Jose Mourinho insists Tottenham’s tie with RB Leipzig is far from over, but admits the odds are against his team because of injuries to key players.
The loss of Heung-Min Son to a fractured arm as well as the long-term injury to Harry Kane leaves Spurs bereft of firepower and it showed in Wednesday night’s first leg defeat to the Germans at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
But for a string of fine saves from Hugo Lloris, the 1-0 defeat suffered as a result of Timo Werner’s second half penalty would have been much more severe.
As things stand, it still looks very much a long-shot that last year’s beaten finalists will progress to the quarter-finals at the expense of the highly industrious and slick Bundesliga side. Moussa Sissoko is also out injured at the moment and Erik Lamela is reduced to cameos because of fitness issues.
“One zero is one zero, it’s not ten zero,” said the Tottenham boss.
“The result is open, it’s as simple as that. We wouldn’t be the first team to lose the game at home 1-0 and to win the tie away. So why shouldn’t we do that.
“The thing that keeps me confident is the spirit, the mentality of my players. Not just as players but especially what they are as guys, as a group. It’s a fantastic group of players.
“We are in a very difficult situation [because of injuries]. I’m so, so proud of the players.
“What worries me is that this is going to be the situation until the end of the season. If this was the situation for a couple of matches, I’d say Ok, but the next game in two weeks when we play Wolves, the situation is going to be exactly the same.
“In the next match against Leipzig, one thing I can guarantee, because this is the mentality of my players, is that even with I don’t know who playing in attack, we are going there to fight until our limits.
Mourinho used Dele Alli and Lucas Moura in advanced positions, but has no natural number nine to plug the gap left by Kane. He said: “It is difficult to tell the direction we are going in the near future. It is big questions marks.
“We are going for sure to change systems and shapes, according to the players that we have available. We are going to try [to use] Erik Lamela, but he cannot play from the beginning, but he can come for the last 20 minutes.
“We are going to fight, but Chelsea players were watching this game on TV with nice sparkling water and lemons and biscuits, enjoying the game – and then we play them Saturday 12 o’clock – thank you so much for the choice. We cannot even sleep well until 10.30 or 11, we have to wake up 7.30 for the game.”
The performances of Lloris and Giovani Lo Celso were two bits of good news on a tough night fo Spurs. Lo Celso is starting to look the part and is now featuring more often in the starting XI.
“He’s playing fantastic,” Mourinho said. “He played in the middle. He played so well. He was phenomenal with the ball and without the ball. An incredible evolution.
“He was not the first option for me when I arrived, he was coming on from the bench but step by step, I think he’s phenomenal.”