Jose Mourinho revealed Tottenham have managed to carefully “hide” their COVID-19 problems as he insisted Premier League chiefs must not let the season descend into chaos.
The Spurs manager is relishing the distraction of an FA Cup tie at Marine on Sunday, describing the competition as “absolutely beautiful” and promising to take a star-studded squad to face the minnows.
But Tottenham would be left in an “impossible situation”, according to Mourinho, if next Wednesday’s Premier League clash with Aston Villa is called off.
Villa have experienced a major outbreak of coronavirus cases and their first-team training facilities were closed ahead of Friday’s cup clash with Liverpool.
Tottenham have already had a London derby with Fulham called off under similar circumstances, and fixtures are piling up.
Mourinho wants a solution to be found and appealed for “leadership” from league top brass, suggesting there should be ways found to allow games to go ahead.
“The only thing I can say is that since pre-season, we knew that eventually it would happen to us, to have difficult situations to manage and to play again with 14 players,” Mourinho said.
“I think every club was mentally ready for it.”
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Mourinho pointed to his former club Chelsea fielding Petr Cech at under-23 level recently, with the veteran goalkeeper coming out of retirement in case he is needed in a crisis.
“Every club was mentally ready for an extreme situation of having a lot of players not available to play,” said Mourinho.
“In our case, we didn’t have that extreme situation yet but we had problems. We had problems that of course with the legal right that we had, we managed to hide it, to hide it in a way by not telling who was positive and who was not able to play.
“But we are also having our problems. But we always thought we would always play. I cannot say much more than that.”
Tottenham, like all clubs, have not been obliged to identify players who have tested positive for COVID-19, which has allowed Mourinho to avoid cases being publicised.
Those affected must go into self-isolation, but it appears Tottenham are in a good way ahead of their trip to Marine.
Mourinho remembered facing lower-league sides during his coaching career, pointing out the day his Chelsea side lost 4-2 to Bradford City in the FA Cup fourth round, back in the 2014-15 season.
“The FA Cup is absolutely beautiful,” he said. “That’s why, even knowing that I would love to rest all my guys. I cannot do it. It’s not about being afraid, it’s about giving the guys what they deserve.
“I’m not taking everybody. But out of 20, I take 19 first-team players. so you can imagine how strong we go.”
Mourinho promised he would even enter the Marine club raffle, which offers a top prize of managing the eighth-tier team in a pre-season friendly. With no gate receipts, Marine are understandably looking for other ways of monetising the glamour tie.
“I will buy a ticket. Even if I win, I cannot do it,” Mourinho said. “I don’t think I will have conditions to do that, but the meaning of it yes, I will be buying it.”
The Northern Premier League North West part-timers and Spurs will go down in the record books as having the biggest gap between each other in the pyramid in the history of the FA Cup when they meet at Marine Travel Arena.
Marine sit sixth in their section of the eighth tier of English football, while Tottenham are fourth in the Premier League, reached the final of the EFL Cup this week and remain in the hunt for Europa League glory.
Mourinho will demand victory, of course, and will be quietly testing his players’ appetite for the romance of the game.
“This is just a match that can show me how much they love football,” he added. “Nothing else.”