‘Sad’ Mourinho highlights Europa League route to Champions League after West Ham defeat

The Spurs boss concedes his side face a real battle if they are to finish in the top four this season

Jose Mourinho has hinted he now sees winning the Europa League as Tottenham’s best chance of qualifying for the Champions League next season after their top four ambitions were deal at further blow with defeat at West Ham.

Goals from Michail Antonio and Jesse Lingard earned all three points for the Hammers, who moved above Chelsea into fourth place.

In contrast, Spurs are down in ninth, nine points adrift of the top four, with Lucas Moura’s header not enough to prevent a fifth defeat in six Premier League matches.

What did Mourinho say?

When asked after the game about Tottenham’s European chances, Mourinho told Sky Sports: “It is very difficult to think about top four. The top four, five, six teams, they are getting points. It is going to be very, very hard.

“The Europa League is a great motivation. Its not easy, but a great motivation because it can be a way to get a Champions League spot and at the same time a trophy.”

Mourinho softened that stance when speaking to reporters shortly after, insisting that he had not given up on a top four spot.

“It is mathematically possible. When it is mathematically possible, it is realistic,” he added.

“Very hard, yes, very hard, but mathematically possible.

“You sometimes need also a little bit of luck to go in your favour. I believe that if this team wins a couple of matches in a row, that the situation can change, and that we can still fight for top four.

“Of course if you say nine points now, it is difficult, but is very possible.

“And the Europa League. We are alive, and when we are alive, knowing that [there are] many difficult opponents, and everybody has the same ambition that we have, but Europa League is a window of opportunity that is open for us, and maybe we can also get to Champions League through the Europa League.”

Mourinho rues bad luck against the Hammers

Mourinho felt his side deserved to get something out of the game against West Ham but saw his side denied by a resolute Hammers back line.

They were also left to rue some misfortune as Gareth Bale saw his shot hit the bar before a looping effort from Son Heung-Min in stoppage-time struck the post.

“I feel sad, obviously. I feel the result should have been a different one from what we played, especially in the second half,” said Mourinho.

“That is my feeling and a little bit of deja vu. because their defensive line was brilliant. Their centre-backs cleared everything and gave us a very difficult match.

“We started the game with a defensive mistake and started the second half with another one. And when you are punished with these goals then it is difficult.”

The bigger picture

Tottenham were top of the Premier League in November but have suffered an alarming drop-off in form since the turn of the year to slip down into mid-table.

Their loss at London Stadium was Tottenham’s sixth defeat in their last eight games in all competitions, including a 5-4 extra-time defeat by Everton in the FA Cup.

They look certain for a place in the last-16 of the Europa League after a 4-1 first-leg win over Wolfsberger last week, but know they will face intense competition if they are to go all the way.

Premier League rivals Manchester United, Arsenal and Leicester, as well as the likes of Ajax, AC Milan, Roma are all still in the tournament.

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