Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino believes that his side’s defeat by Leicester City proves that Claudio Ranieri’s men deserve to finish in the top four of the Premier League.
Spurs could have moved to within a point of Leicester had they clinched victory at White Hart Lane on Wednesday, but instead they sit seven points behind their visitors after falling to Robert Huth’s late header.
Leicester’s 1-0 victory moved them level on points with leaders Arsenal at the summit of the division, as they ended their run of three games without a goal or a win.
The prospect of Champions League football remains a strong possibility for both clubs, with Pochettino striving to put Spurs back among Europe’s elite for the first time in six years.
But it is Leicester who are best-placed to achieve that and the Spurs manager believes they will finish in the top four, less than a year after their dramatic escape from relegation last season.
“I think they deserve it,” said Pochettino when asked if he though Ranieri’s side could maintain their form.
“Full credit to them. I’m very disappointed, but I think they deserve to finish in the place that they are.
“Leicester play their way, but they deserve full credit for the way that they believe on the pitch. It’s unbelievable.”
Pochettino thinks that the inexperience of his own squad is hindering their consistency in key matches, with Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen, Harry Kane and Erik Lamela all vital to the team’s potency, but under 24 years of age.
“I think it’s difficult to explain to supporters that they should take this defeat in a positive way,” added Pochettino, after his team’s five-match unbeaten league run came to an end.
“We need to learn a lot. We are very young. When we get positive results, I try to explain that we are very young and need to learn.”
His team dominated possession and created most of the chances, but the visitors always looked dangerous with their counter-attacking style and Pochettino hinted at a naivety among his squad.
‘CRAZY, CRAZY LEAGUE’
“We can play really well and believe in your philosophy, and need to accept that another team can play in a different way,” he said.
“We need to be stronger. We were missing something at set-pieces and we had chances to score.”
Spurs remain fourth after the defeat, a point clear of fifth-place West Ham United.
Ranieri still refuses to accept that this result provided evidence that his team can win the division.
“Tottenham in my opinion are one of the best teams in the division and have some great players,” said the Leicester manager.
“It’s only January, it’s not May. It’s good, but we must continue to work hard and keep our feet on the ground. This is a crazy, crazy league this year.
“A lot of people say, ‘What happened with Leicester, what can they do?’ The answer is I don’t know. It’s my first season with them, but we are very solid.”
Asked what he said to people who claimed Leicester could win the title, the Italian replied: “I laugh!”
He added: “We now focus on our match on Saturday. Aston Villa won their match (against Crystal Palace) and they don’t want to be relegated and they will fight.”
Jamie Vardy returned from minor groin surgery in the victory, but was substituted for the final 20 minutes.
Ranieri believes it bodes well that his side can win games without the England striker, who has scored 15 Premier League goals this season.
“Vardy and (Riyad) Mahrez are very important for us and if we can score without Mahrez and Vardy then that’s good,” he said.
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