Tottenham will be feared in the Champions League knockout phases, says Jose Mourinho, who expects to have his squad “much more ready” to compete against the elite by the time February rolls around.
Spurs were beaten 3-1 at the Allianz Arena by Bayern Munich on Wednesday night, with Kinglsey Coman, Thomas Muller and Philippe Coutinho grabbing the goals for the hosts.
Ryan Sessegnon’s first goal for the club was rendered nothing more than a consolation, but Tottenham had already booked their place in the next round as runners-up in Group B.
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Mourinho’s side will learn their last 16 fate when the draw is made in Switzerland on Monday, with a possible tie against Paris Saint Germain, Juventus, Barcelona, Leipzig or Valencia on the cards.
The Portuguese tactician has picked up four wins from his opening six games in charge at Tottenham, with significant improvements being made after the club’s disastrous start to the 2019-20 campaign under previous boss Mauricio Pochettino.
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Mourinho believes that Spurs are already “one of the strongest” teams left in the Champions League and doesn’t think any of the top sides will want to come up against them.
“I think the teams that finished first they wish they don’t play against us,” he told a post-match press conference. “I think we’re one of the strongest teams from the second group.
“I know that we are a country that goes through a crazy period, which many, many times leaves marks on players, teams, on conditions, but by the end of February, I understand my players better, they understand me better. We have two more months of work together and I think we’re going to be much more ready.
“But today wasn’t a question of being or not being ready. Today was the very difficult situation of playing a game and prepare [for] a game where you put more emphasis on the players that rest than on the players that play and the result you are fighting for.
“That’s very difficult and I try to hide from the players that feeling but the players are intelligent guys and they understand clearly my focus was not on today my focus is on what’s next.”
Tottenham suffered a 7-2 defeat at home to Bayern on October 1, but were more competitive against the German champions in the reverse fixture.
Mourinho felt his makeshift team performed well, but he hopes to pit his wits against Bayern again when the stakes are higher in the latter stages of the competition.
“This team is not what I call a team,” he said. “What I call a team is when you work together, you develop principles together. This team we played tonight is a team that is not a perfect puzzle. We just tried to organise a team where we could rest some players and at the same time to give conditions for the more inexperienced people to perform, to have some security.
“I think in the first half, of course, they had chances to score more goals but we were one minute away from going to half time at 1-1. When I play [sub] Heung-min Son, I was going to play Son with the [score] 2-1. We concede one just in a moment where Sonny was coming.
“My wish is we can be back, and if we can be back it has to be for quarter-final or semi-final because we cannot play them in the next round.
“So my wish is to be back for a proper match, a match that we all like.”
Next up for Tottenham is a trip to Molineux to face Wolves in the Premier League on Sunday, before they prepare to host Chelsea seven days later.