their own way dur­ing the Abramovich era.

Levy could not even bring him­self to be present when the clubs met at Stam­ford Bridge for the first time af­ter Wil­lian had been poached from un­der his nose and be­came so para­noid that he threat­ened to re­port Chelsea to the Pre­mier League each time a Spurs player was linked with them in the press.

But board­room sources in­sist Levy will be present tonight and it would be un­der­stand­able if the 54-year-old was pre­pared to hold the gaze of his Chelsea coun­ter­parts for longer than in re­cent years.

Po­chet­tino has agreed an ex­ten­sion to his con­tract, which will now run un­til 2021, and has spo­ken of his de­ter­mi­na­tion to end Tot­ten­ham’s 55-year wait for a ti­tle be­fore the club move into their new sta­dium for the 2018-19 sea­son.

Chelsea still do not know when they will start work on the re­de­vel­op­ment of Stam­ford Bridge and while Thibaut Cour­tois, Diego Costa and Hazard all dream of moves to Spain, whether or not they ac­tu­ally ma­te­ri­alise, Po­chet­tino is con­fi­dent Spurs stars such as Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Chris­tian Erik­sen and Jan Ver­tonghen share his am­bi­tion for Tot­ten­ham.

The ap­point­ment of Antonio Conte will no doubt rein­vig­o­rate Chelsea and their play­ers for next sea­son, but the sense at Tot­ten­ham is that, as far as they are con­cerned, this cam­paign is no flash in the pan.

Not con­tent with sim­ply aim­ing to be top dogs in London, Po­chet­tino replied an em­phatic “yes” when asked whether, un­der him, Tot­ten­ham can move into their new sta­dium as cham­pi­ons.

The Ar­gen­tine added: “If it is not pos­si­ble to win the ti­tle this sea­son, we need to try to win it next sea­son and the next sea­son af­ter. The po­ten­tial of the club and the squad we have is mas­sive and the im­por­tant thing is to build the project and phi­los­o­phy. The ba­sis is now very solid and the fu­ture can only be bril­liant.

“I ex­plained a lot of times that we are ahead of sched­ule in our project. But, yes, our aim is to ar­rive in the new sta­dium and play in the Cham­pi­ons League and to play at the top.

“I have shown that I be­lieve in the club and we want to keep all the big, im­por­tant play­ers. They are im­por­tant to our fu­ture. It is a col­lec­tive ob­jec­tive we have. To have a clear idea and to fol­low a phi­los­o­phy is an ad­van­tage.”

Po­chet­tino also hopes that his com­mit­ment will help the club se­cure their top sum­mer trans­fer tar­gets and avoid the type of sce­nar­ios where Wil­lian and Os­car snubbed Tot­ten­ham in favour of Chelsea.

“It is im­por­tant for the play­ers and the po­ten­tial play­ers that will come, that they don’t hear ru­mours about whether Po­chet­tino will be here or not,” said the 44-year-old. “We are ready to com­pete in the mar­ket and try to add the play­ers that can help us in the fu­ture.”

There is an ac­knowl­edge­ment at Chelsea that Po­chet­tino has turned Tot­ten­ham into a ri­val that no longer brings a blunt knife to a gun­fight.

“A few weeks ago, we had a meet­ing with the man­agers and I spoke for a long time with him,” said the Chelsea in­terim man­ager Guus Hid­dink. “He has a very good, down to earth at­ti­tude, they know what they want and I was im­pressed.”

‘If it’s not pos­si­ble to win this sea­son, we will try to do it next sea­son and the one af­ter’

On the up: Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino is sure Spurs have a bright fu­ture

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