Antonio Conte claimed Tottenham are "many years" from the level of Chelsea following Sunday's 2-0 Premier League defeat at Stamford Bridge.

Hakim Ziyech and Thiago Silva goals condemned Spurs to a fourth defeat of the season against their London rivals, their away league run against the Blues now standing at one win in 32.

Conte's side lost both legs of the EFL Cup semi-final to Chelsea and have now gone six consecutive games without scoring against the European champions, the first time in their history they have ever failed to find the net in as many matches against the same opponent.

Conte has spoken previously of the need for Spurs to strengthen if they are to challenge the top sides, despite having led them on a nine-game unbeaten run in the top flight after taking over from Nuno Espirito Santo in November.

After their latest loss to Chelsea, which cost them the chance to move into the top four, the former Inter boss suggested it would take many transfer windows to build a squad capable of matching the best.

"I don't like to lose. To comment on a defeat is always difficult for me," he told Sky Sports. "But to have nine games in a row without defeat was important, and in this moment, the gap with the other teams, like Chelsea, it's a really important game.

"I'm proud of the effort of my players. We tried to do everything, but sometimes it's not enough, especially when you're playing against a team like this: a starting XI of strong players; on the bench, around the club, there are other players. There is a big difference between us and a top team."

When asked about strengthening the squad before the transfer window closes, he said: "I repeat, this is not the right moment. The club know very well what I think. There is not one transfer market to close the gap.

"In the last five years, this gap became very, very big. Now, it's not simple to find the solution in a short time. I'm only focused on the players to work. We have four months to try to give everything, but if we think we resolve the situation with the transfer market, it's not the reality.

"You need many years. For sure, we have to start, and there is a point to start. For many years, the quality of the squad decreased instead of improved."

Spurs thought they had taken the lead on Sunday when Harry Kane finished from Steven Bergwijn's cross, but the goal was disallowed for a push in the back of Thiago Silva.

"I know it's difficult to comment, and I don't want to comment on the referee's decision, but to disallow this goal in England was incredible," said Conte.

"But, I repeat, the referee tried to make the best decision."

Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel was also surprised the goal was ruled out at the time, but he had nothing but praise for the effort of his players as they ended a four-game run without a Premier League win.

"We were working extremely hard for it, it was a tough match, but I'm very happy because the effort was outstanding and it was a deserved win," he said. "It's so hard to create chances against them, but I think we were relentless and kept on believing.

"The table is the table. In the end, it's our responsibility to prove ourselves every third day. Now we have a break, and it was important to go into this break with a victory. There is no substitution for a win, and for the feeling. You cannot produce it artificially, so we needed this, but we needed also to do things better and keep on believing."

A big week now approaches for Tottenham – while no manager will ever admit to being happy about losing, Spurs' 2-0 defeat to Chelsea on Sunday may actually do Antonio Conte a favour.

The Italian has hinted at his desire to bring in reinforcements this month. Until this point, Spurs have not given into his apparent demands, but another loss to Chelsea might force their hand.

The last week of the transfer window is about to begin and there is every reason to think it could define Spurs' season given the clues on show at Stamford Bridge.

This contest arguably lacked the usual lustre in the build-up given how recently they tussled in the EFL Cup, a two-legged semi-final that left the two clubs looking worlds apart.

Even Conte himself was damning in his appraisal of their respective outlooks, suggesting there was no comparison between his side and the team that won the Champions League last season.

Chelsea won their EFL Cup tie 3-0 on aggregate, thus Conte knew changes were going to be required here.

He returned to his former club with a plan, but perhaps few expected him to go – for want of a better phrase – 'full Mourinho'.

The 'Special One' built much of his reputation on being tough to beat, and Conte certainly made several decisions that were Jose Mourinho-esque, not least the fact he deployed full-backs in front of full-backs on the flank as the Italian seemingly set his side up to be functional rather than entertaining.

That's not to say Chelsea didn't find some joy. Mason Mount proved a nuisance with his movement in the half spaces in attack, with Spurs struggling to pick him up as he seemed to fall outside of the jurisdiction of everyone in defence and midfield.

That was evident as early as the first minute as his cross found Romelu Lukaku, who volleyed over – later, they combined in exactly the same way but the Belgium striker completely missed his kick.

