Why Antonio Conte absence may boost Tottenham in search for landmark win over Chelsea


'Conte cam' is popular on social media after big Tottenham wins, capturing the head coach's breathless touchline antics, but, sadly, there will be no Gogglebox-style camera in his living room in Italy, when Spurs host Chelsea this Sunday.

Conte will miss another match on doctor's orders as he recovers at home from gallbladder surgery, but it is easy to imagine his in-game theatrics being even wilder than usual, given his lack of control over events and the significance of the opponent.

It is nearly five years since Conte's acrimonious exit from Chelsea but the strength of his feeling towards his former club has not particularly waned. Conte was furious and embarrassed by Spurs' three defeats in 19 days to the Blues at the start of last year, prompting him to question the quality of his squad and wonder out loud, not for the last time, if the job was simply beyond him.

His emotions were equally raw during the 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge in August, when he clashed with Thomas Tuchel during the post-match handshakes, resulting in fines for both and a ban for the German. Chelsea still get under Conte's skin, and there is surely no side against whom he would rather lead Spurs to a landmark victory.

Absent: Antonio Conte will not be on the touchline when Tottenham face Chelsea on Sunday (AP)
Absent: Antonio Conte will not be on the touchline when Tottenham face Chelsea on Sunday (AP)

Cristian Stellini, Conte's trusted assistant who was not with him at Chelsea, is aiming to maintain a 100 per cent record when deputising for the head coach at Inter Milan and Spurs, and has revealed that he was responsible for a key tactical tweak during in the 1-0 win over Manchester City this month.

Stellini possesses a quiet authority and charisma but has made it abundantly clear that he is merely a conduit for Conte's methods and has told the players that when he speaks, it is Conte's voice they are hearing. He will pick the team in consultation with Conte and take cues from his boss over text message during the match.

Conte will therefore remain the guiding force behind Spurs' approach against the Blues but his side may actually benefit from a calmer presence, free of emotional baggage in the dressing room and dugout for the high-pressure derby.

Without Conte's anxious energy and raw emotions, his players may feel more relaxed to carry out his instructions, and it is perhaps no coincidence that wing-back Emerson Royal, who usually spends a half as the closest player to the dugout, has put in two of his best performances without the head coach barking instructions in his ear.

Senior players like Harry Kane and Ben Davies have also revealed that the squad is taking more responsibility in Conte's absence, and there will be no hiding behind the recuperating Italian if their dismal record against the Blues continues and they immediately surrender fourth place.

Conte will surely find it painful watching the game from afar but, for his players, this may be an occasion when Conte-ball actually works better without him.