Southampton-Tottenham Hotspur Preview
Tottenham Hotspur's Premier League title challenge may be over, but there's still plenty to play for.
Mauricio Pochettino's Spurs (19-13-4) were mathematically ruled out of catching Leicester City at the top of the table thanks to Monday evening's bad-tempered 2-2 draw with Chelsea, but the club will now switch focus to securing a second-place finish for the first time since 1963 on Sunday when they host Southampton.
Midfielder Eric Dier was one of a number of Tottenham players fortunate to escape a red card against Chelsea - the Spurs were issued nine yellow cards - but the youngster believes the future is bright for the talented group of players despite this week's disappointment.
"It only hits you when it's really gone," Dier said, referring to the title challenge. "But this is only the beginning for this group of players. It's the first season we've all been together and to see what we've done is fantastic.
"There is a lot more to come from this team. It's a young squad and we will learn from a lot of experiences this season. That's what we have to do, learn from this season, take those lessons into next season and try to do better. I think we will definitely improve next season."
One more win would likely be enough to secure that second spot and seal a first league finish above neighbours Arsenal in 21 years, and Dier wants to get that wrapped up Sunday at White Hart Lane.
"Southampton are a very good team in good form and they proved that last week against Manchester City (with a 4-2 win). It will be a tough match, but we're confident and we want to give the fans something to cheer about in the last home match of the season. We want to go out on a high. That would be the ideal finish at home for us and for the fans."
Sunday's visitors to White Hart Lane have plenty to play for themselves.
Ronald Koeman's Southampton (16-9-11) are three points behind fifth-place Manchester United and still very much in the hunt for a Europa League berth. And the Saints need little motivation to play against Tottenham - the only Premier League team they've to beat - and former Saints manager Mauricio Pochettino.
"The gaffer said in the last couple of years there's only two teams we didn't beat - Man City was one and Tottenham was the other, so that's one hurdle over," forward Shane Long said after last weekend's 4-2 victory over City. "Now we've got to go to Tottenham and try to repeat the same result.
"We're very confident. It doesn't get any easier now, but we're playing good football and there's no reason we can't go there and get the three points. We're going to have a hard week's training ahead of us and the gaffer's going to have us well-drilled and point out how he thinks is the best way to beat them and hopefully we can go out there on the pitch and do what he says."
Southampton's record against Spurs since the club's return to the top flight in 2012 has been disappointing. The Saints have picked up just a single point in seven total league meetings, losing all three at White Hart Lane and failing to score on two of those visits.
But the Saints' chances of ending the hoodoo will be helped by a number of Tottenham absentees.
Mousa Dembele and Dele Alli are both suspended, while Danny Rose and Toby Alderweireld are injury doubts after being helped off against Chelsea with hamstring and knee problems. Dembele, who accepted the FA's violent conduct charge, faces a lengthy ban that could carry well into next season for an alleged eye gouge of Diego Costa.
Tottenham will have Premier League top scorer Harry Kane though, with the Englishman looking to secure the golden boot ahead of chasers Sergio Aguero and Jamie Vardy - who are two and three goals behind his tally of 25 respectively. Kane has scored 14 goals in his last 15 games for Spurs.
Koeman's side have had a strong second half of the season, picking up 33 points since the turn of the year. Only champions Leicester City (38) and Spurs (35) have picked up more.