The Portuguese understands that the Carabao Cup semifinal against Brentford is critical for Tottenham’s 13-year league title chase.
Never let it be said that José Mourinho hides his light under a bushel or runs away from high-profile games’ pressure and value. The manager of Tottenham is going in just the opposite direction and at moments like these, as he prepares for a vital semi-final – Tuesday night at home to Brentford in the Carabao Cup – the characteristic psychology is clear to see.
Not least by comparisons to his previous achievements, Mourinho exudes confidence, and there have been more than a few of those in this competition alone. He’s one of only three managers to win four League Cups, three against Chelsea and one against Manchester United. Brian Clough and Sir Alex Ferguson are the two others.
Mourinho knows what’s at stake, and for him and Spurs it’s about breaking a 13-year drought in the cup; he was recruited mainly to change that. He can smell opportunities – only two games to achieve the kind of achievement that would validate his November 2018 appointment – and he wants his players to follow his example. He needs them to be brave in the same way and drive themselves. That’s the attitude he wants to instill.
“Is this my biggest game since I’ve been at Spurs? Yes, I think so,” Mourinho said. “I would say so from the point of view of the club, which has been chasing silverware for many years. We do have important games, of course.
We had a game at Crystal Palace at the end of last season, which was about whether or not we will be in this season’s Europa League.
The game against Leeds on Saturday was very important because there were a lot of Premier League matches without a victory.
But I must suggest that a semifinal is a really critical game at all times. The only thing more important is a final.”
In the tournament, Mourinho has never lost a final, nor has he lost a semifinal. He won it in 2004-05 at Chelsea in his first season and did the same in 2016-17 at United in his first season.
It was the starting point for further championship wins at both clubs. With Spurs, this is his first shot at the trophy, since they were already out of the competition when he arrived last season. Symmetry is a powerful story line.
Any competition is important,” said Mourinho. “That’s my way of looking at things, particularly at a club that in more than a decade hasn’t won silverware.
Every competition becomes more important after more than a decade and we win a trophy if we win two games. There are two tough games, of course, but if we win, we get a cup, which I think will be a very positive thing for the club and the players.
“This isn’t about me.
It’s not about me winning 4 or 5 times, or about me winning 3 clubs, it’s not about me at all.
It’s about my club, it’s about the players wanting trophies, it’s about the fans wanting trophies. With that ambition, we must approach this semifinal and respect a very, very good team that has knocked out of the competition a lot of very good Premier League teams.
In the third round of the FA Cup on Sunday, Mourinho takes Spurs to non-league side Marine, and is expected to rotate his players for this fixture.
He’s going to be as good against Brentford as possible and he’s going to be looking to build on the 3-0 victory over Leeds. Without a victory, the result ended a streak of four league games and Mourinho was delighted to see his players go all out at 1-0 rather than sit back and defend the advantage.
“I promise you that’s what we want,” Mourinho said. It depends on the tactical circumstances, but it depends more significantly on the mental and physical [conditions]as well as the opponents.
I thought that against Leeds, at 1-0, the players really gave it all.
“I saw [midfield]Pierre-Emile Højbjerg and Harry Winks pressing even higher.
I saw Højbjerg get into a shooting stance.
I saw the wingers feeling more secure and engaging with the striker. It was a good feeling for the players because we always finished the game well.