Antonio Conte warns World Cup winner Cristian Romero of heightened expectations

Antonio Conte is delighted to have Tottenham’s World Cup winner Cristian Romero available again but has warned the defender a “difficult period” lies ahead.

Romero enjoyed a stellar tournament in Qatar and helped Argentina triumph over France in the final two weeks ago.

He returned to training on Tuesday and is set to feature in Spurs’ New Year’s Day clash at home to Aston Villa, where he could face compatriot Emiliano Martinez.

Argentina won the World Cup in Qatar
Argentina won the World Cup in Qatar (Martin Rickett/PA)

Conte said: “From what I saw in the last few days during the training session, I have seen him with great focus and with great desire to come back and play with us and to go with his mind into Tottenham’s situation.

“For sure I am really happy for him and for us it is important to have in our team two World Cup champions in Hugo (Lloris) and Cuti.

“But he has to know very well that now starts the more difficult period for him because the expectation is going to become high for him. For this reason he has to work much more and continue to work, especially don’t lose the desire to improve himself.”

Romero endured a mixed first half of the season with a calf injury ruling him out of several key games for Spurs.

Cristian Romero in action during Argentina's run to glory
Cristian Romero in action during Argentina’s run to glory (Peter Byrne/PA)

The 24-year-old last played for Tottenham in a 1-1 draw against Sporting Lisbon on October 26, which was the start of their poor run that has seen them concede the first goal in each of the last nine matches in all competitions.

“For sure it is strange,” Conte said of Spurs going behind on nine consecutive occasions.

“It is a strange situation to concede the first goal and go down nine times in a row. It is very strange. At the same time it is good our reaction and to try to level the result.

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“Many times we do win the game but for sure we have to try from the start of the game to be really focused and go into the game quickly. We have to pay more attention defensively and not give our opponent the chance to score.

“We have spoke with the players and maybe when you have to play many games in a row and you don’t have the possibility to work on the tactical aspect and defensive aspect you can lose something but for sure our intention is to try and avoid going 1-0 down, 2-0 down and to start the game in the best way possible.”

Lloris will return in goal for Spurs, after being on the bench at Brentford, but Rodrigo Bentancur (hamstring) is out and has been sent for a scan. Lucas Moura (tendon) and Richarlison (hamstring) remain sidelined.