Tottenham manager Antonio Conte brushes off World Cup concerns: ‘I know my players’ desire and will’

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Tottenham manager Antonio Conte brushes off World Cup concerns: ‘I know my players’ desire and will’
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Antonio Conte says he has no ­concerns about his Tottenham players saving themselves for the World Cup in the first half of the season but admits he has no idea what state they will be in after the tournament.

The new Premier League season, which gets under way tonight, breaks for six weeks from mid-November to Boxing Day to accommodate a winter World Cup in Qatar.

Conte is set to lose the majority of his squad for several weeks and there is no telling how players will be affected mentally and physically by the situation.

Harry Kane, for example, will want to avoid injury as he closes in on Wayne Rooney’s all-time England goal record and eyes the chance to lead his country to a first World Cup since 1966. But asked if there was a chance players could ‘save themselves’ for the tournament, Conte told Standard Sport: “Honestly, I don’t care about that.

“I was a player and when you play a game and you want to win, you don’t think you could be injured or you risk injury and can’t play in a World Cup. Honestly.

“The players are really focused to go step by step and go game by game. We have three important trophies in England and then to play an important competition in the Champions League.

“I know my players, their desire and their will. And [I know] also what we did to reach this achievement. Honestly, I’m not worried about this situation.

“The problems are for all the teams. The same problems for Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal, West Ham and Nottingham Forest, the last team [to be promoted to] the Premier League.

“We all have the same problems and we have to be ready to face these problems. For every coach and manager, it will be the first time this situation interrupts the League and to lose players for one month and a half.

“And then to restart the competition with the players, where you don’t know in the way they’ll come back after the World Cup.

“For this reason, it’ll be very important to have a strong squad. I think every club has to give the coach the opportunity to have an important number of players in the squad.

“For injuries, for fatigue. For a lot of situations, it will be very difficult for every team and club this season.”

Spurs will be without suspended record-signing Richarlison for tomorrow’s curtain-raiser at home to Southampton, while Ivan Perisic (above) and Yves Bissouma were due to be assessed today before Conte decides if they are ready for a full debut. Oliver Skipp is out with a gashed leg.

In May, Conte agreed to honour his contract until the end of this season and on the eve of the new campaign he talked up the benefits of staying at a club long-term.

Asked if Spurs could close the gap to Manchester City and Liverpool this season, he said: “We are talking about two of the best clubs in the world that are working with the same coaches for seven years.

“Now they are in my opinion in a position that is very difficult for the others to close the gap but we have to do this.

“If you are with the same manager for many years and you give continuity, and you continue an idea and you continue a vision, then for sure it’s the best situation for the club to improve and to grow season by season.

“I think that this is important. For me, after seven months, it’s easier now to work with the players because the players know what I want.”

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