Antonio Conte has admitted that he was scared about whether his players would be able to match Leeds United’s work rate and intensity.
It was a game of two halves at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday, with Marcelo Bielsa’s men having the upper hand in the first-half and the home side imposing themselves on the encounter after the interval.
Conte would be pleased to come away with all three points from the encounter, particularly considering that he was without key players in Cristian Romero and Oliver Skipp and the fact that the majority of his squad had only just returned from the international break.
The Italian opened up on his concern on the physical conditions of those who were with their national sides.
When asked about the need for his players to become fitter to maintain the intensity he demands, Conte told Football.London: “That’s true, and for sure at the start of the game I was scared.
“I was afraid about this aspect. In these three weeks, we have worked also on the physical aspect but we worked with the players that we had with us.
“The rest of the players were with the national teams. When I arrived in Tottenham, we played two games – Vitesse and then Everton – and we couldn’t work on this aspect.”
The win against Leeds took Spurs to seventh place in the Premier League table, just four points off the Champions League spots.
While Conte admitted that Tottenham are not able to compete with the best sides in the league, he insisted that the club can fight for Champions League qualification this season.
He said: “Now, to speak, to think, for sure we want to fight, we want to try to improve the position in the table. I think – and I must be honest – in England, the League is very, very difficult.
“Every game is very tough. You can lose points with all the teams. At this moment, there are four teams that for many reasons, because they are working with the same coaches, because they invested a lot of money, in this moment there are four teams and there is a gap.
“But I’m not scared about this. I trust in my players, I trust in this squad. We want to fight. We want to fight to try to stay close to the positions and fight for Champions League.”
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It will take a month or two before the results of Conte’s fitness and tactical work completely translate to on-pitch performances, particularly since he does not have a pre-season to implement his ideas. However, we do have a fairly easy run of fixtures coming up over the next few weeks, which is ideal for the side to build some momentum.
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