Jose on the derby, team news and a year of COVID-19
Sat 13 March 2021, 16:49|Tottenham Hotspur
Jose Mourinho will step out at the Emirates for the first time as Head Coach of Spurs on Sunday (4.30pm) - and he wishes he was stepping into a full house for the north London derby.
It’s now over a century since the first ‘proper’ derby between the teams, following Arsenal’s move north in 1913. That first clash was in January, 1921, and it’s had everything since.
Jose has led the players into two, both at home, both victories – 2-1 in June last season, 2-0 in December this season. The first was without fans, the second with a noisy 2,000 seeing us home in that brief respite from lockdown. Sadly, it was only a small window, but at least those 2,000 fans experienced the joy of a derby win.
It will be empty again as we meet at the Emirates for the first time since September, 2019, and Jose told us: “It’s a pity it’s an empty stadium. We would like to play in full stadiums in these big matches, even away I’d prefer to play in a full stadium, much more adrenaline, much more emotion, I’d prefer that.
“Anyway, it’s an important game and even if it wasn’t Arsenal, even if it was a ‘normal’ opponent, it would be an important match because we believe we have potential to be in a better position than we are now in the table and it’s a match we have, of course, to try to win.
“We go in good form, but they are too. I know in the Premier League they are in a position not in relation to their potential, and I focus on the potential, not the position, and the potential is high. They have an incredible squad, they can rotate players, big squad, they play good football. We won the last match against them, but it was a very difficult match to win.”
In terms of team news, Giovani Lo Celso (back) remains a doubt after missing Thursday night’s UEFA Europa League round of 16, first leg victory against Dinamo Zagreb.
Harry Kane came off late in that game after taking a knock to the knee and Jose was asked in his post-match press conference if he expected the striker to be fit for Sunday.
He replied: “I hope so and I believe so. You know, it's a big match. I think only a big problem would stop him from being there, which I don't think it is. Let's see the reaction tomorrow (Friday) but hopefully he’ll be fine.”
Finally, it’s a year to the day (13 March, 2020) that football was suspended due to COVID-19. How did Jose sum up that year? “I think we adapted the best we could, but there is something that there is no way to replace, and that’s a full stadium. I’m not just saying a full stadium at home, I’m also saying a full stadium away. That was always part of our lives, and the thing that changed.
“In the end, with lockdown, without lockdown, we managed to train and since we were able to come to the training ground, since we were allowed to work normally in that bubble, it was just a question of let’s respect the rules and the bubble.
“But the situation with fans, home or away, is something that there is no way to replace or compensate. Even when we’re on the bus, we feel the difference. You are used to being in traffic, used to reactions from the people on the street.
“You arrive at home, you feel it. You go away and arrive at a stadium, you feel it. It starts there. But then you arrive at a game and it’s empty, then during the game, empty. The only thing that helps is the communication with the players, normally they cannot listen to us, now they do. That’s the only thing for us coaches we can say is better. But, come on, I prefer the noise of teams and the emotion of the game.”