Tottenham manager Antonio Conte: I’m not scared by the fight to qualify for the Champions League

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 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Antonio Conte says he is not afraid of challenging for Champions League football this season and urged Tottenham to be ready to capitalise on mistakes from the teams above them.

Spurs moved up to seventh, within four points of the top four, by coming from behind to beat Leeds 2-1 in Conte’s first home League game in charge.

Afterwards, the Italian warned that there is still a gap to four teams – presumably Chelsea, Liverpool and the Manchester clubs – but says he trusts his squad to improve their standing in the League.

“We want to fight, we want to improve our position in the table,” Conte said. “I think – and I must be honest – in England the eague is very, very difficult. Every game is tough. You can lose points against every team.

“At this moment, there are four teams that for many reasons – because they are working with the same coach, they invested a lot of money – there is a gap.

“I’m not scared about this. I trust in my players, I trust in my squad. We want to fight.”

While Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City look dead certs to finish in the top four this season, Manchester United are managerless and in crisis following Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s sacking on Sunday morning, Leicester are in free-fall and West Ham and Arsenal both lost on Saturday.

“We want to fight to stay close and fight for the Champions League,” Conte added.

“Then if there’s one team that slips up this season or makes mistakes, we must be there to try to do our best. I repeat: I don’t want to tell you, ‘OK if we finish in this position, it’s good.’

“We need to improve. They called me to improve the situation for the present but also for the future. Now I’m happy. I like to work with Tottenham because I know here I can work in the way that I like. I know we can improve a lot and be competitive in every competition. Tottenham has to fight and be competitive in every competition this season.”

Spurs were booed off at half-time against Leeds while trailing to Dan James’s close-range finish, but they rallied after the interval with a much-improved display.
Goals from Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Sergio Reguilon – his first for the club – completed the comeback to leave Conte unbeaten in his first three matches in charge.

“After the first half, our fans weren’t satisfied by the football we played and I was agreeing with them,” Conte said.

“In the second half we changed totally. I’m pleased for the players. I changed the plan tactically but then they played well, with personality. They ran, they put pressure, created difficulty for Leeds. For this reason we won. To win in this way was good."

Conte has spent the international break prioritising the fitness of his remaining players and there was evidence of improved work-rate form this side.
Spurs outran Leeds 117 kilometres to 115km but their average in the 10 League games under Nuno Espirito Santo was just 100 kms per game.

“For sure, at the start of the game I was scared and afraid about this aspect,” Conte said.

“In these three weeks, we have worked on the physical aspect but with the players that we had with us. The rest of the players were with the national teams.

“When we arrived, we played two games - Vitesse and Everton - and we couldn’t work on this aspect. For sure we need to improve. 
“I like to bring this intensity. I had a bit of perplexity to use this intensity for the start. I didn’t know if we could bring this intensity for the whole game.

"First half, for sure was my decision. We were more compact. We left them to lead possession. Second half I totally changed the situation and the tactical aspect. I said we had to go and play with the same intensity. If we wanted to beat Leeds, we had to beat Leeds at what they’re good at doing.”

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