Antonio Conte insists he has nothing to prove to Chelsea ahead of his first return to Stamford Bridge since being sacked as the club’s head coach in 2018.
Conte joined Chelsea in 2016 following a campaign in which they finished 10th in the Premier League, but engineered an astonishing turnaround in his first season which culminated in the west Londoners claiming the title.
The Italian also helped the Blues to an FA Cup triumph in his second season, but that final proved to be his last game and he was dismissed after months of conflict with the club’s hierarchy over transfers.
Conte then took a season out of the game before moving to Inter Milan, where he led the side to their first Serie A title in over a decade, before joining Tottenham – Chelsea’s bitter rivals – in November.
The 52-year-old has enjoyed a bright start in north London, with just one defeat in his first 11 games, and is now preparing to take Tottenham to Chelsea for the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final on Wednesday, live on Sky Sports.
Live EFL Cup
And while Conte insisted he is looking forward to being back at Stamford Bridge, he insisted: “I think in my position, I mustn’t prove anything to anyone.
“I am a manager with experience and I have continued to do an important job in other teams.”
But Conte also had warm words for the club that gave him his first experience of English football, saying: “It will be great to come back to Stamford Bridge. It’s the first time after I left Chelsea.
“What I can say is I spent two amazing seasons, I created a lot of friendships in the club. We did a really important, good job. I also enjoyed the work there.
“I have to tell thanks to Chelsea because they gave me the possibility to work in England. It will be good and emotional to come back to Stamford Bridge.
“But now I am the manager of Tottenham and I want to give this club 100 per cent.”
Conte revealed Spurs are waiting on Covid tests for “a couple” of players ahead of Wednesday’s game, but added “we are not 100 per cent they are going to miss the game”.
Conte hopes to face Lukaku
Another player whose status for the match is in question is Romelu Lukaku, who was dropped by Chelsea for their 2-2 draw with Liverpool on Sunday following his controversial interview with Sky in Italy.
Thomas Tuchel, the Chelsea head coach, is due to hold talks with Lukaku on Monday before deciding whether he will feature against Spurs, but Conte is hopeful of a reunion with the striker that fired his Inter side to the title last season.
“I think that it’s always a good thing to play against a team where all the players are available,” Conte said. “For all the people who watch the game, I think it’s good to see the best players on the pitch.
“[But] honestly, I’d like not to speak about Romelu because Romelu now is at another team. I think it would disrespectful to speak about him and also about Chelsea.”
‘Chelsea more ready to win than Spurs’
Tottenham’s run to the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup has raised hopes of a first trophy since winning the same competition in 2008, but Conte believes last-four opponents Chelsea are currently better placed to win the competition.
While maintaining that Spurs will do “everything” to reach the final, he believes the club need time before they are able to realistically compete with their London rivals for the biggest prizes.
“I think that for everyone it’s always very important to win trophies,” Conte said. “But you have to build to win trophies.
“I think in this moment, Chelsea is more ready to win. They won last season the Champions League. I think we have a lot of space for improvement to become a team that can have the aspiration to win.
“We will do everything to try to reach the final. But to use this word ‘win’ is more simple than to [actually] win. To win, you must build something important and have an important squad. Then you are ready to win. Otherwise you have to hope to do something outstanding.”
One way Spurs can continue to build is with shrewd business in the transfer market, and Conte revealed he is due to speak to the club about his plans for strengthening his squad this month.
“My expectation is to speak with my club and then tell them my opinion,” he said. “Then the club will make the decision that they want to make.
“I am a manager and I am in a position where I have to make evaluations. That has happened, now I am waiting to speak to the club. The situation is very simple.”
Follow Tottenham Hotspur with Sky Sports
Follow every Tottenham game in the Premier League this season with our live blogs on the Sky Sports website and app, and watch match highlights for free shortly after full-time.
Want the Tottenham latest? Bookmark our Tottenham news page, check out Tottenham’s fixtures and Tottenham’s latest results, watch Tottenham goals and video, keep track of the Premier League table and see which Tottenham games are coming up live on Sky Sports.
Get all this and more – including notifications sent straight to your phone – by downloading the Sky Sports Scores app and setting Tottenham as your favourite team.
Hear the best Premier League reaction and expert analysis with the Essential Football and Gary Neville podcasts, keep up-to-date with our dedicated Transfer Centre, follow the Sky Sports social accounts on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, and find out how to get Sky Sports.
Follow the January transfer window with Sky Sports
Who will be on the move in January?
The January transfer window opens on Saturday January 1, 2022 and closes at 11pm on Monday January 31.
Keep up-to-date with all the latest transfer news and rumours in our dedicated Transfer Centre blog on Sky Sports’ digital platforms. You can also catch up with the ins, outs and analysis on Sky Sports News.
Source : Sky Sports