Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino is not going to let the north London derby clash on Sunday affect his friendship with Arsenal boss Unai Emery.
The two old friends will meet for the first time in the Premier League with third-placed Spurs three points better off than the Gunners.
Pochettino is especially touched by the memory of Emery, who at 47 is a year older then the Tottenham boss, recommending he replace him at Valencia when the latter left for Spartak Moscow in 2012.
Pochettino declined the offer, preferring to remain at the less prestigious La Liga outfit Espanyol, and insists that their roles at the head of such big rivals will not affect their friendship.
“The opposite I think,” said Pochettino “Of course we are in different clubs and it is a derby we are going to play.
“In the moment we are going to compete, we are going to try to find the way to beat each other but before and after the game (we are) always very good friends.”
Pochettino, who has garnered much praise for the style his young team play although they are yet to win any silverware in his four years in charge, says he is still moved by Emery’s generous gesture.
“I called Unai who was in Spartak Moscow and said, ‘Thank you very much for recommending me’. I chose to stay at Espanyol at the time,” said the Argentinian. “I am loyal.”
“You need to ask him (why he recommended me), I didn’t ask why. You need to say thank you and be grateful when a colleague — and after someone who became a very good friend (does that).
“It’s not usual that a manager recommends another manager when he leaves the club.”
Pocchetino will have his work cut out on Sunday. Tottenham have not won away at Arsenal since 2010 and that 3-2 win remains Spurs’ only win at the Gunners in their last 25 meetings.
© Agence France-Presse (Additional edits by Marisa Kennedy)