With the international break now in the rear-view mirror, Tottenham Hotspur are in preparation for a pivotal clash with Manchester City tomorrow. While the Cityzens currently sit tenth on the table and have not played anywhere close to their potential, this is still a team full of firepower that must be taken seriously.
José Mourinho had his standard pre-match press conference today at Hotspur Way and voiced some of his displeasure with England boss Gareth Southgate. The reason is simple: Harry Kane playing in a dead rubber match, even though Mourinho was respectful to not undermine international play.
A national team match should never be a dead rubber like you call it. The only problem for me is should be the same for everybody, not just for some.
I don’t want to spend much time on the national team stuff so I will try in your question and my answer to go through everything that I think is important for me. Gareth Southgate, I read, I don’t think I’m wrong in what I read, he supposedly told that some football club managers, they put pressure not to play for the national team and because of that he feels sometimes the need to call club managers to try to cool down the emotions and try to control the difficult situation for him.
I would like him to say who. I would like him to say which are the coaches who put pressure on the players not to go? And I would like him to say which are the coaches that he calls and speaks on the phone with them. Apart from that, he has the right, he has the power to call the players he wants. He wants to win matches, especially after a defeat, the next match even being a dead rubber is an important match. I sympathise with that.
This is the challenge for every manager, whether it’s at the club level or international level. Mourinho has a crucial match on Saturday and he wants Harry Kane to be at his best. Southgate had a match against Iceland that he did not want to lose and opted to start Kane, even though the match meant nothing in the Nations League. Belgium had already won the group and Iceland were already relegated to League B.
Mourinho’s problem, as suggested above, is that Raheem Sterling was rested while Kane played 75 minutes. It does need to be mentioned that City midfielder Phil Foden played the full 90 minutes, but Sterling is arguably City’s top threat in attack.
And of course we all know Sterling will play tomorrow. When Eric Dier left the national team injured in the previous month, he didn’t play two matches for Tottenham. He didn’t play a Premier League match and a Europa League match. He needed a couple of weeks to recover and Raheem is going to play tomorrow. These are the little details I think Gareth should explain to us all. Apart from that, I totally support him in the fact that in the national team, in a country like England, the Three Lions on the shirt is always to be respected and he plays with the players he wants to play.
More or less, this is a mixture of signaling to Southgate and gamesmanship on Mourinho’s part. José’s job is to win matches at Tottenham Hotspur and he’s going to point things out that possibly hinder his quest to win trophies. Southgate and, on a lesser scale, Pep Guardiola are well within their right to tell him to just deal with it as the mixture of club and international football is a tale as old as the sport itself. Mourinho is going to go to bat when he needs to and this was an easy opportunity. We all know the club wants to win, but it’s never a bad thing to hear it like this.
Tomorrow’s match is just another piece of the puzzle for Spurs, though. It’s not going to win a title, but it can certainly help. Mourinho said as much.
The result of the game will not change anything, only three points more or three points less. And being first, second, third or fourth fifth or sixth in the table. But in terms of journey, our ambition, our project, our process, it’s not going to change.
Spurs begin a rather brutal stretch of matches tomorrow against City that include the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Leicester. As Dustin mentioned yesterday, we’re going to find out just how good this team is.