Eventually Spurs reacted to Mount's presence with another Mourinhoism, as Pierre-Emil Hojbjerg slotted in to plug the gap in that area, something Mourinho's central midfielders often used to do in his classic Chelsea sides that went with two banks of four.

With Harry Kane accompanied by Steven Bergwijn in the Lucas Moura role up top, Spurs' grand plan was pretty clear as they hoped to be able to capitalise on any rare forays forward – it looked as though they had as well, with the Dutchman picking out the England captain to net just before half-time, only for the goal to be wiped out for a slight push on Thiago Silva.

But there was seemingly an ulterior motive surrounding Conte's selection and tactics as well, as he appeared to be sending message to sporting director Fabio Paratici.

Three viable and available central attacking players were completely left out, with Dele Alli, Tanguy Ndombele and Giovani Lo Celso all missing – the latter even confirmed on social media that he was fit.

Harvey White, still awaiting his Premier League debut, and Dane Scarlett, a 17-year-old, were selected ahead of them on the bench, with Conte's decisions here a not-so-subtle evaluation of the attacking midfielders available to him.

The fact is, this came just two days after Conte said he hoped "the club will listen to me" regarding their transfer dealings before the end of the month – he didn't reveal what he had put across to his employers, though these exclusions were surely a hint at the very least.

Given the options otherwise available to him – as in the players he trusts in midfield – Conte perhaps didn't actually have much of a choice to deploy this set-up.

But can Spurs realistically hope to qualify for the Champions League with their only trusted central midfielders being Hojbjerg, Harry Winks and Oliver Skipp? You would think not, and certainly not on the evidence of this match, with Spurs barely laying a glove on Chelsea bar the disallowed Kane goal as the hosts were allowed to control the midfield.

Of course, it's worth saying Spurs were also a little unfortunate. Whichever way you look at it, the disallowing of Kane's goal was harsh, and Hakim Ziyech's gorgeous opener was a moment of magic. 

Silva's second was controversial as well because the foul that was awarded from which Mount set up the Brazilian appeared to be questionable.

Yet even if they had still been within touching distance of Chelsea heading into the latter stages, a quick glance at the benches showed an incredible gulf in talent available to the managers.

There's a lot of work to be done with Spurs' squad and the next week could make or break their season.

Antonio Conte saw his unbeaten Premier League run as Tottenham boss end on familiar turf as Chelsea claimed a 2-0 derby win at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

A stunning finish from Hakim Ziyech and a Thiago Silva header early in the second half gave the Blues the victory as they became the first team to pass 500 points in London derby matches in the Premier League era.

Silva had earlier been involved in a controversial incident, Harry Kane seeing a goal disallowed at 0-0 after a hand in the back of the defender sent him tumbling to ground.

For Spurs, whose only win in their past 32 away league matches against Chelsea came against Conte's side in April 2018, it was a first league loss since the 3-0 reverse at home to Manchester United in October that brought Nuno Espirito Santo's short reign to an end.

Romelu Lukaku passed up the best early openings, slicing a shot over the bar in the first minute and missing the ball from a teasing Mason Mount cross when he should have done better.

Spurs had barely offered a threat until Kane gathered Steven Bergwijn's low cross and drilled home a finish on the turn, but the goal was was ruled out for a push on Silva.

The visitors were lucky not to go a man down before half-time, though, VAR deeming no further action was needed for a Matt Doherty foul on Malang Sarr and Japhet Tanganga somehow escaping even a free-kick for pulling back the shirt of Callum Hudson-Odoi after previously being booked.

It was Tanganga who was left for dead by Hudson-Odoi a minute after the restart, the winger then teeing up Ziyech to curl a sublime finish into the top-left corner and put Chelsea ahead.

Hugo Lloris denied Ziyech a second soon after as Chelsea ramped up the pressure, with Mount whistling a shot just over the bar from Hudson-Odoi's cut-back.

The Chelsea winger was proving a real handful for Spurs and, after Eric Dier tripped him down the left wing, the resulting Mount delivery was glanced in via the head of Silva.

 

What does it mean? Chelsea close on City as Spurs suffer top-four blow

The defeat means Spurs stay seventh, having missed out on the chance to leapfrog Arsenal, West Ham and Manchester United to climb into the top four.

