LONDON (AP) — Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho downplayed the severity of Liverpool’s list of absentees ahead of the teams’ top-of-the-table match in the Premier League, saying Tuesday the champion’s only “big injury” is Virgil van Dijk.
Liverpool will be without defenders Van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Kostas Tsimikas and midfielders James Milner, Thiago Alcantara, Diogo Jota and Xherdan Shaqiri for the game at Anfield on Wednesday. Midfielder Naby Keita and Joel Matip, Liverpool’s other senior center back, are doubtful.
However, Mourinho said Liverpool’s first-choice lineup has not been seriously affected, suggesting Van Dijk is the team’s only major absentee.
“Van Dijk is injured and Van Dijk is a very good player, of course,” Mourinho said. “But give me Liverpool’s list of injuries and compare that list with what is the best Liverpool team.
“I can give you a list of 10 injuries at Tottenham. We have two kids (from) the under-16s with injuries, we have two others in the under-21s and two in the under-23s, we have (Erik) Lamela and (Japhet) Tanganga. And here is a list of 10 players.”
While Milner, Tsimikas and Shaqiri are purely back-up players at Liverpool this season, the same cannot be said of Gomez, who has established himself as the first-choice partner for Van Dijk in central defense. Both have long-term knee injuries.
Then there’s Jota and Alcantara, offseason signings who have forced their way into Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp’s thinking.
Jota has started ahead of Roberto Firmino for some big games already, while Alcantara — one of the world’s best central midfielders — likely would have played a major role in the early part of the season had he not been initially short of match fitness and then injured after a late foul in the Merseyside derby he started.
“Every club has injuries now and again,” Mourinho said. “Liverpool has a big injury. Which is Van Dijk.”
Tottenham headed into the 13th round of games in first place, ahead of Liverpool on goal difference, after going 11 games unbeaten since the opening weekend of the season.
Klopp has praised Mourinho for the work he has done at Spurs, saying his counterpart has turned them into a “results machine.”
Mourinho, though, said his side’s results have occurred over too short a time frame for that to be true, and that Tottenham is still behind Liverpool in its development.
“Jurgen says that because if you look (at) our results this season, we lost one in the Premier League and we lost one in the Europa League so our results are very positive,” Mourinho said.
“But I think it’s too early, and the period of good results is about a few months and a results machine of course is much more than that. A results machine is what Liverpool has been for the past couple of years, a results machine was what my Chelsea was in the period we won the two consecutive titles.”
Liverpool, Mourinho said, “is the result of, if I’m not wrong, 1,894 days of work with Jurgen.”
“We are the result of work of 390 days,” he added, “but these 390 days are fake, because probably lots of these days were not even days of work but days of quarantine, days of being at home unable to work.
“So from almost 2,000 to 300. For us to be able to compete at the level we’re doing I can only give credit to the players and be very, very happy with what they’re doing.”
Tottenham is likely to be without Gareth Bale at Anfield as the Wales international is suffering from an illness.