Antonio Conte: Tottenham will prioritise Marseille over Bournemouth to save stars for Champions League ‘final’

Antonio Conte: Tottenham will prioritise Marseille over Bournemouth to save stars for Champions League ‘final’

Tottenham head coach Antonio Conte has said he has to prioritise Tuesday’s “final” against Marseille over the Premier League visit to Bournemouth this weekend.

Spurs will be eliminated from the Champions League if they lose at the Stade Velodrome, although a draw would be enough to see them through to the last-16, possibly as group winners.

There is also pressure to get a result against the Cherries on Saturday following consecutive League defeats to Manchester United and Newcastle.

But Conte says he cannot afford to risk any tired players at the Vitality Stadium, with his side currently in the midst of a gruelling run of 13 games in 43 days between the September internationals and the break for the World Cup.

“In the Premier League we have a lot of games to play in front of us,” Conte said. “In the Champions League we want to have more games to play but there is a final on Tuesday and this is the difference between the game tomorrow in the Premier League.

“In the Premier League you can have time to recover. In Champions League we are going to play a final.

“For this season [I have] to make the best decision to understand who are the players who are really tired because I don’t want to take risk as for us it is a final for us on Tuesday. I try to make my best selection tomorrow as we want to win against Bournemouth.”

Cristian Romero is likely to be among the players rested, with Conte revealing he took a “big, big risk” in starting the Argentine in the 1-1 draw with Sporting CP on Wednesday. But the Italian said there is no chance of resting Harry Kane while forwards Dejan Kulusevski and Richarlison remain sidelined.

“There was a possibility [to rest Kane during this run of game] if you have players to play in his place,” Conte said. “But if Richarlison is out, Kulusevski is out, I have to ask the players to play, otherwise we are in trouble.

 (AP)
(AP)

“For sure every time I ask the availability of the players because I have great respect of my players. First of all I don’t want to take risk with injuries.

“Sometimes I ask my players, ‘Are you available for tomorrow if I want to pick you in the team?’

“If they give me their availability then I will try to pick the best selection. Sometimes I can decide and sometimes I’m not in the possibility to make a decision.

“In this case, we have only two strikers, Harry and [Heung-min] Son. Don’t forget when I put Sonny on the bench, [the media] said to me a lot of things!

“In another way, you have always to try the right balance. But Harry is OK, he stays well, he wants to play, he gives his availability and is always an important player for us.”

Spurs were booed off by the home crowd while trailing at the break against Newcastle and Sporting, and Conte urged supporters to get behind the team and appreciate the difficulty of performing during the current schedule.

This type of situation, the fans need to understand it’s a big, big effort for everybody.

“This type of season is very difficult and I think everybody has to understand this,” said Conte, who described Spurs fans as “amazing” but demanding.

“To play every three days, every two days and a half, it’s not simple to recover and it’s difficult to recover for me with the energy.

“I imagine it’s difficult for my players to recover and in this type of situation, the fans of every team have to stay closer to try and push, to try to help the team, every team but not only Tottenham because this type of situation, they need to understand it’s a big, big effort for everybody.

“For sure, we talk a lot about the welfare of the players, but also the welfare of the managers because in this way we put a serious risk to the welfare of the players and the manager.

“I repeat that we don’t play but the stress that we are under before every game, every two days for game after game. Analysis, video, to speak to the players. It’s fatigue. It’s OK and it’s the same for everybody. I’m not complaining and I’m only answering your question.”