Jose Mourinho claims Mikel Arteta has no reason to complain after he responded to the Arsenal manager’s comments about an unfair Tottenham advantage in Sunday’s North London derby.
The local rivals had both been drawn away from home for the Europa League round of 16. But under UEFA rules, two clubs from the same city cannot play on the same day.
That means Spurs will now host Dinamo Zagreb at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on March 11, three days before they head across town to face Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal, as FA Cup holders, were technically prioritised by UEFA – meaning their tie against Olympiacos stays as it was.
But that means the Gunners face a near-3,000 mile round trip to Athens before hosting the derby.
That decision drew an angry reaction from Arteta.
However, Mourinho insists Tottenham were not offered any sympathy when the boot was on the other foot.
“On December 6 we played Arsenal in our stadium. On December 3 they played at home against Rapid Vienna. At the same time we were playing in the ice in Linz with a late flight back. Was that an advantage to Arsenal?”
Mourinho was vowed to put out a strong team for the game, but he says there will be changes from the side that defeated Crystal Palace.
“We won’t play with the same team that beat Palace but any team we put out will be strong,” he said.
“Gio [Lo Celso] is not ready but it’s nothing to do with his previous important injury, from which he’s totally recovered. But with his accumulation of work he’s got a bit of back pain so he’s had to stop what he’s doing. So not for this match. Apart from that, Joe Rodon, who is not registered, everyone is available. Am I going to repeat the team that played against Crystal Palace? No.”
Mourinho explains Bale management
One man who has found top form in recent weeks is Gareth Bale.
The 31-year-old spent much of the first half of the campaign in the treatment room or the bench. Mourinho struggled to get anything out of him, but in recent weeks Bale has been resurgent.
Four goals in his last six games for Tottenham have showed there is still life in his legs. It comes at a good time for Spurs heading into a crucial part of the season.
That has led to renewed speculation that Tottenham could look to make his loan move permanent this summer.
Asked how he manages his game-time and fitness, Mourinho insists there is total trust between the pair.
“I want to keep the momentum going but I need to manage him,” Mourinho added. “The communication is very good and I think he trusts me. In this moment we are deciding together what to do.
“The other day during the match I found Andre Marriner the fourth official was finding it because we were talking so much. I was asking “10 minutes more? 20 minutes?”. He’s playing very well.
“The relationship with him is very good I think and of course I would like him to play 90 minutes in every game but he can’t.”