LONDON (Reuters) - This month's League Cup final offers Tottenham Hotspur a chance to salvage something from a season that has unravelled alarmingly but manager Jose Mourinho says finishing in the Premier League top four is the immediate focus.
A 3-1 home defeat by Manchester United last weekend put a huge dent in Spurs' hopes of finishing in the top four and Friday's clash at Everton now looks like a match they cannot afford to lose if they are to stay in the race.
The loss to United left Tottenham in seventh, six points behind fourth-placed West Ham United and only one point above Everton, who have a game in hand, in the race for European places ahead of the clash at Goodison Park.
"Of course the Goodison match is very important. The distance between the two teams is very, very short. Of course they have one match in hand," Mourinho told reporters.
"They have similar objectives to us. They are going to fight with us, and with other clubs, to try the best possible position, and see if we and them can get a European position."
After the Everton game, Spurs host Southampton in the league before the Wembley clash with Manchester City in the League Cup final when the London club will be trying to lift their first silverware since they won the trophy against Chelsea in 2008.
"Independent of the result at Goodison, and the result against Southampton, as you say, big nine days and the nine days are going to end with a cup final," Mourinho, who was hired specifically to end the club's trophy drought, said.
"We need to separate the waters. We need to say: the cup final is important, but is not the match tomorrow, we need to focus totally on a very difficult match."
Tottenham took the lead against Manchester United but conceded three goals in the second half. They have now conceded 18 points from winning positions this season and Mourinho was again asked why they cannot hold on to leads.
"A team that starts matches well and starts winning matches means something positive, means something positive that (the media) like to forget -- the positive aspect of that," he said.
"But I agree with you in the sense that if you're in winning positions and you lose points from winning positions, there are also negative things side-by-side to it."
Pushed to explain, he added: "That's what I'm not ready to discuss with you. I think it has to do with some of our qualities as a team but I'm not ready to discuss with you."
Mourinho has a virtually full-strength squad ahead of Friday with only full backs Matt Doherty and Ben Davies unavailable.
"After 51 matches or so, in the last couple of months of the season to arrive in this situation with only two players injured, we cannot complain because the work has been good and the squad as a whole is in good condition," he said.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris)