José Mourinho tells Tottenham to dare in pursuit of shock win over RB Leipzig

José Mourinho laughed. What else could he do? The alternative was to burst into tears, lift the white flag and write off Tottenham’s chances of reaching the quarter-finals of the Champions League when they face RB Leipzig on Tuesday evening.

After all they are 1-0 down from the first leg and, well, how exactly do they turn the tie around when their attacking options are so limited? Mourinho was already without Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, neither of whom are expected to feature for a while, and he wore a resigned smile as he delivered the news about Steven Bergwijn.

The Dutch winger suffered an ankle injury when Spurs drew 1-1 with Burnley last Saturday and he has not made the trip to Germany. In fact, Mourinho does not expect to Bergwijn to play again this season. The blows keep coming and Spurs, who are also without Moussa Sissoko and Ben Davies, will be up against it when they resume hostilities with a side who outplayed them at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last month.

Yet Spurs are not here to give up. “This isn’t the time for us to get our violins out,” said Dele Alli, who could be pressed into action up front again. Mourinho heard that and also looked to play a positive tune. The Spurs manager spoke about his side’s work ethic, professionalism and talent before insisting that they deserve “something special”. He considered the Spurs motto – “To Dare Is To Do” – and used it to issue a rallying cry.

“I read it every day because it’s written everywhere,” Mourinho said. “You know more or less my principles, my philosophy, what I love and hate. I feel connection with ‘To Dare Is To Do’. Tomorrow is a time to give everything. We win or we leave everything we have on that pitch.”

Spurs are not expected to go through. Leipzig, who are third in the Bundesliga, dominated the first leg and could have won by more than one goal. Julian Nagelsmann’s side are quick and energetic, they exert a high press and their star forward, Timo Werner, is coveted by Bayern Munich, Chelsea and Liverpool. It was Werner who decided the first game between these sides, scoring the only goal from the spot, and the Germany international is bound to fancy his chances against a creaky Spurs defence.

The one piece of good news for Spurs is that Werner is a doubt with a thigh injury. Yet Nagelsmann still has more options in attack than Mourinho, who does not think Troy Parrott, the 18-year-old Irish forward, is ready to feature regularly. “We don’t have what I love to call the box sharks, the players who smell blood in the box and put the ball in the net,” Mourinho said. “So even when we’re dominant it is difficult to score lots of goals. Defensively we feel the pressure and every time we make a mistake it looks like we’re punished.”

It was put to Mourinho that Spurs recovered from this position when they reached last season’s final at the expense of Ajax. He responded by pointing out that there is no Fernando Llorente to bring off the bench this time; no target man to play off in the dying stages.

“If we want the long balls in the box we can’t do it that way,” Mourinho said. “We have to try another way. If we are waiting for the last 15 to 20 minutes to put the ball in the box and try for second balls that’s not the way to do it. We don’t hide. Our attacking players are the ones we know. We don’t have others.”

Spurs will need to take risks. With Davies unavailable Mourinho suggested that Ryan Sessegnon, who loves getting forward, could be a better option at left-back than the more defensive Japhet Tanganga. He talked up Lucas Moura, the hat-trick hero against Ajax, and there was backing for Alli, who struggled as a false nine during the first leg. Alli reacted badly after being substituted that night, throwing his boots to the floor before chucking a water bottle away, and he is desperate to make amends.

“I was obviously disappointed to come off for many reasons,” he said. “If you ask any manager, since I started playing football, I’ve never liked being subbed – as much as I respect the manager’s decision. I understand that. I didn’t help the team as much as I would have liked. To come off at 1-0 down, sometimes the passion and frustration can get the better of you. I probably should have reacted a bit better but I care a lot.”

Alli, who scored a penalty against Burnley, admitted that Spurs have not been good enough this season. Their form has remained patchy since Mourinho replaced Mauricio Pochettino in November, they went out of the FA Cup after losing on penalties to Norwich last week and their hopes of qualifying for next season’s Champions League are fading after picking up one point from their last three league games.

“This is where we have to show our character and belief in each other,” Alli said. “Everyone’s hungry.” That is what Mourinho wants to hear. He is a serial winner, a hoarder of major trophies, and he does not want to leave Spurs without winning one. “I won it at every club and I believe I am going to do it with Tottenham,” he said. Leipzig will test that belief.