Mourinho: Tottenham will fear no one in Europa League knockout

Spurs have already qualified for the next round but will top Group J if they beat Royal Antwerp tonight which, in theory, provides an easier tie once into the knockout stages.

Mourinho, who has questioned his squad’s attitude to the group stages of the competition, says it is not “fundamental” that they leapfrog their Belgian visitors, who go into the game two points ahead of the north Londoners, to finish top.

“We did our job to qualify in the first five matches and now in one game at home, with 2,000 fans behind us, we have the chance to play one game to try to win the group,” said Mourinho.

“Is that fundamental? I don’t think it is. I don’t think we should be afraid of playing any team in the next phase, but of course normally the teams that win the groups are the best teams so if you can avoid them in the next draw I think it will be an advantage?”

Going into the knockout stages, Tottenham could be drawn against one of the sides who drop down from the Champions League having failed to qualify from their groups in the top tier competition.

Those teams include Mourinho’s former club Manchester United, something which doesn’t sit well with the Portuguese, though Spurs could not meet them until the last-16, with clubs from the same country kept apart in the first knockout round.

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“It’s a point of principle, and if it happened to my team, I would feel exactly the same,” said Mourinho, who has named United as one of the favourites for the Europa League now they have dropped down.

“It is the way it is and honestly it brings more quality to the competition. We cannot forget that, when you have eight new teams in the competition and eight teams that belong to another level, and they drop to the Europa League of course the level of the competition is going to improve. 

“No doubt the quality improves, the intensity improves and it’s a good thing for the competition. But from the sports point of view is when I think it’s not fair that a team that doesn’t succeed in one competition drops to another.

“It’s the same thing as if you imagine the third team in the Europa League now there is another competition and third in Europa League instead of finishing goes into the third competition in the hierarchy in European football. It’s just a principle in football when if for some reason we don’t succeed unlucky, next season. But it’s the way it is and it’s not a problem for me.”

Mourinho will be without right-back Serge Aurier who played with a problem against Arsenal on Sunday and is suffering the ramifications, while Pierre-Emile Hojberg will be rested. Having been ruled out against Arsenal, Tanguy Ndombele is available once more.

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