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Tottenham must recover from Champions League heartache for must-win Manchester United clash
Tottenham's Champions League exit is a real low - but somehow Jose Mourinho's team must raise themselves for Manchester United on Sunday to salvage their fading top-four hopes
Last Updated: 11/03/20 11:13pm
In recent weeks Jose Mourinho has made a point of highlighting the key players out injured for Tottenham - but it was their captain and No 1 Hugo Lloris and his all-too-familiar early errors which undermined any hope Spurs had of turning around their Champions League last-16 tie with RB Leipzig.
The France goalkeeper was stuck too deep in his six-yard box to get a firm hand on Marcel Sabitzer's first drive and then made a hash of the same player's near-post shot shortly afterwards.
- Leipzig dominate to knock hapless Spurs out of CL
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With barely 21 minutes on the clock Mourinho's plans were ripped up and Tottenham needed three goals. With their attack shorn of Harry Kane, Heung-Min Son and Steven Bergwijn, they never looked like getting any of those. Emil Forsberg's third for Leipzig merely underlined the gap between the two sides.
It was a sorry way to exit the Champions League after the joy Tottenham and their supporters had taken from the competition under Mauricio Pochettino last season. Now, with Davinson Sanchez, Moussa Sissoko, Ben Davies and Juan Foyth also on the injury list, Spurs are on their knees, out of the cups and with a manager who has already stated his wish for this season to be over.
Spurs are without a win in six. It's the worst streak of Mourinho's coaching career. Lloris may have been at fault on Tuesday, but Tottenham have conceded 38 goals in all competitions since Jose Mourinho took over. Only Aston Villa (42) have a worse total among Premier League sides in that period.
Most goals conceded (all comps, since Jose Mourinho appointed)
|Premier League team||Goals conceded|
Out of form, missing key players, defensive disarray, toothless in attack… But somehow Spurs must find a way to raise themselves for an absolutely decisive game against Mourinho's former club Manchester United on Sunday.
Spurs already trail London rivals and Premier League fourth-placed Chelsea by seven points. Manchester City's potential Champions League ban could mean fifth would be enough for a group-stage spot next season - but Spurs will be seven points off that position, too, if they lose to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's in-form side.
That would leave this injury-hit Spurs side facing a virtually insurmountable gap to overcome, with nine Premier League games to follow that United fixture. Spurs have a favourable run-in, with Leicester the only current top-six side on their schedule after this weekend. But regardless, it is hard to make a case for them putting together a strong enough run.
As a result, defeat on Sunday would all but end Spurs' ambitions for the season - and have ramifications for plans Mourinho has for upgrading his squad in the summer transfer window.
Speaking to the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust last week, chairman Daniel Levy conceded the club's transfer spending will be affected by a failure to qualify for the Champions League. "Funds were ring-fenced for the summer, however not qualifying for the Champions League would have an impact all round," he said.
With Europa League qualifying places potentially stretching down to eighth this season, Spurs are likely to be in Europe next season regardless. But Thursday night football was not the plan when they moved into that gleaming north London stadium, nor when they were gracing the final of the Champions League last June.
Just hours after they crashed out of Europe's elite club competition, Mourinho must somehow find a way to motivate his downbeat squad to go again on Sunday, to salvage their hopes of competing at the top table again next time around.
But motivation is just one element to the contest. Given United's impressive defeat of Manchester City last weekend - which combined organisation in defence, creativity in midfield from Bruno Fernandes and a growing confidence in attack - Spurs face a huge challenge to match United for quality on the field. Those three positives of United's derby win are traits badly lacking in this Spurs side right now.
Dele Alli was brutally honest when he said after the defeat to Leipzig that, despite the injuries, Spurs still have quality players available who are not performing. Come Sunday, they must step up.
Watch Tottenham v Man Utd live on Sky Sports Premier League from 4pm on Sunday; kick-off is 4.30pm.