Spurs are biggest test for runaway leaders – Conte
CHELSEA will face their biggest test of the season against Tottenham Hotspur today, manager Antonio Conte said as his team chase Premier League history.
Chelsea, who finished 10th in the league last season, are five points clear at the top and will arrive at White Hart Lane seeking to better Arsenal’s record of 13 consecutive victories in a season.
“It’s another challenge, another type of football to face (from Stoke) because Tottenham like to play from the back. They like to put a lot of pressure on when you are in possession,” Conte said. “We have to prepare very well because this game for sure will be very, very tough for us, but also for them. For sure (this match) is the biggest test. I think for us now every game is the biggest test.”
Chelsea showed great resilience in their 4-2 win over Stoke City but Conte expected a different challenge from their next opponents. Spurs, who are unbeaten at White Hart Lane in their nine league games this season, are fifth on the table and trail leaders Chelsea by 10 points.
“Tottenham is a good team. Last season they could have won the title and this season they have a stronger team. For sure we will see a good game,” the Italian added.
The match will no doubt be tough with Tottenham defender Jan Vertonghen saying manager Mauricio Pochettino has a plan to halt Chelsea’s winning run.
Pochettino is set to become the first manager to have a second crack at the Blues’ winning run.
“The gaffer spends a lot of time analysing them. He prepares for the game and the way we should play and in what shape,” Vertonghen said. “We see some videos and all these tactical things – but that’s our secret. I think the gaffer has a plan.”
Vertonghen believes the improved depth in squad has allowed the manager to name competitive starting line-ups even when key players like Harry Kane and Toby Alderweireld were sidelined with injuries earlier this season.
“With the new signings that came in I think we have a very strong squad. It’s the strongest since I’ve been here,” he said. “We can play different systems. Harry Kane has been out. Toby (Alderweireld) has been out, it’s a lot of important players we’ve missed. But the guys that have played for them have done brilliantly.”
Meanwhile, Chelsea striker Diego Costa has credited Conte for the side’s record-equalling run. “The manager has come, he’s applied his ideas, and things are going well,” the 28-year-old striker said.
“The truth is the manager is good with the players, every time making more jokes with the players.
“That’s good for us, to have a manager who is not just a boss, but like a person we can talk with, someone whose support we can count on in difficult moments.”
Costa, who is the league’s top scorer with 14 goals this season, said he was close to leaving the London club for Atletico Madrid before the start of the season.
“I had the possibility to go to Atletico because of a few things – the family, the life I have there – but not because of Chelsea,” he said. “Here there’s a lot of love with the supporters, with the people, so I’m here very happy, I’m very content. There was one thing I wanted to change for family reasons but, well, it wasn’t to be and I continue (to be) happy here.”