EPL

Tottenham's top-four hopes do not rest on Everton clash, insists Mourinho

By Sports Desk April 15, 2021

Jose Mourinho insists Tottenham's hopes of a top-four Premier League finish will not be over if they fail to beat Everton on Friday. 

Sunday's 3-1 home defeat to Manchester United left Spurs in seventh, six points adrift of fourth-placed West Ham. 

That result meant Tottenham have dropped 18 points from winning positions in the Premier League this season, with only Brighton and Hove Albion (20) losing more. 

They will hope to bounce back from that disappointment against an Everton side who are also in the hunt for a Champions League qualification spot, with Carlo Ancelotti's men just a point and a place behind Spurs, having played a game less. 

Mourinho acknowledged it is an important game for both sides, but the Portuguese believes there is ample time for Spurs to claw their way back into top-four contention if they do not return to London with all three points. 

"We are very close, but there are more clubs around, with a few more points, some others with a few less," he said.

"With more than 20 points on the table, it's still open. The winner gets the points and stops the loser. 

"Understandably, I don't think anything is going to be decided but if one of the two teams wins and gets an advantage that can be important in the direct duel, not in relation to all the others around.

"This match is very important as the distance between the two teams is very short. Of course, they have one match in hand. 

"The distance is short. They have similar objectives. They are going to fight with us to try and get the best possible position and see if we and them can get a European position. It's an important match."

Tottenham are unbeaten in their last seven away league games against Everton (W3 D4), while the Toffees have won just one of their last eight Premier League home games (D2 L5).

Despite this, Mourinho is well aware of the threat they pose to his side. 

"They are going in the right direction," he added. "They've got a big coach; one of the best in the world. They've got important players and they've got a very good squad. It's just the beginning for them. 

"Of course, this Everton is different from previous seasons. Nobody better than Carlo. I see a very good future. They have everything. They didn't play in Europe, they had complete weeks to work and develop. 

"They can play in different systems. They have talent in attack. Quality in midfield. Physicality behind. They have a tactical culture. They have a very good combination."

Related items

  • Iniesta driving Vissel Kobe as ambitious Japanese side dream of becoming kings of Asia Iniesta driving Vissel Kobe as ambitious Japanese side dream of becoming kings of Asia

    Andres Iniesta arrived at Vissel Kobe amid plenty of fanfare in May 2018.

    One of the most successful players in Barcelona's history, having won LaLiga nine times and four Champions League crowns among his haul of 35 trophies, Iniesta was brought to Vissel to deliver silverware.

    Up until his arrival three years ago, Vissel had never won a trophy but during the Spain great's time in Kobe, the ambitious Rakuten-backed outfit have won the Emperor's Cup (2019) and Japanese Super Cup (2020).

    Vissel also qualified for the AFC Champions League for the first time in their 55-year history in 2020, reaching the semi-finals.

    Iniesta and Vissel are on track to feature in the Champions League again – Atsuhiro Miura's men are third in the J1 League this season and on course for their best finish in the top flight, three points clear of Nagoya Grampus in the race for the final qualification spot ahead of Sunday's showdown – as they seek to become kings of Asia.

    "The team have been saying we want to become the number one team in Asia so the first big goal is to win the Asian Champions League," Vissel defender Leo Osaki told Stats Perform about the project in Japan.

    "Of course we have to win the J1 League, we can't just be focused on the Champions League. But the biggest goal right now is to win the Champions League. We just have to finish third and hope we can play for the Champions League next season."

    When Iniesta swapped Camp Nou to join captain Lukas Podolski at Kobe Wing Stadium, it brought more eyes onto the club and attracted a host of stars the following year.

    Spain's all-time leading scorer David Villa, former Arsenal and Barcelona defender Thomas Vermaelen and Sergi Samper all followed Iniesta to Kobe.

    Vissel's investment in Iniesta paid off in 2019 after conquering Kashima Antlers for their first ever piece of silverware before overcoming 2019 J1 League champions Yokohama F.Marinos on penalties in the Japanese Super Cup in 2020.

    Since his debut, Iniesta has showed no signs of slowing down, with the 37-year-old maestro boasting 175 completed dribbles (second in the J1 League) and a 64 per cent success rate (third among at least 100 attempts) to go with 164 created chances (fifth) in 81 league appearances.

    In total, captain Iniesta has scored 17 goals and supplied 17 assists to spearhead Vissel's cause under the ownership of Rakuten, who continue to dream big after buying the team from the Crimson Group in 2014.

    "He didn't come here to finish his career. He came to win and you can see it in the training and locker room," Osaki said, with Vissel's 2021 squad including Vermaelen, Bojan Krkic and Samper. "I think bringing him into the team opened the path for other world-class players to come in and it attracted a lot of people to watch the J1 League and Vissel Kobe. In that point of view, it gave the team a positive reaction.

    "For him playing with us, since the first day he came, there was a positive reaction. Watching him from behind, it's a dream come true because most of us were just watching him on TV.

    "Playing wise, he demands a lot from everybody, not just players next to him but behind him, goalkeeper and strikers. In our bad times, he tries to talk to players and motivate them so the team doesn't fall apart.

    "Winning that title changed everything in a good way," Osaki added. "Since it was the first title in the club's history, that boosted the confidence for everyone. Also the expectations got higher. Winning those two titles changed a lot."

    "I think we haven't accomplished anything, so the job isn't finished. We have to play in the Champions League and become the number one team in Asia. We've made progress in terms of getting two titles. The team had never won any titles, so that was big progress," the 30-year-old said.

