Antonio Conte‘s quest to break the spirt and resolve of every Tottenham Hotspur supporter continued this weekend, and Chelsea are yet to even play their lone game this week.
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Speaking ahead of Monday’s home clash with Middlesbrough (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com) in which Conte’s side could go seven points clear of Tottenham in the Premier League title race, Conte has once again dangled a carrot in front of Spurs supporters, forced them to dream of what could have been, only to yank it away from their outstretched fingertips at the very last moment — not too dissimilar to what the Blues did in the FA Cup semifinal last month, and have done on the whole of the 2016-17 season.
In Conte’s estimation, if not for his side’s miraculous turnaround after a disastrous 10th-place finish last season, Spurs would be the ones closing in on the PL title over these final three games of the season. Maybe that’s a bit too obvious — “well, clearly, because they’re second and Chelsea are first” — Conte doubled down by saying Spurs would have won the title “without difficulty,” and souls were crushed across north London — quotes from the BBC:
“I think Tottenham have an advantage, if you compare Tottenham to Chelsea. This is my first season and I found a lot of situations, a lot of players. Mauricio Pochettino has been working there for three years and has changed a lot of players and is working very well.
“For me, Tottenham are a really strong team and it’s normal to see them fighting for the title.”
“In this season, if Chelsea had not performed in this way, Tottenham would win the title without difficulty.
“Only this great season from us is pushing them to fight and, maybe, to win or not to win the title.”
For the briefest of moments, if they try really hard to do so, Spurs fans can surely see the likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Toby Aldeweireld and Christian Eriksen jumping up and down, PL trophy above their heads, at midfield on White Hart Lane’s final day of occupancy. And then, so suddenly you can actually feel your heart sink into the pit of your stomach, you remember that one tiny, important detail… Chelsea do exist, and they’re going to win the title.
Cruel, Antonio. So very cruel.