Spurs ‘so good, so strong’

Spurs ‘so good, so strong’

LONDON • Gareth Bale is expected to make his second Tottenham debut against West Ham in the Premier League today, but Jose Mourinho claims even the Welsh star’s place is not guaranteed as he revels in the squad depth at his disposal.

Bale has returned to north London on a season-long loan from Real Madrid after seven years of highs and lows since joining the Spanish giants for a then world-record fee.

He scored in two Champions League finals as Real won the competition four times in his first five seasons. But his performances also attracted plenty of criticism, while he struggled with injuries and adapting to life in Spain.

Injury has also delayed his Tottenham return on the field, but the familiar surroundings have made the 31-year-old more relaxed after his Madrid misery and he has been pictured in the stands supporting his new teammates.

Mourinho said on Friday that Sergio Reguilon, who also moved from Real to Spurs last month, commented that Bale looks a “different guy” from the shy figure in the Spanish capital. But questions remain over whether he can emulate the success of his first spell with Tottenham, when he developed into one of the world’s best.

In the final season before his big move, Bale scored 26 goals but it still was not enough to secure a place in the Champions League as Spurs finished fifth.

During his time in Spain, Tottenham became Champions League regulars, reaching the final for the first time last year.

This season is the first in five years they are not in Europe’s top club competition, but a Champions League return is the least they expect after bringing back Bale to form a potentially thrilling front three alongside Harry Kane and Son Heung-min.

Kane and Son have combined spectacularly to thrash Manchester United 6-1 and Southampton 5-2 already this season.

Injuries to both hampered Spurs’ chances of making the top four last season but Mourinho is confident he now has the squad to challenge on multiple fronts.

“We have a squad where every player has to fight a lot and play very well to deserve a place in the team,” said the Spurs boss.

“The squad is so good, so strong. We have so many options that I refuse to say this player is a first choice. I can feel even in the players this feeling I love. They are happy but they are worried.

“They are happy that the squad is good, that people are coming to make the squad better. But at the same time they are worried about themselves, ‘am I going to play or not going to play?’ This is the kind of feeling you have in the top teams and we are having that now.”

Mourinho confirmed that Kane will start the game, with his new understudy Carlos Vinicius on the bench. The Brazilian was a new arrival along with Bale, Reguilon, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Matt Doherty and Joe Hart.

Tottenham also announced on Friday that they have completed the signing of Wales centre-back Joe Rodon from Swansea City on a five-year deal and will pay an initial fee of £11 million (S$19.3 million) for the 22-year-old defender.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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