Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino has told his players to learn from last season’s title race by staying second in case Chelsea slip up.
Spurs were Leicester’s chief rivals at the top of the Premier League last term but their pursuit ended in disappointment as they dropped to third behind Arsenal on the final day.
Pochettino’s men are now playing catch-up again as they sit second in the table, nine points adrift of Chelsea with 15 games left.
“For me, the most important thing is to be ready to take the possibility if Chelsea give the possibility,” Pochettino said.
“Last season, we arrived at the last game second in the table but we finished third. If the possibility was to win the league we would have missed the possibility to win the league.
“We have to be ready. It is up to us. All that we can do is be there if the possibility exists. If not, okay. But if Chelsea drop their performance and their results, we need to be ready to take their place.
“That is one lesson we learned from last season. It is about us. If Chelsea lose, we need to make sure not another team takes our place. Now we are second, we need to keep that.”
Tottenham have a chance to close the gap on Saturday when they host Middlesbrough while the Blues are at home to fellow title challengers Arsenal.
Danny Rose will miss the match at White Hart Lane, however, after the left-back sustained a knee injury during Tuesday’s 0-0 draw at Sunderland.
Rose had a scan on Thursday and will see a specialist on Monday to determine the extent of the damage.
“He is very positive, in a very good humour,” Pochettino said. “Now we need to wait until Monday to see the specialist and then we will explain.”
Erik Lamela is also out but the winger is back in training as he continues his recovery from a hip problem.
Lamela returned to his former club Roma for treatment last month, prompting speculation he may look to leave Tottenham at the end of the campaign.
“We were talking (on Friday morning) and he was very positive,” Pochettino said.
“We were joking about, ‘Oh, now there are some rumours about coming back to River Plate? Oh you want to go back to Argentina?’
“He said, ‘No, I want to stay here, I want to play for Tottenham, I want to be in England and I want to play football’.
“He is very focused now on his recovery and being available as soon as possible. That is a massive improvement in the last few days.”
Hugo Lloris is available again this weekend after missing the goalless draw at the Stadium of Light through illness, but Kieran Trippier is still out with a hip problem.
Jan Vertonghen is also sidelined with an ankle injury, but Pochettino said the Belgian had started running again.
“Vertonghen is very positive, he is running outside and we are very positive of him but he still needs a few weeks more,” Pochettino said.
“A few weeks, maybe two, maybe three. We are really positive as his progression is really good in the last few weeks.”