Chelsea move to within 10 points of leaders Manchester City, having played a game more, with Liverpool a point further ahead.

Mercurial Mount

Mount was exceptional on the right of the Chelsea attack as he exploited space whenever Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg was dragged out of position trying to break up passing lanes.

The England midfielder created a team-high four chances and found the target with five of nine crosses, including the head of Silva for the second goal.

Conte counts cost of Tanganga inaction

After Tanganga escaped a second yellow card, it looked likely Conte would substitute him at half-time to remove the risk of falling a man behind.

His decision not to proved key to Chelsea's breakthrough, as he allowed Hudson-Odoi to run clear for fear of being punished for any attempt to halt his run. It was 2-0 before he was finally replaced by Lucas Moura.

What's next?

Chelsea host Plymouth Argyle in the FA Cup on February 5 after their winter break before their Club World Cup campaign begins. Spurs's fourth-round clash is at home to Brighton and Hove Albion on the same day.

Antonio Conte urged Tottenham bosses to heed his transfer advice as Harry Kane declared the club must "take advantage" of having the Italian at the helm.

Since Conte came to Spurs in early November, the team have had five clean sheets in nine Premier League games and prised 21 points from a possible 27 to hurtle up the table.

The improvement has been dramatic compared to the unsteady start to the season under Nuno Espirito Santo, and transfer windows are when Conte can make further modifications to the squad he inherited.

Tanguy Ndombele could be on his way to Paris Saint-Germain on loan, and Conte has identified talent he wants to bring to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

"Honestly, I prefer to speak about this topic always with the club," said Conte on Friday. "For sure, I made an evaluation about the squad, but I have spoken to the club and I hope the club listen to me."

The former Inter boss delivered a Serie A title after he was backed in the transfer market, being able to sign the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Achraf Hakimi and Christian Eriksen.

"I think it is important for every club to win trophies, and at the same time you have to understand if you are ready to win," said Conte. 

"Every club could say, 'Yeah, I want to win trophies', but then you have to understand very well what is your point, where you are and then the path that you have to follow to try to be competitive and win.

"It is too simple to say that this team or another team want to win. One team wins, and the others seek to win. I know this because if you win you write the history and if you don't win, you played for a team that don't write the history."

On Sunday, Tottenham face a Chelsea team who wrote themselves into the history books last season, when winning the Champions League. They also knocked Tottenham out of the EFL Cup after home and away victories in the semi-finals earlier this month.

Spurs go into the game buoyed by news of a new two-year contract for captain and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, described by Conte on Friday as "a point of reference for the whole club and also a point of reference for me".

Kane unquestionably falls into that category too, with the England captain beginning to find some form this term after a dismally slow start to the campaign.

Since Conte came in on November 2, Kane has scored four Premier League goals in nine outings, although he should probably have more, given his expected goals (xG) tally stands at 6.19 over that period.

That is based on the quality of chances he has had, with Kane having had more shots (41) than any other Premier League player in this time. He has found the target with 15 of those attempts, while two have hit the woodwork.

Kane believes Conte is the boss who can lead Tottenham to the success they crave.

Speaking to Sky Sports News, Kane said: "He's one of the best managers in the world. We've not really reached the heights we've wanted to as a club over the last couple of years. It's a big opportunity now to take advantage of what we've got.

"He's a manager that demands a lot. He's doing everything he can and as players we've responded really well to him and everyone's working as hard as possible to get success. That's the ultimate goal for everyone here at the club.

"If you don't get one or two things right then you can really fall behind the pack and that's kind of happened to us. So we need to be careful that we don't keep falling."

Wolves' Adama Traore and Sevilla's Diego Carlos are among the players recently linked with Tottenham.

Tottenham face a tall order at Stamford Bridge, having lost five of their last six league games against Chelsea, drawing the other. Indeed, Tottenham have won just one of their last 31 away league games against Chelsea (D10 L20), a 3-1 success in April 2018 when Conte was in charge of the Blues.

Chelsea appear to have Tottenham's number this season, beating them in their first Premier League meeting of the campaign before the recent cup double.

The last Premier League team to win four games against an opponent in a single campaign were Manchester City against West Ham in 2013-14, while the last to win three games in the same month against an opponent were Aston Villa against Blackburn Rovers in January 2010.

