Jose Mourinho had his pre-match press conference today ahead of the team’s trip to Bulgaria for the Europa League 2nd Round Qualification match against Lokomotiv Plovdiv. The match will take place on Thursday. Mourinho and the club released team information for the trip, with the biggest news being that attacking midfielder Giovani Lo Celso is in the frame to play.
Spurs’ only absences will be Japhet Tanganga, who Mourinho said would be absent for a few more weeks, and possibly Serge Aurier, who took a knock in training and is a doubt.
Speaking about his Bulgarian opponents, Mourinho made it clear that he is taking the match, which is a single-leg knock-out, very seriously.
“I think Lokomotiv Plovdiv and Tottenham were both very unlucky with the draw. Lokomotiv could have a much easier opponent than us and we could also have a much easier opponent. As a seeded team they could have much, much easier than Tottenham and unseeded teams, there were many with much less potential than Lokomotiv.
“We are both in a difficult position. It is only one game, not two, with two games the situation would be different. With one match, one decision, everything is decided tomorrow, I think it is a difficult match and we are going to give them the respect they deserve from us.
“We are going there knowing it is black or white, there is no other option, you win or lose, you are in or out. We go with the intention of being in the next round. I believe it is a good competition to develop my team and try to win it.
“They have played more matches than us. They are in a better physical condition than us. As you say they have played five league matches, played in a cup final a couple of months ago, plus Super Cup, playing already big matches recently against the champions, who they’ve played twice in the last couple of weeks.
“It’s normal that they’re in a better condition than us. We are a better team and I hope that the best team means a lot and despite their high motivation and quality as a team and group, I hope that we can beat that.”
I repeat only one match, an away match, a knockout match, but we know that the game is very important to us.
That does however bring up who WILL play. If Aurier is a doubt, Matt Doherty is likely to start. Sergio Reguilon will probably complete his transfer sometime today, but who knows whether he’ll be able to participate in the match at any level tomorrow. There might be some rotation, but Mourinho didn’t say what that might look like.
However, he DID say that Harry Kane is going to be playing every minute for the foreseeable future, playing tomorrow, Sunday’s match at Southampton, and even in the upcoming Carabao Cup tie against Leyton Orient. He did suggest that he will, eventually, get some rest.
“He cannot play every match for 90 minutes. That’s for sure. I know that he would like to do that, because that’s his nature and he’s the kind of guy who is happy to be on the pitch for 90 minutes, but it’s not possible.
“This situation is an extreme situation for us. Hopefully we have this problem but we need to win in Plovdiv and in Leyton, but hopefully we have this problem and no player can play 90 minutes of every game.”
Mourinho did suggest that Tanguy Ndombele won’t be starting the match, but didn’t rule him out as a substitute in Bulgaria, much like he was against Everton last Sunday. And this time, the statement was couched in very positive terms about his development and work rate.
“I believe that Tanguy [will not start]. Tanguy is in a process of evolution, very positive. Finished the season injury and in bad condition, didn’t start pre-season – again injured. On top of that, other health problems.
“Working hard, he knows what we want from him. He’s trying hard to have minutes. It’s a good thing for him. To be ready to start is something we – and I include him in this discussion because we discussed his situation together – he’s not ready to start of play for 90 minutes, no.”
The match against Lokomotiv Plovdiv will kick off Thursday at noon ET, 5 p.m. BST. The match will take place behind closed doors due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.