Fixture pile-up may stretch Spurs' squad from the start

Jose Mourinho’s side will start their European campaign on September 17, just five days after the new Premier League season gets underway

Thursday, 6th August 2020 — By Steve Barnett

Jose Mourinho

IF you were to ask Spurs fans which club irks them the most, the answer of whether it’s Arsenal or Chelsea would probably change about 60 times a minute.

Yes, there’s the north London derby, sparked by a team of south Londoners moving into Tottenham’s territory and going on to cast an unwelcome shadow over the club. And we all know how the New Journal’s Richard Osley does his very best to tip the scales in the Gunners’ favour every week.

But Tottenham and Chelsea share a rivalry all of their own. It’s one that, in recent history, is often more spicy than the games against Arsenal.

What is for sure is that there’s a deep hatred for both, so for diehard Spurs supporters Saturday’s FA Cup final would have been a nightmare – it was a real lose-lose situation.

While it pains them to admit it, however, at Wembley there was only one logical choice: they wanted the west London blues to win.

As if watching (well, maybe hearing about it, for those Spurs fans who couldn’t actually watch) a rejuvenated Gunners battle back from a goal down to grab the silverware wasn’t bad enough, the victory directly impacts their team.

Arsenal’s Wembley win means that, despite finishing above their rivals in the Premier League, Tottenham must now tackle a qualification campaign to reach the Europa League group stages.

Jose Mourinho’s side will face long-distance hauls to places like Belarus, Estonia, the Faroe Islands, Kazakhstan or Montenegro as they take part in the second round of qualifying.

They will now be starting their European campaign on September 17, just five days after the new Premier League season gets underway, and some five weeks before Arsenal kick-off their Europa fixtures.

All those extra miles and minutes on the pitch will test Tottenham’s fitness levels and luck with injuries.

On the plus side, against the so-called bigger teams Mourinho has abandoned predecessor Mauricio Pochettino’s high-press game in favour of sitting deep and playing on the counter-attack – a tactic that could pay off in the final energy-sapping weeks of what promises to be a long, long season.

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