Chelsea could match those feats on Sunday, though of course Conte will be battling to make history.

No manager or head coach to have previously taken charge of Chelsea in the Premier League has won against the Blues at Stamford Bridge in the competition (D7 L13). Conte will be the eighth such boss to try to crack the code.

Hugo Lloris has committed to Antonio Conte's Tottenham project by signing a new two-and-a-half-year contract with the Premier League club.

Lloris, 35, had entered the final six months of his previous deal and was entitled to discuss an end-of-season free transfer with foreign clubs.

He was linked with his boyhood club Nice, where he came through the academy before spending three years in the first team, but will be staying in north London.

Tottenham confirmed the deal that will take Lloris past 10 years with the club, with the goalkeeper set to remain at Spurs until the end of the 2023-24 season.

The news is a huge boost for Conte, who took on the Tottenham top job in November and made it clear he saw Lloris as part of the team's future.

Conte had been optimistic a deal would be agreed, recently expressing optimism Lloris would sign "because he loves Tottenham and Tottenham loves him".

Now that has come to fruition, meaning Tottenham need no immediate strengthening in the goalkeeping department, that boxed ticked by this move.

Lloris joined Spurs from Lyon in August 2012 and helped the team reach the 2019 Champions League final under Mauricio Pochettino.

He became Tottenham captain in 2015 and has worn the armband for his country since 2012, leading Les Bleus to World Cup glory in 2018.

Since skippering France to that triumph in Russia, Lloris has underlined his status as one of Europe's premier goalkeepers.

From August 2018 to the present day, Lloris can be shown to have prevented 21.3 goals. That is based on a calculation starting with Tottenham's expected goals on target (xGOT) conceded total of 180.3 and deducting the actual number of goals, other than own goals, that they have shipped during that time (159).

Only four goalkeepers from Europe's top leagues have a better goal prevention record in this same three-and-a-half-season period, Opta data shows. Those are: Thibaut Courtois of Real Madrid (25.3), Liverpool's Alisson (22.9), Sevilla's Yassine Bounou (21.6), and Atletico Madrid mainstay Jan Oblak (21.6).

Tottenham made a poor start to the season under Nuno Espirito Santo but have been revitalised in the Premier League by Conte's arrival. They have kept five clean sheets in nine games in the competition since the former Inter and Chelsea boss arrived and have soared to fifth place, with games in hand on those ahead of them.

Steven Bergwijn inspired Tottenham to a stunning late 3-2 win over Leicester City on Wednesday and Antonio Conte appears to have no intention of allowing him to leave.

Bergwijn has been consistently linked with a move away from Spurs, with Ajax and Sevilla said to be among those interested in the forward.

However, he rescued Spurs from their first Premier League defeat under Conte in remarkable circumstances at the King Power Stadium.

Patson Daka put the Foxes in front against the run of play, but Harry Kane's 250th club goal of his career brought Spurs level in a pulsating first half.

James Maddison looked to have consigned Tottenham to defeat as Spurs boss when he restored Leicester's lead 14 minutes from time.

But Bergwijn provided an incredible twist in the tale, coming off the bench to strike in the 95th minute and again in the seventh minute of stoppage time to move Spurs above fierce rivals Arsenal into fifth place.

Asked about the Netherlands international, Conte said: "In the past when someone asks me about Steven Bergwijn, I was very clear.

"I said that for me he is an important player because he has characteristics that in our squad we don't have many creative players.

"He is very good in one vs one, good to beat the man. He can play striker, he can play number 10 and for us, for me, he is an important player and we have to try to improve, to become stronger, not to lose a player and become less strong.

"Steven is a player that if he's in good physical condition and he has good fitness, he can start the games or he can come in and change the game.

"For me, I think he's an important player and you know very well the player has to be happy and I think the player is happy to stay with us and play for Tottenham."

Antonio Conte saluted Tottenham's fighting spirit after Steven Bergwijn's stoppage-time double snatched a stunning 3-2 win at Leicester City in a Premier League thriller.

Spurs were on the brink of suffering a first top-flight defeat under Conte after James Maddison put the Foxes in front for the second time in the 76th minute at the King Power Stadium on Wednesday.

