Antonio Conte believes “anything is possible” for Tottenham in the Champions League, while an often-unheralded Spurs star has been namechecked as one of the world game’s most underrated talents.
Tottenham brought the curtain down on the first period of their season with a dramatic 4-3 win over Leeds on Saturday. Conte’s side came from 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 down to claim all three points on a thoroughly-entertaining afternoon. The result consolidates Tottenham’s place in the top four of the Premier League, while progress into the knockout stages of the Champions League also underlines their progress.
Despite that, not everyone associated with Spurs is happy after Saturday’s win. And on the back of the match, one pundit has named a player who should no longer be anywhere near the Tottenham team.
Conte, though, was only looking at the positives after his side’s resilience was pushed all the way by Leeds.
Assessing his side’s efforts, as well as their prospects of winning a trophy, Conte is indicating that the Champions League may offer their best hope.
“We have to be pleased because to stay in the top four and to reach the next round of the Champions League is a big achievement for us,” he said.
“My hope is to have all the players available for the second part of the season and then we’ll see, but for sure there is a great desire to continue to improve our path.
“The Champions League is a tournament in which anything can happen.”
Conte sets out Tottenham ambitions
Conte added: “It’s important to arrive in the best physical condition with all the players. In the past it happened for Tottenham to reach the final because especially with this short tournament anything can happen.
“To win the Premier League, the winner in the end is always the one who is best, the team deserves to win across 38 games, but in a short competition, we’ll try to do our best in the Champions League.
“We know our opponent (AC Milan) is an important opponent but we know the game will be balanced. Then to improve. We want to try improve on the points we got last season and to do better. These are our targets.”
Conte believes his players deserve credit for ending an exhausting period on a winning note. Trailing 3-2, Rodrigo Bentacur scored twice late on to earn Tottenham all three points.
Conte admitted: “In this last period we never showed stability. I think the last period was really tough for everybody, for all the clubs, to play 13 games in 43 days was really tough, because it was impossible to work on the (training) pitch on the tactical aspect.
“One day to recover and then the next day to prepare. For sure when you don’t work on that tactical aspect you are going to lose something, especially defensively we lost a lot I think.
“But there is the positive aspect that we finished this period after a big effort in the next round Champions League and then to stay in the top four in the Premier League is always good news, especially for us.
Rodrigi Bentacur comes in for praise
“Don’t forget in this last period we lost a big friend, a big person in Gian Piero (Ventrone). I think this situation affected emotionally the players a lot because Gian Piero with many players had a fantastic relationship.
“For this reason I go to rest happy. Happy for what I have seen in this tough period.”
Spurs’ two best players on Saturday were Bentacur and Dejan Kulusevski.
The Swede claims he was convinced he would score the winner once the game was pegged level at 3-3. However, he was delighted to pick out Bentancur to claim the decisive goal and claims the Uruguayan does not get the credit he deserves.
“When we were 3-3 I said in my head that the next time I get the ball I am going to shoot and I am going to score,” Kulusevski told BBC Match of the Day.
“But then it was a different situation and I saw Rodri alone, and I just pray to God that he will score and he did.
“He is a fantastic player, one of the most underrated players in the world. I am very happy for him.”
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