Jose Mourinho has refused to write off Tottenham’s hopes of reaching the Champions League quarter-finals after their 1-0 home defeat by RB Leipzig on Wednesday night, insisting that his team’s spirit will give them a chance of overcoming their selection crisis in attack.
Spurs could be without Son Heung-min and Harry Kane for the rest of the season, leaving them desperately short of options, and they played without any strikers against the Bundesliga outfit.
The visitors dominated the first leg of their last-16 tie from start to finish. But with only a second-half penalty from Timo Werner separating both sides, Mourinho feels his team can mount a comeback when they visit Leipzig for the reverse fixture on March 10.
“1-0 is 1-0,” the Spurs manager said. “It is not 10-0. The result is open. It is as simple as that.
“We wouldn’t be the first team to lose 1-0 at home and to win the tie away. Why shouldn’t we do it?”
While the Portuguese was forced to use Lucas Moura as a makeshift striker and had to throw on a barely fit Erik Lamela, his only attacking player on the bench, he praised his players for coping manfully.
Highlighting his team’s paucity in attack, he said: “This is our situation, it’s like going to a fight with a gun without bullets.
“Lamela, do you know how many training sessions he had with the team? Zero. Direct from injury to 20 minutes of a game in the Champions League.
“Lucas and (Steven) Bergwijn, what you saw in the end were two very tired players.
“The thing that keeps me confident is the spirit, the mentality of my players. We are in a very difficult situation so I am so, so proud of the players. What worries me is this is going to be the situation until the end of the season.
The next match against Leipzig, the one thing I can guarantee is that, even if I don’t know who playing in attack, we are going there to fight.”
Mourinho also sought to play down Dele Alli angrily throwing a water bottle and one of his boots to the turf after being taken off midway through the second half.
“He was angry with his performance, not with me,” he said.
“I took him off and the team improved.”
With Kane and Son out for the second leg, Leipzig will be favourites to reach the quarter-finals for the first time in what is only their second foray into the competition.
However, coach Julian Nagelsmann believes Spurs, even if weakened, are not a team to be taken lightly. He was also slightly disappointed not to have taken a bigger lead to Germany as “we could have won by more”.
Werner, who now has 26 goals in all competitions this term, agreed with his boss, saying: “There’s still a lot to do in Leipzig.
“Tottenham is a good team, they showed last year (by reaching the final) that mentally, they can come back and we have to do the same like today.”
In Milan, debutants Atalanta hammered Valencia 4-1 in the first leg to take a giant step towards the last eight of the competition.