Jose Mourinho knows Tottenham must hit the ground running as a manic start to the new season begins with Sunday’s match against Everton.
With Spurs entering the Europa League in the qualifying rounds, Mourinho’s men could potentially have nine fixtures scheduled across three competitions before next month’s international break.
Yet the coach is determined to maintain a challenge on all fronts, even if the thought of putting his squad through such a gruelling stretch is a painful one.
“If I think too much about it, I don’t know how to answer and I will get depressed,” Mourinho said. “I don’t want to get depressed. I want to go to the match with a smile and be positive.
“I had a challenge with my boys: who can play all nine matches for 90 minutes? No one said ‘I can’.
“It’s a big risk in terms of our ambitions – lose one of these matches and you go out. It is unique, it has never happened. If we decide that one of these competitions is not important then we go against the ambitions of the club. We have ambitions and our rights to fight for these competitions.”
Spurs have a tough start, too, against an Everton side who have been boosted by the signings of James Rodriguez, Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure in midfield.
Carlo Ancelotti is now targeting European qualification after a disappointing 12th-placed Premier League finish last term.
“I think the goal that we want to achieve is to fight for the first position of the Premier League, to be able to reach Europe next season,” Ancelotti said. “The goal is quite clear. We have this desire, this ambition. And I think we can [qualify].”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Tottenham – Harry Kane
Tottenham have seen recent campaigns rocked by injuries to Kane at key moments. If they are to challenge for Champions League qualification this term, they need their talismanic forward fit and firing. He enjoys playing Everton.
Everton – James Rodriguez
Ancelotti has a big call to make on his first XI of the season, but there is no doubting the man who Everton fans want to see. Rodriguez has been tipped as the signing of the season by some and a potential flop by others. His first Premier League appearance will be intriguing.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Spurs are unbeaten in each of their past 15 Premier League matches against Everton (8-7-0) since a 2-1 defeat back in December 2012 under Andre Villas-Boas.
– This is the 11th time Tottenham and Everton have met on matchday one of a top-flight season – three times more than any other fixture.
– Mourinho has managed more games on opening day without losing than any other manager in Premier League history, winning nine and drawing one of those 10 matches.
– Kane has scored nine goals in his past nine Premier League appearances against Everton. He has only scored more top-flight goals against Arsenal (10) and Leicester City (14).
– Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford has conceded more Premier League goals against Tottenham than he has versus any other side in the competition (22). The England man has not kept a clean sheet in his eight top-flight appearances against Spurs.