Antonio Conte may have just provided Tottenham’s players with some inspirational material to pin up in their dressing room for the Premier League’s run-in.
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Ahead of Chelsea’s game against Manchester City on Wednesday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) Conte discussed the expectation levels for Chelsea and their London rivals Tottenham Hotspur.
With Chelsea leading the way in the PL and having a seven-point lead over Spurs heading into the final weeks of the season — that lead can be cut to just one point by the time they kick off on Saturday evening at Bournemouth if results go against them — it’s safe to say Conte doesn’t believe Spurs will be long-term threats to Chelsea’s success.
“I think the difference between Chelsea and Tottenham is this: if you stay in Chelsea and win it’s normal. If you stay in Tottenham, if you win it’s great, great, but if you lose… it’s not a disaster, no? Not a disaster,”Conte said. “Because you find a lot of situations to explain a good season. But, I repeat, in this season, us and Tottenham stay in the same level. Chelsea were underdogs at the start of the season, but now we are top and we want to keep this position.”
It wasn’t the most brutal of comments from the calm, collected figure Conte usually is in front of the media but it was a little reminder to Tottenham’s fans of their aspirations. Chelsea spend more money, have won more trophies and are in a better position than Spurs to win the league this season. All of this we can all accept.
Conte has praised Mauricio Pochettino and Tottenham throughout this campaign and there is undoubtedly respect between the duo. Yet reading between the lines Conte’s comments are intriguing for a man who doesn’t usually get involved in mind games in the media room. Is the pressure starting to build on him after Chelsea’s shock loss to Crystal Palace and a tough test ahead against Man City?
For Spurs, Pochettino’s young side are on a roll, securing the most points in 2017 in the PL and with Harry Kane and Danny Rose to return from injury soon they may just make this title race interesting if they can keep winning and Chelsea slip up against Man City, Bournemouth this weekend and then with a tough trip to Everton to come.
It’s true that the chips are still heavily stacked in Chelsea and Conte’s favor but this kind of comment may just the kind of thing thrown back at the Italian boss if Chelsea somehow collapse and it is Spurs who pip them to the PL title this season.