EPL

Mourinho won't 'play that game' and discuss Kane future

By Sports Desk April 02, 2021

Jose Mourinho refused to "play that game" as his media conference ahead of Tottenham's clash with Newcastle United was dominated by questions about Harry Kane's future.

Tottenham head into Sunday's meeting at St James' Park knowing they can ill-afford a slip-up against the relegation-threatened Magpies as they pursue a place in the Premier League's top four and Champions League qualification.

Despite their position in the table - sixth, three points behind fourth-placed Chelsea - talisman Kane, rather than a return to Europe's elite club competition, was the primary topic of conversation as Mourinho spoke with reporters.

Kane is under contract until 2024 but has recently said he will not decide his future until after this year's rescheduled European Championship, for which England are among the favourites.

He was on target in England's wins over Albania and Poland as the Three Lions followed up an emphatic victory over San Marino to take maximum points from their opening 2022 World Cup qualifying fixtures.

Kane netted in his last game for Spurs, a 2-0 win at Aston Villa, and Mourinho is more interested in him replicating that display rather than any talk about a possible transfer.

"I cannot play that game," he replied when asked about speculation surrounding Kane. 

"I have to focus on what he is for us, of course I'm always pleased when my players go to national teams and they do well.

"I'm happy he does well for England, but I cannot play that game of what the people say, doesn't say. I focus on what he did for us in the last match against Villa, I focus on the effort that I saw him put on the pitch for England and I focus on the match against Newcastle, he will be there for the team and that's where I have to focus.

"I don't know if he always has a smile, I know that he is professional. I'm very pleased to have him and I repeat I'm happy to see him and all the other guys when they go to national teams, when they do well, come back after a positive result.

"He's living a good period, he's doing well for club and country. Ahead of him until the end of the season he has nice challenges, a [EFL Cup] final, a Premier League to fight for every point then he has a Euros with a possibility to play a final at Wembley. He has to be happy with the moment he's living.

"I want Harry to be with us. I want Harry to repeat against Newcastle the same performance that he had against Aston Villa. The same commitment, same desire, same team spirit, leadership, that's what I want. I know that I'm going to have that."

Kane will likely have Son Heung-min back for company on Spurs' forward line against Newcastle, Mourinho confirming the South Korea star is fit enough to be selected having not played since sustaining a thigh injury in the North London derby defeat to Arsenal on March 14.

"[Son] is good. He will be selected. He was injured, he trained with the team fully for the first time this morning," added Mourinho. 

"Yesterday he was coming to do partial exercises, not a complete session. This morning was the first day he did it. Last week he didn't train at all, it was impossible for him to play international. It would be impossible if the game was yesterday.

"This time was a good time for him to recover from injury. In this moment we have [Matt] Doherty and Ben Davies out, apart from that, everyone is fit to play."

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    Ronald Koeman insisted Barcelona remain upbeat and optimistic in their pursuit of the LaLiga title, despite suffering Clasico pain at the hands of Real Madrid.

    Barca left the Spanish capital emptyhanded after Karim Benzema and Toni Kroos guided defending champions Madrid to a 2-1 win on Saturday.

    Oscar Mingueza set up a dramatic final half-hour with his second goal of the season for Barca, while Madrid midfielder Casemiro was sent off in the 90th minute.

    But Madrid held on at a sodden Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium to seal a third consecutive win against Barca in all competitions for the first time since 1978 as they provisionally moved top of the table, with Atletico Madrid in action on Sunday.

    Barca are third and a point off the pace, though they could fall four points adrift if Atletico beat Real Betis.

    "Of course we're still upbeat and optimistic because we've produced a serious performance," Barca head coach Koeman told reporters. "We are fighting.

    "We lost a match against a team who are fighting to win the league but there are nine matches and all the matches are important for the three best teams.

    "It's difficult for all three of us. We will come back, we will fight until the last match."

    Barca attempted 12 shots in total in the second half, three of those on target, and nearly snatched a point when Ilaix Moriba struck the crossbar in the 94th minute.

    But, Koeman became the first Barcelona coach to lose his first two LaLiga games against Madrid since Joaquim Rife in 1980 (also the first two).

    Koeman could not hide his frustration post-match, having felt his side should have had a penalty when substitute Martin Braithwaite went down in the box under pressure from Ferland Mendy.

    The former Netherlands boss said: "I'm not the only person who's upset about the decision, or lack of decision.

    "The players feel disappointed because of this decision by the referee to not give the penalty and there's players who have been playing for years for Barcelona, so I know. But once again not all decisions were right.

    "You should ask the players but I would like to include myself. We know that we've played a good match football wise, the first part, the first half, ok, we were not up to our standards. Real Madrid defended very well in the first half.

    "There's no [league] match next week and the title [Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao] is at stake. We have a week to prepare for a difficult match so we'll carry on and we are strong."

    Lionel Messi, meanwhile, failed to score in seven consecutive Clasicos in all competitions for the first time in his career.

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    New Barca president Joan Laporta remains determined to re-sign Messi, who has spent his entire senior career at Camp Nou.

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    "We hope he decides to stay at Barcelona and plays many more Clasicos with Barcelona." 

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    The six-time Ballon d'Or winner has now gone seven Clasicos in all competitions without scoring – the longest drought of his career against Los Blancos.

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    Real Madrid prevailed 2-1 over Barcelona in a rain-soaked and chaotic Clasico in the Spanish capital.

    Saturday's showdown proved a contrasting story for the two star forwards on display as Zinedine Zidane's men replaced city rivals Atletico Madrid at the top of LaLiga.

    There were also a couple of moments of history before a red card in a frantic finale.

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    Seven not heaven for Messi

    Lionel Messi had seven attempts on goal, including when he hit the post with an audacious effort directly from a corner towards the end of the first half.

    No Barcelona player had more shots, but Messi could not find a way through in what could potentially be his final tangle with Madrid in this famous fixture.

    The six-time Ballon d'Or winner has now gone seven Clasicos in all competitions without scoring – the longest drought of his career against Los Blancos.

    Simply the Benz

    At the head of Madrid's attack, Karim Benzema simply cannot stop scoring, irrespective of the opponents.

    His sensational backheel flick to convert Lucas Vazquez's 13th-minute cross was a finish that is sure to be cherished for years to come.

    Benzema has now scored in his past seven LaLiga games, netting nine times overall during this period.

    The Frenchman is the fourth Madrid player in the 21st century to have scored in seven consecutive top-flight outings after Ruud van Nistelrooy, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale.

    Kroos ends dead ball torpor

    From Ronaldo to David Beckham, Madrid have rarely been shy of free-kick specialists.

    It comes as a surprise, therefore, that Toni Kroos' strike on Saturday made him the first player in white to score a direct free-kick in El Clasico this century.

    Sure, it deflected off Sergino Dest and bounced off Jordi Alba's head on the goal line, but they all count. Right, Toni?

    Mignueza opens his account

    Oscar Mingueza endured a torrid first half as Vinicius Junior ran him ragged, but the Barcelona defender bounced back after the break.

    Mingueza appeared in the Madrid penalty area to convert when substitute Antoine Griezmann dummied Alba's cross.

    The previous Barca defender to score on his first appearance in El Clasico was Marc Bartra in the 2014 Copa de Rey final.

    Ref on Casemiro's case

    Mingueza was also involved in another key moment, when Casemiro fouled him outside the Madrid box in the final minute of normal time.

    That earned the combative Brazilian his second booking and only the second sending off of his Madrid career.

    During this time, Casemiro has committed 478 fouls in all competitions. All in all, not a bad ratio.

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