• By Yann Tear

Mourinho's love affair with League Cup suggests major obstacle stands in Brentford's way


Brentford are just 90 minutes away from reaching a major domestic final for the first time in their history.

Tonight, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, they can enter another astonishing landmark in the ledger, telling us this is a club far removed from the one we have known for nearly all of the post-war decades.

A few years ago, that would have been almost unimaginable.

For all the charm of a club always capable of punching above its weight, silverware was never seriously on the agenda, any more than promotion to the Premier League felt like a realistic goal.

Nobody feels these targets are out of reach any more.

The Bees came within a whisker of going up to the top flight last season. This year, they have put away four Premier League clubs on their way to a one-off semi-final tie that will land the winners an April final at Wembley against one of the two Manchester clubs.

They are rubbing shoulders now with the biggest names in England and no-one is surprised any more.

The last meetings between the clubs came 20 years ago in the same competition and felt like a major event for the Bees. Not because they expected to progress, but simply because playing such a glamour tie felt special in itself.

Travelling to White Hart Lane with Bees fans after a 0-0 draw between the teams at Griffin Park, the excitement was palpable, even if the expectation was low. A 2-0 defeat then felt logical. Normal. Respectable, even.

There will be no such meek acceptance this time around. The Bees are a club with a trusted formula that can trouble the best.

They will believe they can win. They have confidence that extends beyond the current run of 16 unbeaten matches because their relentless progress in recent seasons has left an ingrained faith in the methods.

But there is, of course, a problem with the opposition they face and it is not just in the material threat they face from two of the division's deadliest strikers - Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son.

The danger comes from the degree of motivation they will probably encounter in the Spurs ranks - and the obsession their manager has with winning trophies.

Jose Mourinho has won the Carabao Cup in its various guises on four occasions - three times as Chelsea boss, once with Man United. For him, it has never been a competition to treat indifferently and wave through. He never sees it as one for his understudies so he can rest his elite players for other competitions.

Yesterday, the Portuguese described tonight's encounter as the most important match of his Spurs managerial career so far.

He was brought in to bring that trophy-winning mentality to a club that has won nothing since 2008.

Even allowing for that amazing run to the Champions League final in 2019, Spurs missed out under Mauricio Pochettino, and the club has had enough of that seemingly endless underachievement. Players like Kane crave tangible rewards for their excellence. Only parading cups can do that and they are two games away from ending that terrible run.

Much like Arsenal after their own switch to a new stadium, Spurs want to consecrate their gleaming new home with the glint of silverware. They will see it as a stepping stone towards even greater glories, much as it was for Chelsea under Mourinho in his first season, when they beat Liverpool before going on to become Premier League Champions in 2005.

A fascinating clash awaits and the prize that lies beyond it perhaps transcends the significance of the most modest of the domestic cup baubles.

For Spurs, it would end the drought and perhaps lift them towards further glories. For the Bees, it would represent the shattering of a glass ceiling and further underpin a vaulting ambition.

The one great pity, though, is that fans will not be there to witness it. It should be a contest deserving of an audience, because it has the potential to be memorable and significant for either club.

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