Do you think this could be a decisive weekend in the title race?
Mauricio: “I think not, but for us it’s important to try to be ready now and to prepare ourselves to try to play in the best way. We know what the derby means, all that it means for our fans too, maybe it’s the last derby at White Hart Lane and we only need to think about trying to win, to be the best and try to get the three points to still fight for the title.”
What differences have you noticed between this season’s run-in, compared to this time last year?
Mauricio: “I don’t remember too much about last season. Now we are focused on a completely different season, different opponents, a different moment. I’ve told you a lot how the team has improved from last season, then it’s another thing to win the Premier League or some trophies or not, but it’s true that you can feel how the team has improved.”
Does the fact that you’re playing after Chelsea on Sunday affect your preparation?
Mauricio: “You cannot ignore the game but it’s true that against Crystal Palace we played the day after Chelsea and it didn’t affect our preparation. I think that is the maturity that we’ve got, we learned a lot from last season. Now we are focusing on trying to win games. You cannot change the past, they play before (us) but all that happens cannot affect us. We need to try to be ready, try to win the three points and give our best like we did against Crystal Palace.”
Is it difficult not to let the knowledge of their result affect you?
Mauricio: “Be sure that I will have all the information but the players are so focused on trying to perform as well. Our energy must be focused on trying to play and give our best. The players will be in a bubble preparing for the game.”
How much of a motivation is it that if you win, you will finish higher in the league than Arsenal?
Mauricio: “For me it’s not a motivation. The motivation for me is to win because it’s a derby and I know what it means to play a derby. It’s not a motivation about that. My motivation is to win, to try to win some titles with Tottenham. My motivation is that my players can improve, be better every day and try to show that we are better than our opponents. I really don’t care about that celebration.”
The fans will care about it…
Mauricio: “My English is bad and I don’t read too much or listen too much (about it) but we are here to try to help the club to achieve things, to be better every day, to be better every season. Of course, we want to win, we are focusing on that, not on other things.”
If you were to finish above Arsenal, would we start to see a shift in power in north London?
Mauricio: “My interest is to improve every season. If you remember three years ago when we arrived here, the challenge was to try to reduce the gap to the top four, to try to be in the top four and now after nearly three years we are talking about trying to win the Premier League. I think it’s fantastic, the place that we are today but we need to be clever and try to help the club improve. The gap is massive because the potential is still big, Tottenham is a club improving every season and now we are focused on trying to win the next game. We’ll see. At the end of the season we will have time to analyse and to be happy if we achieve some things but now it’s important that every game is our challenge to achieve things.”
Do you feel it’s a matter of ‘when’ and not ‘if’ Tottenham can win the Premier League, based on the progress you’re making?
Mauricio: “If I understand your question, we are sure that the moment to enjoy will arrive. We are enjoying but (the moment will arrive) to achieve big things because the club is working very hard and is working well. That is important. The plan is not only on the pitch. I think the plan for the future is very clear and you can feel every day here that feeling that excites you and motivates you to give your best.”
Are there any concerns about possibly playing at Wembley next season, based on your past results there?
Mauricio: “No, I am not concerned but we’ll see. Maybe next season we will move, I hope that (we will) and we’ll spend one year playing at Wembley, then move to the new stadium. We’ll see in the next few weeks but I hope that all goes well and we will play next season at Wembley.”
Were you aware of the rivalry between Spurs and Arsenal when you were first appointed at the club?
Mauricio: “I really understood when I signed here, at that moment. Before (that), not too much. I knew that it was a big London derby but the magnitude of what it means for the Tottenham fans… I was aware in the moment that I started to be here and feel how the fans feel.”
How much of an achievement do you think it will be if you do finish above Arsenal, because that’s not happened for many years?
Mauricio: “I completely understand but I am so honest and my feeling is now, when you are so close, only four points (gap to the leaders) – ‘only’ but it’s massive when there are only five games to play – I will be very disappointed if we don’t win the title. In that moment I will start to think of all the good things that happened this season and be realistic in that moment to assess and analyse the season, but I really don’t think about which position Arsenal are in. My view, our feeling, my focus is to try to win every game and try to win the Premier League and then we’ll see. It’s true that we will have time to be happy for different things that make our fans happy but we are professional and it’s important for us to give our best, try to be ourselves, try to think about ourselves to try to achieve our aims and don’t see what happens next to us with our opponents.”
If you don’t win the title this year, are you confident of keeping your squad together to mount another challenge?
Mauricio: “Like always in every season that happens, you have a plan and you will deliver it. Be sure that we will try to keep our players, the players that we believe can help us to achieve the aims that we want. Be sure that there will be players that will go and other players that will come. Like in every season in football, be sure that it will happen the same at Tottenham next season.”
How good do you think Christian Eriksen can become?
Mauricio: “No limit. If you remember from the beginning of the season, some criticised him but (after) how we supported him and all the belief that we gave him, today he is showing real quality and very good performances and is helping team to achieve the things that we want. I am so happy for him, but all is about the team, all is about the collective matter. He is part of the team and it’s important for all to try to think that they can improve every season, with every opportunity that they have to go to the pitch and in every training session.”
This could be the last north London derby at White Hart Lane. Do you think that could give you an advantage?
Mauricio: “Maybe it will be the last but we (have been) playing from the beginning of the season like it’s the last game at White Hart Lane because of the atmosphere with the fans, the players – everyone behaves with an energy that is amazing. You can feel that. Be sure that Sunday is a special game for everyone and we will try all together to win. Be sure that we (will) compete against a very good team like Arsenal, it’s the derby, they have fantastic players but all together we can give our best and try to get the three points. That is our aim.”
Is it a target to make finishing above Arsenal normal?
Mauricio: “I repeat, my challenge or my aim is not to be above Arsenal. My challenge or my aim is to be above 19 teams and to be the first, to be on the top (of the league). That is my challenge, my aim, my dream. I don’t care what happens with Arsenal. With all my respect, it’s (about) what happens with us, to care about ourselves, try to win every game and try to be the best. That is our big, big challenge here at Tottenham.”
Would a strong finish this season make up for not finishing second last year?
Mauricio: “Every season is different. Today we are so focused. I told you before that I think we learned after the defeat in the semi-final of the FA Cup, there were a lot of question marks about our performance but the response was fantastic against Crystal Palace and showed one more time that the team has improved a lot. The team can be disappointed in some games but (we) never give up and fight. It was a fantastic result for us and to be in the race for the title, I think that is a big motivation for all. Then to finish in a good way doesn’t mean to win every game but to finish well, finish giving your best and being strong – that is our aim for this season.”
Can you clarify whether Danny Rose is back in training and whether he has a chance of being involved this weekend?
Mauricio: “He’s a little bit involved, he’s not 100 per cent involved with the team. We need to assess him every day but still he is not ready.”