Never one for the soft sell, Jose Mourinho goes into Tuesday’s engagement with Championship opposition with the claim that it is his biggest game since he arrived at Tottenham. Grand as that sounds, he is probably about right.
It is not lost on anyone by now that Spurs have a 13-year itch when it comes to trophies and their Carabao Cup semi-final against Brentford puts Mourinho within two wins of achieving what he was hired to do.
That breakthrough is close, and yet it is far from touchable, because if we work from the truism that everything Mourinho says in public is intended to be heard in his dressing room, then it is clear in his mind that there is nothing straightforward about the forthcoming challenge.
Jose Mourinho believes a clash with Championship Brentford is his biggest Spurs game yet
The north Londoners last won a trophy back in 13 years ago, lifting the Carling Cup in 2008
Brentford are in flying form and will pose a bigger threat than their league suggests
It might be a favourable tie on paper, and certainly preferable to Manchester United or Manchester City considering there are 20 ladder rungs between sides who are fourth in their respective divisions, but the small print is neither very small nor very friendly.
Thomas Frank can lay claim to managing one of the most in-form teams in the country, and indeed his group travel on the back of a 16-game unbeaten run in all competitions that is unmatched by any other in the top four divisions.
That they have beaten four Premier League sides in succession to get to this fixture also seems to have pricked Mourinho’s senses.
‘My biggest game at Spurs? Yes, I think so,’ he said. ‘In the perspective of the club chasing silverware for many years, I would say so. Of course we always have important matches — last season we had a match at Crystal Palace that would give us participation in this season’s Europa League or not.
Mourinho was appointed with the task of bringing that long-awaited silverware to Tottenham
‘The match against Leeds on Saturday was also very important as we went a few games without a victory in the Premier League but I would say a semi-final is always a very important match. The only one more important is a final.’
For Mourinho, there would be a neatness in symmetry should he answer the scepticism around his appointment by delivering this particular trophy.
It was via this competition that he won his first British silverware at Chelsea in 2005, a time when his name invoked rather more excitement than now, and his weighting of an occasionally maligned cup’s importance has been shown in three further wins.
A fifth, with the immense significance that it would hold for Tottenham, might ultimately be ranked among his most celebrated.
‘For me every competition is important,’ he said. ‘That is my way of looking at things, especially at a club without silverware for more than one decade.
The Portuguese boss is a serial trophy winner and has always thrived in the League Cup
‘It is not about me, it is not about me four or five times, or me winning at three clubs, it’s not about me at all. It is about my club, it is about the players who want trophies, it is about fans, and we just need two victories.
‘We need to look at this semi-final with this ambition, respecting a very, very good team who kicked out a few very good Premier League teams.’
For Frank, there is comfort in beating those top-flight teams to reach this round, but also realism about a side with the options of Harry Kane and Son Heung-min.
Frank said: ‘It of course gives us a bit of belief but no disrespect to Southampton, Newcastle, Fulham or West Brom but we are talking about a different kind of team now. We are talking about a top-10 team in the world.’
Tottenham also have the luxury of making up to five substitutions in the EFL-run competition tonight, which has been rejected in the Premier League this season despite being reintroduced for Football League clubs in November.