LONDON • Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho has said he will rotate his squad amid a busy festive schedule but certain “unique players” will feature more than others as his team look to compete for the Premier League title.
Spurs moved into the Europa League knockout stage as group winners with a 2-0 victory over Royal Antwerp on Thursday and are set to play seven times – six Premier League games and a League Cup quarter-final – in a little less than three weeks.
“The Europa League is over now for a couple of months, but now is an accumulation of matches in the Premier League that, to be honest, are more difficult than the Europa League matches,” Mourinho told reporters ahead of today’s league trip to Crystal Palace.
“The quality of teams is higher in the Premier League. We have also a quarter-final to play against Stoke City, and Stoke are doing so, so well in the (second-tier) Championship. With so many matches, do we need to make rotations? Of course.
“It’s impossible for a player to play all these matches within a short period of time. But at the same time there are unique players… in spite of the squad being very good, we have to give them more minutes because they can make a difference.”
He did not mention who those players were but goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg have played every minute in the league so far, followed by forwards Harry Kane and Son Heung-min who have scored 18 goals between them.
Spurs led the standings on 24 points from 11 games – above champions Liverpool on goal difference – before Chelsea’s match at Everton yesterday.
Mourinho, the Premier League manager of the month for November, said he was aware of the many threats posed by Roy Hodgson’s Palace side even though he had not had time to work on his plans.
“One of the things is the quality of (Wilfried) Zaha… The players, the manager, the coaching staff is basically the same as previous seasons,” he said.
“They defend with lots of people and experience but they have quality in attack – organised attack, counter-attack and set pieces. They are a team that can threaten in many different situations.”
Tottenham have taken seven points from matches against Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal in recent weeks by defending when necessary and hitting opponents on the break.
The Europa League is over now for a couple of months, but now is an accumulation of matches in the Premier League that, to be honest, are more difficult than the Europa League matches.
Many pundits have questioned if the Spurs players are happy playing a more combative, defensive style despite the success it is bringing, but Hodgson has defended Mourinho’s style of play.
He said: “I know exactly how it feels to be doing a good job and getting the team playing in the right way for the team, getting the results, yet other people trying to tell you that there is another type of football they would prefer to see. I am full of sympathy or empathy with Jose on that point. He has been in football a long time and has been unbelievably successful wherever he has been. In most arguments he is going to win because the people who are criticising him will not have as many trophies as in their cabinets as he has.”
Palace have no fresh injury concerns, while Tottenham are hoping to have Tanguy Ndombele, who played the final half an hour against Antwerp, and Serge Aurier fit for the match. Erik Lamela remains on the sidelines due to a foot problem.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
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