Patson Daka had opening the scoring, but Harry Kane equalised in the first half with the 250th club goal of his career.

Spurs looked set to miss the chance to move above fierce rivals Arsenal into fifth place, but Bergwijn came off the bench to provide a last-gasp heroic performance.

The Netherlands forward equalised with 95 minutes gone and there was yet another incredible twice two minutes later, when he rounded Kasper Schmeichel before seeing his right-footed finish go in off the post.

Tottenham head coach Conte was proud of the way his side battled right to the end and felt they deserved all three points.

He told BBC Match of the Day: "I think we showed today that we don't want to give up. Never. The players know very well what our philosophy must be. We must fight to the end and try to also get a result.

"Today to lose this game was not right. We created many, many chances. We were unlucky when we conceded. At the end we were very good. And we believed to the end. We wanted three points and we deserved them.

"The response of the team was good from the start. I have found a group that have shown me from the first day a desire to work with me and the staff and to improve every day."

Tottenham had 27 attempts as they posed a huge threat going forward, but looked vulnerable at the back.

Kane was outstanding but could have had a hat-trick, heading against the crossbar and seeing a shot cleared off the line by Luke Thomas as Spurs wasted a whole host of chances.

Conte's men are only a point behind fourth-placed West Ham with three games in hand on David Moyes' side, while they are eight points adrift of Chelsea in third place ahead of a clash with the European champions on Sunday, but the Italian says they remain a work in progress.

He added: "We know we have a long path in front of us but for me, it is important to know they want to improve. Step by step we need to raise our level and improve quality. Today we played a good game and if I have to see one situation we need to improve, there are key moments.

"Sometimes we do not understand this, that you need to control the game. A great team does this.

"For me, it is difficult to tell you something about our target. I think we have a long path and now we have to work. We know every well we have to fight to try to reach our best result. It will be very difficult because of the level of this tournament."

Bergwijn had not scored for Tottenham this season, but ended his drought in spectacular fashion.

Tottenham coach Antonio Conte believes the decision to postpone last weekend's scheduled north London derby was "very, very strange", but Leicester City counterpart Brendan Rodgers appreciates the Premier League's caution.

Arsenal submitted their request to have the game called off due to a lack of first-team player availability.

But critics accused the club of exploiting the Premier League's rules in order to get out of games while players were absent through injury, suspension or Africa Cup of Nations duty.

Arsenal had only one confirmed positive COVID-19 case at the time of their application, but the Premier League deemed they were unable to meet the required number of available players (13 outfielders and a goalkeeper) despite their Under-23s managing to field a squad of 16 on Friday.

Spurs released a statement criticising the decision, and Conte has since commented in public for the first time.

"The club made a statement and it was very clear to show our disappointment," the Italian told reporters. "It was disappointing because we prepared the game to play against Arsenal and the decision to postpone the game was very, very strange.

"My feeling is that when there is a situation to play we have to play, not to postpone games for injuries, for international duty.

"I think we have a big problem to solve and that is COVID, but only about this situation can you decide to postpone, not for other situations.

"Honestly, it's my first time in my life – and I've had a bit of experience in football – to see this type of decision."

Frustrations relating to postponements had been building over the previous couple of weeks and they seemed to reach boiling point with the decision to call off the derby.

Much of the discontent relates to certain clubs' apparent reluctance to use younger players from their second or academy teams.

Leeds United were praised on Sunday for going ahead with their match away to West Ham and winning 3-2 despite seven of their nine substitutes having no prior Premier League experience at all – one of the two who had appeared in a top-flight game before had only a three-minute cameo to his name.

Premier League rules state Under-21 players must be deemed "appropriately experienced" in order to count towards top-flight eligibility criteria for postponement purposes, and Rodgers – whose Leicester face Spurs on Wednesday – feels this is the fairest approach for the mental well-being of youngsters.

"It depends on how you frame it," Rodgers responded when asked about the apparent under-utilisation of young players.

"We have young players coming in now like [Kiernan] Dewsbury-Hall, and his timeline is that he went out on loan.

"You have to be careful. Not every Under-23 player is ready for Premier League football and you don't want to destroy a career. Development is different for players. We will look to play young players at the right time, we have been able to do that in the FA Cup.

