Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho has rubbished rival manager Mikel Arteta’s claim that Spurs have been handed an unfair advantage when they take on Arsenal in the north London derby.
The two teams go head-to-head at the Emirates on Sunday but before that they both play in the Europa League on Thursday night, with Spurs drawn against Dinamo Zagreb and Arsenal taking on Olympiakos.
Tottenham had been drawn away for the first leg, but UEFA rules dictate that two clubs from the same city cannot play on the same day – even with no supporters currently allowed.
Due to their FA Cup victory, Arsenal were given priority for their fixture to be unchanged – with a home match in the second leg generally more favourable – and so Spurs’ dates were swapped around.
Instead of travelling to Croatia on Thursday, Tottenham will now play at home, but the Gunners face a near-3,000 mile round trip to Athens just three days before the derby. Arteta was clear that he felt Spurs had been given an advantage by the decision, saying last week:
‘We can raise our voices and we should do that, because we want to have two teams playing in equal conditions.’
But Mourinho has rejected Arteta’s claims that Tottenham have been given an advantage and pointed to their previous meeting in December, when the situation was reversed but Spurs came out on top in a 2-0 win.
Asked if playing at home against Zagreb benefits Spurs going into the derby, Mourinho replied: ‘On December 6, we played against Arsenal in our stadium. On December 3, Arsenal played at home against Rapid Vienna.
Spurs beat Arsenal in their first meeting earlier this season.
‘At the same time, we were playing in the ice in Linz against LASK Linz.
We landed in London at 3am. Was that an advantage for Arsenal?’ Mourinho has largely gone with a second string XI for his Europa League matches and is likely to again pick a heavily rotated team, despite now being in the latter stages of the tournament.
He added: ‘Am I going to repeat the same team that played against Crystal Palace? No, I’m going to make a few changes, but everybody is training well, pushing to play.
So for me, it doesn’t matter who plays, our team is going to be strong.’