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BENCH WARMER Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho explains why he is reluctant to pick Gareth Bale

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Gareth Bale has played just 45 minutes of Premier League action since November 8 (Laurence Griffiths/PA)

Gareth Bale has played just 45 minutes of Premier League action since November 8 (Laurence Griffiths/PA)

Gareth Bale has played just 45 minutes of Premier League action since November 8 (Laurence Griffiths/PA)

Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho has insisted he cannot pick Gareth Bale on his reputation alone, with the Welshman struggling to make his mark after a high profile return to Spurs.

Bale sealed a loan move from Real Madrid to Tottenham last summer, but he has started just one Premier League game all season and has had to settle for being part of Mourinho's second string team in the Europa League.

As one of the club's highest earners, his exile has been something of a mystery and yet Mourinho stresses he is picking his team on merit.

"I cannot give players minutes, minutes on the pitch is not something I can give, so I'm not going in this direction," he said ahead of Monday's FA Cup fourth round clash against Wycombe.

"We all know the difficulties he had for a couple seasons, we all know that he arrived injured, we all know that even this season (has been) a little bit up and down with small things.

"The most important thing for him is to be consistent, training without any problems and when a player is consistent in training, high intensity without any kind problems then the player is ready.

"Not to be given minutes, but is ready to earn minutes, and that for me is a difference.

"This week he is working every minute like everybody else at a good intensity and let's see the way that he reacts to the accumulation of that kind of work and let's see how he reacts by the end of the week.

"The match (against Wycombe) is Monday and we still have training sessions to evaluate that. It is also about his confidence. If he feels that the week that he's had has had a positive impact on him and, on his confidence, he will play."

Spurs will be heavy favourites to progress to the next stage, not least because Wycombe only returned to training late last week after a coronavirus outbreak.

But Mourinho insists a Premier League club taking on a Championship outfit is not a David-versus-Goliath tie it might once have been.

"Wycombe is Championship and Championship are as professional as we are," he added. "We get more money than them and we are more exposed than them but in the end they are professionals like we are.

"They have quality to be in the Premier League. We have quality to be in the Championship. So the difference is not what it was decades ago.

"Championship is one of the best leagues in the world. It is much better than many Premier Leagues in other countries so I don’t look at Wycombe as a team that is going to try to kill the giant.

"I don’t feel much difference between the Championship and Premier League. See Brentford, see the difficulties everybody has when they play against them. For me, that story doesn’t exist when we are speaking about Championship."

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