"The rules are clear. For the Premier League, you have to have 13 plus a goalkeeper, so there is enough clarity. It doesn't say the guys out have to be out with COVID. The rules are there and clear.

"We are clear on where we are now. We were shown in a managers' meeting that it will hit different areas at different times, and different parts of the country will be hit.

"Lots of players are injured because they are having to play more. The Premier League have tried to be as fair as they can, and then there's Under-23s if they are experienced enough.

"We played the FA Cup game, but then we couldn't play the next game because we didn't have the players.

"Everyone has an opinion, but unless you're inside a club and are privy to the injuries and COVID cases, then it's probably difficult to say [games shouldn't be postponed]. All the clubs are working to get the games on."

Antonio Conte is set to take charge of his first north London derby on Sunday.

We say "is set to" rather than "will" because there does appear to be the possibility of the game being postponed due to Arsenal's growing list of absences, with the club reportedly requesting for it to be called off.

The Gunners were without as many as nine first-team players for Thursday's EFL Cup semi-final first-leg draw with Liverpool, and Mikel Arteta intimated they have further issues as a result of that match.

But, for the moment, the game is planned to go ahead as normal and Conte will surely be eager for it to do so, with Arsenal's predicament seemingly giving him the best possible chance to right some previous wrongs…

CONTE'S ARSENAL HOODOO

When you consider how good Conte's Chelsea were, it seems quite remarkable he could have such a poor record against any team.

But during his time at Stamford Bridge, Conte won just one of eight games against the Gunners, or 12.5 per cent.

Among the clubs he has faced at least five times across his managerial career, Conte does not have a worse win rate against anyone.

Spurs can perhaps take solace in the fact they have not lost yet under the Italian in the Premier League, though if they do lose on Sunday, Conte will be the first Tottenham manager to suffer his first top-flight defeat in a north London derby since Ossie Ardiles in August 1993.

KEY MEN RELISH A DERBY

In Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, Tottenham have two players with a track record of impacting north London derbies.

Son has had a hand in five goals across his previous four meetings with Arsenal (three goals, two assists), while Kane is, of course, this fixture's all-time leading scorer with 11 strikes in 16 games.

Nevertheless, Arsenal may have some confidence in keeping Kane at bay at least given he has not scored in his past two derbies – failure again will make it his worst drought in the fixture.

Further to that, Kane's record of 0.35 non-penalty expected goals (xG) per 90 minutes is bettered by as many as 15 players this season (minimum 500 minutes played) and he is under-performing that in terms of non-penalty goals (0.19 per 90 mins), suggesting he may not be the Mr. Reliable he once was.

YOUNG GUNS MADE OF THE WRIGHT STUFF?

While Arsenal's squad may have a little less derby pedigree, it would be fair to say they have a greater presence of youthful exuberance, with young players playing a prominent role for Arteta.

Arguably chief among them are Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka, who were both on the scoresheet when Arsenal beat Spurs 3-1 earlier this season.

No English player has scored in both north London derbies for Arsenal in the same year since, remarkably, Ian Wright in 1993-94.

Given the form of both players, there is a strong chance that run could end.

SAKA BACK ON TRACK

After dazzling at Euro 2020, some might have expected Saka to truly light up the Premier League this season. He perhaps has not quite reached that level, though his recent form has been excellent.

He has been involved in at least one goal in each of his previous five Premier League games, netting four and setting up a couple.

Should he continue that streak against Spurs – or whoever they play next if the game is postponed – he will be the youngest player in the competition's history to have a hand in a goal in six successive Premier League games.

Antonio Conte insists Chelsea have "created the gap" in quality between his former club and Tottenham ahead of their EFL Cup semi-final second leg.

Spurs were beaten 2-0 in the first leg at Stamford Bridge last week; Kai Havertz on target for the hosts before a Ben Davies own-goal.

The Blues have progressed from each of their last 13 two-legged ties after winning the first leg, last failing to do so against Liverpool in the 2006-07 Champions League semi-finals.

Meanwhile, Tottenham are looking to become only the second side – after Aston Villa in 1993-94 – to reach the EFL Cup showpiece after losing their semi-final first leg by more than one goal.

