Gareth Bale lacking confidence in his fitness, admits José Mourinho

José Mourinho believes Gareth Bale is undergoing a “physical evolution” at Tottenham and could emerge with body and mind fully repaired following a difficult few years at Real Madrid.

Bale, on loan from Madrid, is expected to start in Thursday’s Europa League group game against Lask in Austria but the Wales forward has rarely featured in Premier League matches this season.

“The only problem with Gareth is to get into the dynamic and the confidence of playing consecutive matches without any bad feeling or negative feeling, without any remembrance of the recent past when the condition was not the best and the fears were there,” said Mourinho.

“But now he has the chance of a physical evolution. He doesn’t need a tactical or a technical evolution. He just needs to get his confidence back about playing three matches in a week. It’s more about that [than anything else].”

A draw in Linz would ensure Spurs advance to the knockout stage and a manager who describes his team as “a pony” in the title race acknowledged that they rank as “one of the most important horses in the Europa League”.

Whereas Bale has started four European games this season he has begun only one Premier League fixture, appeared in two more as a substitute and is likely to be on the bench for Sunday’s derby at home to Arsenal.

By then Harry Kane should have recovered from the mystery injury which has ruled him out of the Austria trip and be ready to lead Mourinho’s attack. “I’m not going to tell you the nature of Harry’s injury,” said the manager, who was widely expected to rest Kane. “I don’t want to lie, I think he’s going to play against Arsenal.”

Toby Alderweireld also seems set to return to central defence on Sunday, but his recent groin trouble dictates Mourinho will not risk him in Linz, where Tottenham will also be without the injured Érik Lamela, Sergio Reguilón and Carlos Vinícius.

Like Bale, Dele Alli has largely been restricted to Europa League action, with the sometime England attacking midfielder struggling to make the Premier League bench.

Mourinho has grown accustomed to being questioned on his relationship with Alli and Wednesday proved no exception as he took an opportunity to reiterate, perhaps pointedly, that every player must buy into the team ethos and sometimes sacrifice themselves for the greater good. “I don’t have any problem with Dele,” he said. “My players are happy when they play and not happy when they don’t. But the concept above everything is that the team is more important than any of us.

“The ones who aren’t playing much should have only one thing in their minds and that is to show, in the minutes they have, that they should be playing. They must use every minute they have to improve their position.”