Antonio Conte calls on Tottenham to act like a ‘big club’ after fixture pile-up

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 (Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)
(Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)

Antonio Conte says Tottenham must "pay more attention" to the fixture schedule and suggested a "big club" would not have accepted a lunchtime kick-off against Burnley on Sunday following Thursday’s crucial north London derby.

Spurs trail rivals Arsenal by four points with three games remaining and realistically need to win on Thursday night and hope the Gunners drop points against Newcastle or Everton to pip them to a Champions League place.

After the derby, Spurs host the Clarets at 12noon on Sunday, while Arsenal travel to St. James’ Park on Monday night.

Asked his view on the schedule, Conte suggested the club’s hierarchy should not have accepted the situation so readily.

"If I complain about it, I’m like other coaches in the past," he said, laughing. "You remember when [Arsenal boss Mikel] Arteta complained about this type of situation and I said coaches shouldn’t complain. Now could be my turn to complain because to play on Thursday night and then again the first game [on Sunday], you could wait and give us the last game and a bit more rest.

"It’s difficult sometimes to accept Premier League decisions, but if the club accepted it I have to. A top club have to pay attention to the fixtures.

"Before the game you don’t think this situation can cause you this type of trouble, but afterwards you realise it could affect the result and you are angry and it’s too late. You need to be angry before. The club has to pay more attention. If you want to win you have to take care about all the details because the details move the final result."

Spurs were due to play Arsenal in mid-January but the game was postponed by the Premier League following a request from the Gunners, who had one Covid case and a number of players missing through injury and at the African Cup of Nations.

Conte said the situation was unfair, particularly given Spurs were dumped out of the Europa Conference League after being forced to forfeit their final group game against Rennes following a major Covid outbreak in their squad.

But the Italian suggested he is relishing the chance to beat Arsenal with a full squad, although insisted their main motivation should be Champions League football rather than revenge.

"For sure, it was very strange that our game was postponed for Covid and Arsenal didn’t have one player with Covid," Conte said. "We lost a game 3-0 [to Rennes] because Premier League didn’t want to move our game when we had 9 or 10 players with Covid.

"At that time, it was unfair what happened.

"But now this is the past and we have to be focussed on the present and try to get the best result.

"I think this could be a good chance for us to get three points against their whole team because if we played in January they were without many players because they were committed at the African Cup and injuries.

"I think football is wonderful. Also this type of game it’s right to play with two teams and all the players available.

"We are talking about an important game for many different situations," Conte added. "The first, and most important thing is, we’re playing this game for an important target - a place in the Champions League. I think this has to be the first reason to win this game.

And for sure we know very well the importance for our fans of this north London derby. This is the first time that Tottenham is playing this game in their home stadium with fans.

"We know this."

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