The finishing line is in sight. A gruelling Premier League season is in its final stretch.
It’s now or never. All or nothing. Four matches stand in the way of glory. The Premier League title awaits.
Antonio Conte or Mauricio Pochettino: Which manager will claim their first ever English league championship? Who can handle the pressure between Chelsea and Tottenham?
Both made statements this past weekend, emphatically reminding the watching world that they remain up for the fight.
Spurs swept to victory, dismantling their fierce rivals Arsenal at White Hart Lane with a 2-0 scoreline that flattered the misfiring Gunners.
After an untimely collapse at the end of last season saw Spurs’ title challenge peter out so dramatically that they eventually ceded second-place to Arsenal, Sunday’s win saw them claim nine on the bounce for the first time since 1960 – and it confirmed Tottenham will finish ahead of the Gunners in the Premier League for the first time in 22 years.
"We are in the race and the gap is back to four points," said Pochettino. "We have another big game against West Ham on Friday, another difficult derby. That could be a chance to put psychological pressure on Chelsea."
Chelsea overcame the pressure on Sunday, however, as three second-half strikes saw them stroll past Everton at Goodison Park. Defeats to Crystal Palace and Manchester United had seen Spurs cut their lead from 10 points to four, meaning the win was huge for the Blues.
"We must be pleased because we've had a lot of patience," said Conte. "In this type of game, it's not easy and the danger is to lose your head.”
Chelsea have kept theirs time and again to cement what, at times, looked like an unassailable lead. They have no less than seven players in the top 20 of the Goal Pressure Index, presented by Sure and powered by Opta data, which provides the first ever system to measure and rate a team and player’s performance under pressure.
The Goal Pressure Index uses more than 750,000 data points as well as factors including league position, point in the season and the opposition to calculate a rating out of 100 for every Premier League player every week.
But so too have Spurs. Just four of Pochettino’s men appear in the top 20, but the top 35 features nine Tottenham men to Chelsea’s seven.
Moreover, Spurs have the momentum. The top 20 of the Pressure Index form guide scorers features fiveTottenham men and zero Chelsea stars.
Pochettino has transformed the club with an unwavering attention to what he labels ‘Energía universal’. “Nothing happens for causality. It is always a consequence [of something else],” he says of his holistic approach to coaching.
That includes forces out of his control, which could provide some cause for concern when comparing his club’s run-in to that of Chelsea.
With West Ham, Manchester United, Leicester City and Hull City to come, his side will go up against eight of the top 50 performers in the Pressure Index this season.
Chelsea, meanwhile, will not face a single one of the top 50 Premier League performers under pressure, as they meet Middlesbrough, West Brom and Watford before hosting already-relegated Sunderland on the final day.
With a four-point gap to protect, the pressure is on Chelsea. And Conte welcomes it. “I like the pressure, I live off pressure,” he said. “I think pressure gives you the best of yourself.”
Their best has seen them take 81 points from 34 Premier League games this season – their most at this stage of a campaign since 2005/06 when they won the title.
Three more wins will be enough, but Tottenham are hot on their tails. It’s all to play for. The pressure is on.