Mourinho casts eye on Wolves and Sheffield

Tottenham Hotspur's coach Jose Mourinho reacts during the match between Tottenham Hotspur and Southampton in London, on Feb 5, 2020.
Tottenham Hotspur's coach Jose Mourinho reacts during the match between Tottenham Hotspur and Southampton in London, on Feb 5, 2020.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON • Tottenham Hotspur are edging closer to a top-four spot in the Premier League, but manager Jose Mourinho is wary of Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sheffield United who are among the chasing pack.

Spurs trail fourth-place Chelsea (41) by four points in sixth, and are two behind Sheffield as the battle for a Champions League spot heats up in the final third of the season.

Wolves were on 35 points before their home clash with Leicester City yesterday, and might even leapfrog Tottenham with a win.

Speaking ahead of tomorrow's away trip to Aston Villa, Mourinho said: "Wolves and Sheffield United are fighting for the top four, (the managers) they can say no, but the reality is that they are.

"Not just because of the position that they are in the table, but because of the power and quality."

The Spurs boss believes that shrewd January recruitment has added to the threat of both teams.

Wolves signed Daniel Podence from Olympiacos for £16.6 million (S$30 million) after the winger shone in Champions League group-stage clashes with Spurs, while Sheffield brought in midfielder Sander Berge from Genk for a club-record £22 million.

"Wolves bought an important player to try and improve their situation," Mourinho said. "Sheffield bought an important player and beat their record in the market to try to improve their team.

"It's not just about Tottenham, it's not just about us. These two clubs I have to say... fantastic."

Spurs travel to Villa tomorrow after consecutive league wins, knowing another will move them one point behind Chelsea, who host Manchester United on Monday.

When Mourinho arrived at Spurs in November, the team were in 14th place after 12 games, 12 points behind Chelsea.

WORTHY RIVALS

Wolves and Sheffield United are fighting for the top four, they can say no, but the reality is that they are... because of the power and quality.

JOSE MOURINHO , Tottenham manager, on the race for Champions League spots.

Seven wins and four defeats in their 13 league games since is hardly a spectacular turnaround.

But, with Chelsea stalling and other teams falling away, it has been enough to push Tottenham back in the race for a top-four finish.

It has not been pretty, with Spurs scrambling points unconvincingly, although a smash-and-grab 2-0 home victory over Manchester City in their last league game showed much about the galvanising effect Mourinho has had.

Tottenham, who remain without injured striker Harry Kane, have lost only once in all competitions in the last 12 years against Villa, a 1-0 home defeat in 2015.

If tomorrow's match represents a chance for Spurs to advance their top-four claims, Villa know a win would give them some breathing space in the relegation scrap.

They are one place and one point above the bottom three.

The Villa Park clash will see Mourinho come up against his former Chelsea skipper John Terry, who is cutting his teeth in coaching as Dean Smith's assistant.

Smith said he has been "picking Terry's brains" for some insight into Mourinho's likely tactics.

"There is a lot of mutual respect between Jose and John," he said.

"He's played under Jose twice and they celebrated a lot of success, so that respect is natural."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 15, 2020, with the headline 'Mourinho casts eye on Wolves and Sheffield'. Print Edition | Subscribe