Jose Mourinho was focused and fired up ahead of Tottenham Hotspur’s UEFA Champions League clash against Olympiacos on Tuesday, his first home game in charge as Spurs’ new manager.
Mourinho, 56, spoke of his “love” for the old White Hart Lane and how Spurs’ new stadium generates a similar atmosphere, as he was “envious” of the passion the supporters have for their team.
A win for Spurs will guarantee their qualification to the Round of 16, and Mourinho is firmly focused on their final two group games. Nothing more, nothing less.
The man who has won the UEFA Champions League with FC Porto and Inter Milan is trying to stay grounded as the 2018-19 runners up look to go one better this season.
“I love the competition as much as everyone in football. It is something everybody dreams about winning. Not everyone has the privilege to be a Champions League winner. I was happy enough to do it twice. Do I want to win it for a third time? Of course I would love it,” Mourinho said. “One of the reasons my teams are never out of the group phase is because we always thought about the group phase. That needs to be our focus. We need to focus on these two matches. Tomorrow is one that can give us the qualification. It is not an easy moment, good opponent, good coach who I know well. We drew in Athens. A difficult one for us but hopefully we can get the result we need to qualify.”
Mourinho was asked if he had sensed a hangover from Spurs’ defeat to Liverpool in the UCL final in Madrid last season?
His predecessor Mauricio Pochettino mentioned it a few times in recent months and Mourinho admitted he must have seen it to talk about it, but he seems to think Spurs will come back stronger this season.
“When you are almost landing on the moon and you don’t do it, the frustration is very high,” Mourinho said. “When you look at a team like Liverpool, they had the frustration of losing the final and then made a second-straight final. It depends on people’s mentality and the way you react to such a big disappointment. I can imagine losing a big European cup final is disappointing.”
Mourinho was bullish when asked if Spurs winning the Champions League this season would be a “miracle” as Pochettino previously described their fairytale run last season.
The Portuguese coach said he “will have no problem at all to go to any stadium in Europe or in England” with this squad, but admitted it would be tough for Spurs to win the trophy this season.
“Sometimes we use words to try to describe things. But the words don’t reflect. I would change a miracle to very difficult,” Mourinho said “There are teams with a different culture of victory. Teams with different potential, experience, knowhow, all of that. At this level it plays a role. With these boys, I will never be afraid of any Champions League match that comes to our faces.”
That kind of underdog spirit and rhetoric has served Mourinho well in the past and he seems to have that in abundance at Spurs.
They should make it past OIympiacos easily on Tuesday and optimism levels will be on the up as Tottenham’s fans dream of a similar run in the UCL knockout rounds to last season.
In fact, Spurs fans may even enjoy this season in the UCL more as it could be their last for a few seasons as they sit nine points off the top four.
The supporters have a big role to play, says Mourinho.
“They love the team, the club, the stadium. I believe tomorrow can be the restart of that empathy between the supporters and the team and empathy with bad results, you lose a little bit,” Mourinho said. “Let’s hope that tomorrow can be the start of that empathy coming back with the players happiness with a good feeling to play at home with the supporters playing with them. We play two home matches in three days, if we can win matches, play well, score goals, show commitment and desire, it would be a good period.”