Jose Mourinho says delivering Champions League football for Tottenham next season would be among his greatest managerial achievements as he battles what he calls the worst injury crisis in Europe.
The Portuguese boss, whose Spurs fifth-placed side face Chelsea on Saturday, previously claimed that finishing second in the Premier League with Manchester United in 2017/18 was his best feat despite winning league titles in four different countries and a pair of Champions League trophies at Porto and Inter Milan.
Mourinho is being forced to play the remaining quarter of the season without a recognised striker as Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, who has undergone successful surgery on a broken arm, are injured.
The two forwards have scored half of Spurs’ goals this season and their absence means Mourinho will have to be creative at Stamford Bridge on Saturday in a crucial battle against Chelsea, who sit in the final Champions League place, one point ahead of his team.
“In these circumstances, yes,” said Mourinho when asked on Friday whether finishing in the top-four would out-rank his second-placed finish with United.
“We have to face that. Again I repeat the boys did fantastic to put themselves back in the positions where we belong, these positions fighting for the top four.
“The situation is difficult. I think nobody else in the Premier League for sure, but even in European football is in such a difficult situation as we are in terms of injuries in specific positions.
“So yes, not for me, my achievement, but collectively for this group of boys, if we manage to finish fourth without Harry and Sonny it would be something incredible, incredible achievement for the boys.”
– Chelsea return –
As it stands, a fifth-placed finish would guarantee Champions League football next season because Manchester City, in second, have been banned from Europe’s elite competition for two years.
City hope to have their appeal against the ban heard by the Court of Arbitration for Sport before the start of next season.
There is some better injury news for Spurs as midfielder Moussa Sissoko is back training on grass following a knee operation. Mourinho expects him to be back for the end of March.
Mourinho makes his first appearance at Stamford Bridge as Spurs manager on Saturday and he said he was expecting “the usual” reaction in the London derby.
Support for the former Chelsea boss appears to have waned in recent years, though Mourinho is hardly enthusiastic about going back himself.
Asked whether returning to the club where he won three Premier League titles was special, he said: “No, not special, one more game.
“Because I’m a professional, as I’ve said every time I played my previous clubs, I’ll belong 200 percent to my club. That’s it.
“The only different thing will be at the end of the game I can walk from the stadium to my house but even that I won’t take advantage of because I’ll go back from the stadium with my players.”