Tottenham Hotspur are off to Zagreb for the second leg of their Round of 16 matchup in the UEFA Europa League. Jose Mourinho met with the media for the pre-match conference to update everyone on the squad and what to expect for tomorrow and the next few weeks.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg is out for tomorrow’s match because of yellow card accumulation, meaning we’ll expect to see some combination of Harry Winks, Moussa Sissoko and Tanguy Ndombele in the midfield. It’s not ideal given the importance of the match and wanting to end it early, but that’s where Spurs are at.
Harry Kane is expected to start the match tomorrow instead of Carlos Vinicius, which is in line with last week’s match. It’s clear that Mourinho is putting extra importance on the Europa League campaign, given it may be Spurs’ best chance at getting into the Champions League though the run-in isn’t that bad in the Premier League. Winning Europa, of course, brings a major piece of silverware to the club while getting into the top European competition.
Son Heung-Min’s injury is the big concern for everyone. Some early reports suggested that the Korean international may only be out for three weeks, but Mourinho’s response today was very simple:
I don’t know, I don’t know, but of course no chance for this one.
If a player is injured and cannot play, a friendly or official, it doesn’t matter the match it is. So if we arrived next week and Sonny is injured and we can prove that to the South Korean Football Association, what’s he going to do there? Nothing. So if a player cannot play for the club, he cannot play for the country.
Mourinho is usually coy on injuries and has often given answers that don’t end up being true. He’s not the only manager to do this. Whether it’s gamesmanship or just a different outlook is in the eye of the beholder, but we know Sonny is out at least through the international break.
The good news is that Giovani Lo Celso’s status has improved. Mourinho doesn’t seem ready to start him but he’s going to be available.
He [Lo Celso] is a very talented player and he’s a player with good competitive qualities. Of course we missed him for a long time.
I don’t think he has 90 minutes in his legs but he looked very confident in these three sessions that he did with the team on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, so I don’t feel any limitations with him.
I think the team needs him because he’s a quality player and he’s also very competitive. I believe even for some players to have him there, he will help some, he will scare others and I think we need that.
Spurs have definitely missed GLC and to have him back will be beneficial, though he doesn’t appear to be 100% match fit, as expected. With the club holding a 2-0 aggregate lead, an early away goal or two probably ices the tie and gives Mourinho a chance to rotate players in the second half. Dinamo weren’t exactly toothless in the first leg, but Spurs dictated the match and will want to do the same. Arsenal and Manchester United have their Round of 16 second leg matches tomorrow as well, with United behind in their tie on away goals.
If Spurs are successful tomorrow and move on, the draw for the Quarterfinal and Semifinals will take place on Friday.