AFC Bournemouth will be hoping to record their first Premier League win against Tottenham Hotspur when they host the high-flying London outfit at Vitality Stadium tomorrow.
AFC Bournemouth v Tottenham Hotspur
Saturday 4 May
Premier League, 12.30pm
Fine margins have worked for and against Tottenham Hotspur this season.
No fewer than 12 defeats have cost Mauricio Pochettino’s team any chance of challenging for the Premier League title.
But while top spot may be out of reach, Spurs lead the race for third and are four points clear of fifth-placed Arsenal, their arch North London rivals.
A couple of away goals proved priceless in the group stage of their Champions’ League campaign and earned them qualification at the expense of Inter Milan.
Although efforts from Mauro Icardi and Matias Vecino may have rocked Spurs at the San Siro in September, Christian Eriksen’s opener and Lucas Moura’s late leveller against Barcelona in December, ultimately, ensured they would finish with a better head to head than the Italians.
A point from two games against group winners Barcelona, four from PSV Eindhoven and victory over Inter in the reverse fixture in November saw them progress to the knockout phase where they eased past Borussia Dortmund 4-0 on aggregate in the round of 16.
And while Spurs fans may have envied their Manchester City counterparts in the Premier League, away goals again proved crucial in their epic quarter-final victory over Pep Guardiola’s team, the tie finishing 4-4 on aggregate.
Back in the Premier League, Tottenham’s 1-0 defeat by West Ham on Saturday was their ninth reverse by a one-goal margin and their sixth since the turn of the year, a key factor in their challenge faltering during the second half of the campaign.
It has been a case of all or nothing for Pochettino’s team in the top flight as they have picked up a solitary draw, against Arsenal in the North London derby in March.
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Mauricio Pochettino admitted progression to the final of the Champions’ League would be “difficult” for Tottenham but also said their last-four tie against Ajax was still “open”.
Donny van de Beek (pictured above) netted the only goal after 15 minutes as the Dutch giants ensured they would take a 1-0 lead back to Amsterdam for next week’s second leg.
Only one of the 17 previous teams to lose a home first leg of a European Cup or Champions’ League semi-final has progressed into the final.
“It’s going to be difficult, but it’s still open,” said Pochettino. “It’s about preparing for the second leg. We will try to win. It will be tough for us, but also tough for them.
“I thought the attitude was there, but we didn’t find a way to play. We didn’t show the energy we wanted to show and the way that we conceded the goal was painful. We struggled in the first half-an-hour.
“The second half was much better, we forced them to play deeper. We pressed in the way we wanted to press. The second half gave us hope for the second leg.”
Despite the defeat, Pochettino praised his players for reaching Tottenham’s first semi-final in Europe’s premier club competition since 1962: “My players are heroes to be in the situation that we are in. We need to give them full credit.”
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As a player, Pochettino (pictured above) started his career with Newell’s Old Boys in Argentina, having been scouted by current Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa.
A tough and uncompromising central defender, he joined Espanyol in 1994 and spent six-and-a-half years with the La Liga outfit.
Following spells in France with Paris Saint-Germain and Bordeaux, Pochettino returned to Espanyol in 2004 and hung up his boots when he was 34.
Capped 20 times by Argentina, he represented his country at the 2002 World Cup finals, conceding a penalty in a 1-0 defeat by England in a group game.
Pochettino joined the coaching staff at Espanyol before taking over as manager in January 2009 and guiding the club away from the relegation zone.
In January 2013, Pochettino was appointed manager at Southampton, leading them to eighth in the Premier League in 2013/14, their highest finishing position since 2002/03.
His exploits earned him the opportunity to replace Tim Sherwood as head coach at Tottenham in May 2014, his first season ending with a fifth-place finish and runners-up in the League Cup.
Spurs challenged Leicester for the title in 2015/16 and came third, achieving their highest Premier League finish and returning to the Champions League for the first time since 2010/11.
Runners-up to Chelsea in 2016/17, Spurs finished third the following season and reached the last 16 of the Champions League.
Pochettino, who has presided over 242 games in the Premier League, led Spurs to the semi-final of the Champions’ League this season where they lost the first leg 1-0 against Ajax on Tuesday.
- The Cherries’ solitary point against Spurs came in a 0-0 draw at Vitality Stadium in October 2016 with the visitors going on to win 12 of their final 13 games of the season to finish behind champions Chelsea.
- The Cherries have twice taken the lead against Spurs at Vitality Stadium – Matt Ritchie opening the scoring in a 5-1 defeat in October 2015 and Junior Stanislas drawing first blood in a 4-1 reverse in March 2018.
- Heung-Min Son has scored four times in his past two appearances against the Cherries.
- With 13 assists, the Cherries’ Ryan Fraser and Chelsea’s Eden Hazard lead the race to claim the playmaker-of-the-season award, the pair currently one ahead of Spurs’ Christian Eriksen.
- Eriksen has also either scored or assisted a goal in six of Spurs' seven previous Premier League games against the Cherries.
- Ryan Fraser and Callum Wilson need to combine for one more goal to equal a Premier League record of 13 goal combinations, set by Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton in 1994/95 when 42 games were played. Fraser and Wilson set the record for a 38-game season by linking up for the Cherries’ late leveller against Southampton on Saturday.
- Cherries striker Callum Wilson has scored and assisted in six different Premier League games this season, more than any other player.
- Craig Pawson, who is in the middle for tomorrow’s clash, took charge of the 0-0 draw between the teams at Vitality Stadium in October 2016.
- Ollie Norris, Stan Newsham and Nelson Stiffle were on target when the Cherries beat Spurs in the fifth round of the FA Cup in February 1957, with Terry Medwin replying.
- A crowd of 25,892 packed into Dean Court to see Freddie Cox’s team beat Spurs to reach the quarter-final of the FA Cup in 1957, the visitors having arrived in second place in the top flight.