Considering the incredibly compact schedule that Tottenham Hotspur has had to endure in the first part of this 2020-21 season, it’s kind of amazing that they’ve done as well as they have. But the crazy run of matches isn’t over — Spurs are set to host Israeli club Maccabi Haifa on Thursday, just 48 hours after their penalty shootout win over Chelsea in the Carabao Cup Round of 16.
Spurs manager Jose Mourinho had previously complained about the schedule and suggested that he “couldn’t compete” in the Carabao Cup, statements that proved to be part of the mind-games that he is so well-known for. Today, in a press conference ahead of the match against Haifa, Mourinho attempted to add some clarity as to who might feature for his club in the Europa League on Thursday. The only thing he said for sure was that injured attackers Son Heung-Min and Gareth Bale would both miss the match.
“Sonny of course is not playing tomorrow, is a big doubt for Sunday but I don’t want to say he’s not going to play because maybe he does and then my position is not good.
“Bale cannot play tomorrow or even on the weekend, that I can confirm. Working very hard, very committed, very professional, very happy but not yet [ready] for tomorrow or the weekend. I believe the two weeks of international can be important for his last phase of his recovering and fitness, hopefully to play when we come back for the weekend after the national teams. Let’s see if it’s possible [for him] to arrive there. But yesterday just fatigue.”
The other big question was about Dele, who for the second straight match was left out of Jose Mourinho’s squad yesterday. Mourinho was again cagy, but hinted that Dele could be in the picture for the Europa League, and that he’s been pleased with how Dele has responded to being dropped.
“I cannot confirm Dele’s playing tomorrow but I cannot confirm he’s not playing. We have still training sessions today, we have still decisions to make. The only thing I can say is he’s being very, very professional. I have only respect for him. He’s being very professional, particularly yesterday when the team was preparing for the game and he wasn’t.
“It would be perfectly acceptable to have a lack of motivation, even a lack of professionalism for this training session but it was exactly the opposite. He trained very hard yesterday. He has my respect and the respect of his teammates so it’s possible he plays tomorrow.”
In his post-match comments yesterday, Mourinho was adamant that players such as Eric Dier, who played 180 minutes in four days, and Eric Lamela would not play on Thursday due to fatigue. However, it’s becoming clear now that we can’t really take anything Mourinho says in the buildup to a match at face value, especially when it involves player selection and tactics. After all, pretty much everyone expected Mourinho to “punt” yesterday’s cup match, and while he did play a rotated side it was much stronger than expected.
It’s led some to speculate that Son’s halftime substitution against Newcastle was planned, and wonder about the true nature of his injury, if he’s available so soon after a supposed hamstring injury that resulted in a scan!
Having said Son would be out for a "long" time on Sunday, he could now be back for #THFC v United.— Charlie Eccleshare (@CDEccleshare) September 30, 2020
This is the Jose "purposeful pessimism" I was talking about on VFTL. The managerial equivalent of watching your team and every corner the oppo gets saying "they're gonna score!"
Mourinho’s comments today mostly centered around his main stars, and the upcoming international break. He acknowledged that Gareth Bale was not called up to the Wales squad by manager Ryan Giggs for the upcoming international break due to his injury, but noted Harry Kane was in Gareth Southgate’s England plans and asked international managers to “respect” his players and the grueling schedule they are currently going through.
“Gareth [Bale] officially didn’t arrive anything to me but it looks like Giggs cares about the player and understands how important the period is for [Bale] and it looks like his decision is not to bring him to the National team.
“In fact, he’s not ready to play, he couldn’t play for them. But to be there, and lose the work he can do with us, would be very important for the player. And the player belongs to Tottenham, the player belongs to the Welsh national team and it looks like he’s going to have this opportunity to work specifically and to be back in good conditions.
“When Kane is fit, he also should start every game for Tottenham, but he didn’t yesterday. So I think this is the point.
“When you have such a player and you want to win every match, you play him, but you just can’t do it. You know, I believe that Gareth [Southgate] and Steve [Holland] they care about the players and I don’t think they want to be connected with something that can be a consequence of this week and the three international matches, which is obviously too much, especially for my players.
“So I don’t speak with [Southgate] or even with Steve, and of course with Steve I am a very good friend of him. I just let them do the job in the way they want to do it with the freedom they deserve.”
The Europa League playoff match against Maccabi Haifa kicks off on Thursday at 3:00 p.m. ET, 8 p.m. BST at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.