    "Playing in the Champions League gave us experience and confidence, which has helped us this season. In the Champions League, we didn't end up winning but I think that experience gave us confidence and that's why we are in this position now."

    Since Iniesta's arrival, Vissel have ranked third in the J1 League in possession (57.2 per cent), passing accuracy (85.5 per cent) and shooting accuracy (47.3 per cent), while they have outperformed their expected goals (xG) value of 171.4 by scoring 183 goals – the fourth most in that span.

    "Bringing in Andres and all those world-class players always gives a positive reaction to the team but at the same time, fans are like 'you have these players, so you have to win'. But football isn't that easy," he added.

    "Of course we have quality players and we play with 11 players, but it's a team sport. It takes time. Fans can't wait, they want results instantly. We struggled in the beginning and we were focused on possession and everything but now we are probably 50 per cent counter-attack and 50 per cent possession - and we started getting results."

    He added: "I think sometimes we focus on the project too much in the past. Of course, we want to play out from the back, press the ball and dominate the game but sometimes we focus on that too much. At times we had 60-70 per cent possession but we couldn't get results or win. We're still working on that actually, playing out of the back. We kind of added a different kind of style, just go forward at times.

    "Now, we're focused more on the result. At times we play good and at times we don't, but still focusing on the result is keeping us in this position now."

  • Moyes not revising ambition after West Ham's perfect Europa League start Moyes not revising ambition after West Ham's perfect Europa League start

    West Ham manager David Moyes is refusing to get carried away with his side's perfect start to the Europa League and insists his goal remains qualifying for the knockout stages.

    The Hammers made it three wins from three games in Group H after defeating Belgian club Genk 3-0 at home on Thursday, following victories over Dinamo Zagreb and Rapid Vienna.

    West Ham are only the second English side to win each of their first three group games in a single Europa League campaign without conceding a goal, alongside Tottenham in 2013-14.

    The last team from any nation to achieve this was Sevilla who eventually won the competition in 2019-20 but Moyes would not be drawn on any comparisons.

    "I'm keeping relatively calm because we've got to go to Genk away and Vienna away," Moyes during his post-game news conference. "I'm not going to take anything for granted.

    "I said I want to be in Europe after Christmas. That's my plan for this year. We need another couple of points to qualify, not to win the group but if we can get that it would be a great start.

    "The players have done a brilliant job. They really have. We've not won any of them easily. They've all been tough. The games have been close, even though we've been the better team in all three of the games. We've got to keep working to get those extra points to make sure we qualify."

    West Ham's first two goals against Genk came from set pieces, with Craig Dawson and Issa Diop heading home from Aaron Cresswell's free-kicks.

    Cresswell has assisted eight goals from dead-ball situations in all competitions since the start of the season, more than any other Premier League player.

    Dawson has netted five goals in all club competitions this calendar year, which is equal best for any Premier League defender along with Manchester City's John Stones.

    Angelo Ogbonna nodded in the winner from a Jarrod Bowen set-piece in Sunday's Premier League win over Everton too.

    "It may be more effective in European football," Moyes said when asked about his side's set-piece threat. "The Premier League has got a lot of strong defences, and attackers who can defend set-pieces.

    "Up until Everton, I’m not sure we had scored this season from a set-piece, so it is not as if we have been doing it every game but thankfully we got the winning goal at Everton and tonight as well.

    "Craig Dawson is excellent at it, Issa Diop gets a goal tonight from it as well. Our centre-halves are the players on top scoring goals at the moment so I am happy with that and long may that continue."

  • Gerrard: Rangers close to perfect after kick-starting Europa League campaign Gerrard: Rangers close to perfect after kick-starting Europa League campaign

    Steven Gerrard says Rangers were close to perfect as they claimed an important victory over Brondby in the Europa League.

    First-half goals from Leon Balogun and Kemar Roofe sealed a 2-0 win at Ibrox – and the hosts' first points of this season's competition.

    That helped Gerrard's team move off the bottom of Group A at the halfway stage, while closing the gap on second-placed Sparta Prague to just a single point.

    The Rangers boss admitted the pressure was on his side, who began their campaign with defeats against Sparta and runaway leaders Lyon.

    But he was ultimately delighted with the way his players rose to the occasion on Thursday.

    "I thought it was a strong home performance in Europe," Gerrard told BT Sport.

    "We've kick-started our Europa League campaign. The first two results haven't been good enough, which put a lot of pressure on us tonight.

    "But we've got to go and replicate this performance and result [away at Brondby] in a couple of weeks' time.

    "I thought the fans were magnificent. The game plan we set out to do, the players have delivered.

    "It's really close to the performance we're looking for. 

    "We've played well for halves and 60 minutes, but tonight was really close to a perfect 90-minute performance."

    Gerrard also hailed the display of Joe Aribo, who provided a constant threat to the reigning Danish Superliga champions with his pace and power.

    No Rangers player was involved in more duels (15) than the winger, who also completed 58 of his 62 passes and only James Tavernier (111) among the hosts' team bettered his tally of 93 touches.

    The 25-year-old has recently been linked with a move away from Ibrox, with Gerrard admitting it will be difficult to retain his services should he continue to perform to a high level. 

    "He's a great kid; he wants to learn and he wants to grow," the Rangers boss added.

    "What I've said to Joe is: 'you're a much better player when you play angry in a nice way. You're a big strong lad; go and put yourself about' and when he does, he's a joy to watch.

    "I thought his first 45-minute performance was outstanding. That's probably the reason why he tired a little bit, but he's played a lot and he's been away on international duty [with Nigeria]. 

    "But if he can find that performance consistently over 90 minutes, we'll be lucky to keep hold of him."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.