Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino has suggested rival clubs are unprofessional to make clear their preference for Leicester winning the Barclays Premier League.
Spurs’ draw at Chelsea on Monday ensured Claudio Ranieri’s men will be crowned champions this weekend and they have been popular victors, completing their remarkable journey from relegation battlers to table-toppers in just 12 months.
While Tottenham tried to close the gap, however, a number of opponents expressed their backing for Leicester’s title bid, with Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, West Brom manager Tony Pulis and Stoke defender Ryan Shawcross just some of those to speak out before matches against Spurs.
Pochettino had previously insisted such talk was not a problem but after overseeing Monday’s fractious game at Stamford Bridge, in which Hazard scored the equaliser which confirmed the destination of the title, the Argentinian was less sympathetic towards the band of Foxes supporters.
“In football, our responsibility is to be professional,” Pochettino said. “When you are professional, you do not give your personal opinion.
“If I support Tottenham and we play against some team which fights for the title, or to survive, then I can’t give my opinion like a supporter.
“I need to give my opinion like a professional. It’s always dangerous when something happens like that.
“Maybe in the last few weeks or months, we know the football people maybe don’t behave like professionals, we need to be careful.
“Maybe in the next few meetings of the Premier League, the managers and also the staff, we need to say that in future we must be careful with all these comments in public.”
Mousa Dembele has been banned for six matches after accepting a Football Association charge of violent conduct, having appeared to claw his fingers down the cheek of Chelsea striker Diego Costa.
The Belgian did not contest the charge and FA rules do not allow clubs to appeal suspensions of six games or more.
Pochettino, speaking prior to the punishment being announced, declined to comment on the potential length of a ban but said he had spoken to Dembele about the altercation.
“I think even if you play sometimes football with your friends, if you play for the honour, for the beers, or for the sandwiches, you want to win,” Pochettino said.
“When you run and you go for the title, it is difficult sometimes to keep calm. I feel very proud of my players. I think we showed big character.
“Sometimes we crossed the line and if you cross the line you need to pay. We know the rules but I think it is a good lesson for us.
“We need to learn a lot and I am sure we will be stronger next season.”
Tottenham have traditionally been renowned for playing attractive football but also crumbling under pressure and Pochettino believes Monday proved his side are no longer a soft touch.
“I hear in the last two years always people say ‘Tottenham was soft’,” Pochettino said.
“But now we start to show character. Maybe we crossed the line, I can recognise this, I am not stupid. It is important to manage better our energy for next season and ensure we learn a lot about this game.
“But this season we have shown we are not a nice team to play, not any more. I think our opponents don’t like to play against us because we show passion.”
Pochettino was himself drawn into the fracas as he twice acted as peacemaker when two brawls erupted, in the first half and at the full-time whistle.
The Argentinian confirmed he spoke to Chelsea captain John Terry after the match.
“We had a discussion on the pitch during the game. After he came and apologised and nothing happened,” Pochettino said. “We shook hands and we were very calm after the game.”
Pochettino revealed he had been in touch with Daniel Levy too and the Tottenham chairman had told his head coach he was “proud” of the team’s performance.