London (AFP) – Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino expects a “special” day on Sunday when his side play Manchester United in the last game at White Hart Lane.
With Chelsea having wrapped up the Premier League title by winning at West Bromwich Albion on Friday, Spurs’ farewell to their home of 118 years will now be the central focus of Sunday’s game.
“I hope Sunday will be the most special day in the last three seasons. It will be special for our fans, staff, players, people who love Tottenham,” Pochettino said.
“At the same time I am excited about the new stadium because the soul and the smell of White Hart Lane will keep there.
“When the new era and stadium arrive there will be different expectations, but, most important, always in our memory will be White Hart Lane, the soul and the smell.
“When you move to another area it’s so difficult, but now we are changing nothing because the new stadium will be in the same place as White Hart Lane and that is fantastic.”
Whatever the outcome, Sunday will be a deeply poignant occasion as Spurs say goodbye to a ground graced by such club greats as Jimmy Greaves, Danny Blanchflower, Steve Perryman, Glenn Hoddle and Paul Gascoigne.
A ceremony featuring figures from the club’s past will take place after the game and fans have been offered the chance to buy their seats for £50 ($64.40, 59 euros).
Demolition work on the Lane, Spurs’ home since 1899, will begin on Monday to make way for the club’s new 61,559-seater stadium, which will be completed in time for the 2018-19 campaign.
Spurs had hoped to bow out at the atmospheric old ground with a first league title since 1961, but although that objective has now disappeared, they still have a chance to make history.
Pochettino’s side are gunning for a 14th successive home league win, which would equal the club record, set over two seasons in 1987, and establish a new mark for consecutive home victories within the same campaign.
They can also go unbeaten at home in a league season for the first time since 1964-65.
– Up in smoke –
United have unhappy recent memories of a farewell match at a venerable London venue.
Their Champions League hopes went up in smoke last season after they lost 3-2 to West Ham United in the final game at Upton Park.
United went 14 games without defeat at the Lane before last season’s 3-0 loss, but gone are the days when their former manager Alex Ferguson could dismiss Spurs’ threat with a disdainful: “Lads, it’s Tottenham.”
Spurs will finish above United this term for the third time in four seasons and Jose Mourinho’s side have little motivation to spoil the farewell party.
Four points off the top four, Mourinho has abandoned hope of qualifying for the Champions League via the league and is likely to rest players after Thursday’s Europa League semi-final success against Celta Vigo.
“In the Premier League we can only finish fifth or sixth, I think,” said Mourinho, whose team’s 25-game unbeaten run came to an end in north London last weekend following a 2-0 defeat at Arsenal.
“But obviously, like we did against Arsenal, we didn’t throw the match away. We played, we tried to win, we gave a difficult match to our opponent.
“That’s what we’re going to do. We’re not going to say that matches are not important.
“But we have one (the Europa League final) that is more important than others. The match on Sunday is important for us too.”
Marouane Fellaini, whose goal helped United secure a 2-1 aggregate win over Celta Vigo that set up a meeting with Ajax in the May 24 final, is unavailable due to a domestic suspension.
Pochettino has no new injuries concerns. Danny Rose is not yet match-fit despite having returned to training after injury, so Ben Davies is expected to continue at left-back.