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Antwerp boss Ivan Leko ‘grateful and super happy’ to face Jose Mourinho’s Spurs

Bulgaria Soccer Europa League
(Image credit: Anton Uzunov)

Royal Antwerp head coach Ivan Leko could not hide his excitement at the prospect of pitting his wits against Jose Mourinho.

The Belgian club welcome Tottenham for a Europa League Group J clash on Thursday and Leko is preparing to realise a dream.

He said: “I think everyone in the club and I feel very grateful to play with a coach who together with (Pep) Guardiola and (Carlo) Ancelotti, is the best coach in the 21st century, one who changed football.

“First feeling is really grateful and one of the small dreams is coming true.

“I am just super happy, you play Tottenham and Jose Mourinho, you don’t get to do that every five minutes.

“Who am I to talk about Mourinho? When Mourinho was winning the Champions League, I was watching, waiting for 8.45pm to watch his games.

“I am just super happy my team plays against him. All the stories, everything about him, he just has very big respect from me, he has more trophies than some people have games.

“The most difficult thing in football is to win and Mourinho has won everywhere.”

Antwerp, who are top of the Belgian Pro League, won their opening game of the group phase last week, beating Ludogorets 2-1, while Spurs overcame LASK 3-0.

Royal Antwerp won 2-1 in their Group J opener against Ludogorets last week

Royal Antwerp won 2-1 in their Group J opener against Ludogorets last week (Anton Uzunov/AP)

Former Manchester United and Leicester defender Ritchie De Laet says the Belgian side are not just there to make up the numbers.

“It is important for the club, it is the first European game in a long time at home,” the Antwerp player said. “We start off at home to a tough opponent, who a couple of years ago were in the Champions League final.

“After our great start last week it is important we build on that. I don’t think we can forget to enjoy it, but we are going in relaxed.

“On the other side, the coach and playing group are demanding to put a performance in. (On Thursday) we can show respect to them but that doesn’t mean we are just going to make the numbers up.

“We are going to start with the intention to win it and if we can’t do that we have to make sure we don’t lose.”