José Mourinho believes Tottenham will have to sacrifice the Carabao Cup due to their packed fixture schedule, which he also suspects has contributed to Son Heung-min’s hamstring injury.
Spurs host Chelsea on Tuesday in a fourth-round tie, two days before Maccabi Haifa visit for a Europa League play-off that Mourinho considers to be significantly more important. Once the latter has been completed, they will have played seven games in 18 days. Mourinho says the consequence is a team selection that will have little chance of overcoming Frank Lampard’s side.
Asked whether Harry Kane, for one, would face Chelsea he replied: “What would you do in my position? I would like to fight for the Carabao but I don’t think I can. We have a game on Thursday that gives us not as much money as the Champions League, but the group phase of the Europa League gives us a certain amount that for a club like us is very important.
“It’s a competition with a possible group phase that gives us a good chance to go through to the next knockout stage, so this game on Thursday is very important for us.”
Mourinho affected incredulity when it was suggested that Chelsea, who had to salvage a point from 3-0 down at West Brom on Saturday, could still be given a stern contest. “You’re joking or you’re serious?” he asked. “Chelsea played Saturday, they have Sunday and Monday then they play Tuesday and then they play again on the weekend.
“So [with] their fantastic squad, if the manager decides not to rotate he can perfectly play with the players that he wants. As you know, and forgetting the past Thursday, we played on the Sunday, now we play on the Tuesday, we play on the Thursday, we play on the Sunday [against Manchester United] again.”
Son had played every minute of Spurs’ season until being withdrawn at half-time of the controversial draw with Newcastle. Mourinho said he will be out “for a while” and expects worse to follow. “I think Sonny was just the first,” he said. “More will come. Son was the first, but more will come.”
The likes of Toby Alderweireld, Tanguy Ndombele, Steven Bergwijn, Érik Lamela and Sergio Reguilón were on the bench against Newcastle – with Dele Alli completely excluded again – so Mourinho, who said 10 days ago that he has “too many players”, has strong reserves to draw upon when he rotates the team.
“But if you do that, and we are going to do that, we know the consequences of it because not every player is the same,” he said. “And not every player has the same group dynamic because we clearly have a spine and obviously you lose potential.
“Apart from Sonny, everybody is in contention but I think you can imagine that with a game on Thursday that decides a very important thing for us, I think the EFL made a decision for us [with the Chelsea fixture]. They didn’t even create a problem, they made a decision for us. So that’s the decision.”
Spurs received a bye to play Chelsea because Leyton Orient, their third-round opponents, were required to forfeit that fixture – as opposed to a postponement – after returning multiple positive Covid-19 tests. “I think they have to be very, very upset,” Mourinho said of the League Two club’s plight. “I have total sympathy for them. I don’t think they did anything wrong. They were tested. I think they deserve to play against us, no doubts about it.”