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West Ham United-Tottenham Hotspur Preview
While Tottenham Hotspur players and the rest of the Premier League players are working their way back into full match fitness, Jose Mourinho appears to be in midseason form sparring with the media heading into Tuesday's London derby at home versus West Ham United.
Mourinho, who often uses his press conferences to drive home a point or establish a narrative - sometimes both simultaneously - took exception to pundit Paul Merson's criticism that Mourinho's style will eventually lead to striker and talisman Harry Kane leaving the Lilywhites (11-9-10). The "Special One" hit back at Merson, detailing a list of star forwards who thrived under him at different stops.
"I feel a bit strange [about] some analysis and some comments," Mourinho said as he launched into a four-minute defence of Kane. "Especially because it looks for me that the beginning of some comments and analysis, they started from Paul. I have to say I respect a lot people like him and because I respect a lot, I want to be nice in my answer."
Mourinho then name-checked Didier Drogba, Karim Benzema, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Diego Milito, touting each of their goal-scoring exploits that helped the gaffer win multiple titles at stops that included Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid.
He seemed to take pride in his measured response, adding, "I could be aggressive in my answer. I have been aggressive many, many times, I still can be. I decided, because it's Paul and I have respect and other things more than respect, I decided to answer just with data."
Kane, who has 11 goals in 21 league matches and 17 in 26 across all competitions this season, has eight goals in 14 career meetings versus West Ham and has bagged braces on three occasions.
Coming off a 1-1 draw versus one of his former teams, Manchester United, on Friday, Mourinho noted he will have a full-strength squad to choose from as both Lucas Moura and Dele Alli are available for selection. Both sat out Friday's draw, Moura through injury and Alli suspension, giving Mourinho his top six attacking options for the first time since arriving in north London in late November.
Tottenham enter this contest eighth in the table on 42 points, ahead of Crystal Palace on goal difference, but only four points behind United for fifth - which could carry a Champions League berth pending Manchester City's appeal of their two-year UEFA ban at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
West Ham (7-6-17) continue to fight for their top-flight lives, having kicked off Project Restart with a 2-0 home loss to Wolverhampton on Saturday. The Irons acquitted themselves well for the first hour of the match but had no answers after Wolves introduced subs Adama Traore and Pedro Neto, both of whom scored in the final 17 minutes.
We were all disappointed on Saturday, but we got that out of our system on Sunday and have trained again today, preparing as best as we can for the game," manager David Moyes told the club's official website. "There are lots of things we did in that game which had positivity to them, and there was lots that wasn't quite so good. We'll try to improve on that and get better for the next game.
"For both teams it's really important, and we knew what we faced in this period before we broke up for lockdown. We still had the same fixture list - Wolves, Tottenham, Chelsea - which was a difficult period for us. Maybe we were on a little bit of a run where we were finding a bit of form, so we're back at it, we've lost one or two players but we've got to get everybody firing and ready to pick up points."
The result left West Ham with one victory in their last 10 league matches (1-2-7) and perilously above the drop in 17th, ahead of Bournemouth on goal difference and one point better than 19th-place Aston Villa.
West Ham are 2-1-0 in their last three visits, posting a 1-0 victory at New Tottenham Stadium in last term's corresponding fixture. Spurs have not done the league double over the Irons since 2012-13 and held on for a 3-2 victory in London Stadium in Mourinho's debut in November.
Moura, Kane, and Heung-Min Son all scored in the first 49 minutes before Michail Antonio and Angelo Ogbonna pulled back goals for West Ham.
Updated June 22, 2020