Following the defeat, Conte conceded the gulf in class by admitting there were no comparisons between the sides.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference, the Spurs head coach clarified those comments, acknowledging his former club are responsible for their superiority.

"When I speak about the gap; to reduce the gap, it means that I am not stupid to not understand the gap between the clubs," he said.

"It means that you have to improve the squad, the work and to have a project and vision. 

"The gap is a space that you have with other teams and I think that, in this moment, we are to work a lot to reduce this gap. 

"Chelsea work well, they win the Champions League and then invest a lot of money to improve their squad. This creates a gap, this is the truth. Chelsea have created this gap."

Conte also revealed that Tottenham are in negotiations over a new deal for club captain Hugo Lloris.

Now in his 10th season with Spurs, the goalkeeper's existing contract is due to expire at the end of the campaign, but the Italian is confident he will remain with the club.

"I think they have started talking," Conte added. 

"You know what I think of him, I have said previously he is our captain and a top goalkeeper. [He] has great experience and knows the club. 

"For me, he is an important player. I am not the person who renews contracts; that is the club, and they are the people that do this, but I am confident."

Antonio Conte has met with the Tottenham hierarchy to discuss January transfer plans, but also appreciates he must also focus on coaching and improving the players he already has.

The Spurs boss also appeared to deny speculation that Dutch forward Steven Bergwijn could be about to depart the club.

Speaking at a media conference ahead of Wednesday's EFL Cup semi-final second leg against Chelsea, with Spurs trailing 2-0 after the first leg, Conte confirmed he has met the club's owners and the managing director Fabio Paratici to talk over plans for the current transfer window.

"It was a good meeting," the former Inter manager confirmed. "The owner and Paratici they started together at the start of this season and I came in halfway. A good meeting to speak and to tell them my thoughts about the two months I spent in Tottenham.

"But what I want… I spoke with the club and I had my thoughts about the situation and this is the most important thing. Then the club has to decide the best way to go. I don’t have expectations. I am a coach and I know that we have to solve many problems.

"For me, in this moment, the best possible way is to get the best from my players and improve the squad... This is the only way I can go to improve the situation, to improve the squad. Then the club knows very well our situation and it has to take the best decision."

Conte was also asked about recent stories linking Bergwijn with a move to Ajax, and the Italian responded by seemingly suggesting the player is still a part of his immediate plans.

"Bergwijn, he knows very well what I think about him. I consider him a player that can play all three roles, as a number nine and number 10.

"In my period at Tottenham, he was injured for a long time, but I showed him that when he is in a good physical condition I gave him a chance. He is a Tottenham player and he is very close to coming back.

"After the game with Chelsea he can start a training session. I can count on him. He is a player with different characteristics than Harry [Kane], Son [Heung min] and [Lucas] Moura. He is a player we don’t have in our squad."

Conte also confirmed that centre-back Cristian Romero is close to returning after missing the last two months with a hamstring injury. 

Romero became the second-most expensive transfer in Spurs' history when he signed for a reported £47m from Atalanta in August after Tanguy Ndombele's £53.8m switch from Lyon in 2019.

"Today, Cristian had a little part of a training session with us," added Conte. "He's very close to coming back.

"We're talking about another important player for us. We lost him for almost two months and I think we faced this situation in the best possible way. Cristian for sure is an important player for us.

"Despite this, the players who played showed to be good and improved. For example, Sanchez is improving a lot. Now, Cristian is very close to coming back and being available."

Tottenham head coach Antonio Conte has suggested the club must match his ambition as he looks to improve Spurs.

Conte only signed a contract for a year and a half after taking over from Nuno Espirito Santo in November.

The former Inter coach believes that is not an issue, however, as he insisted he has joined Spurs to help build the club.

However, Conte – who left Inter last year after winning the title amid financial limitations – also implied that Tottenham must match his ambition in order to grow.

"I signed a contract for this season and next season," Conte told a news conference ahead of Spurs' FA Cup third-round tie with Morecambe.

"I think that we decided together, the club and I, to go for this decision. I think that I don't need a long contract to be sure to work for a club. I think that the club has to appreciate my job and then extend my contract, but only if I showed the club I deserve this.

"I'm not a coach that wants many years of a contract. Also, it's not fair, because I know very well I'm a top coach with an important salary for the club.

"I'm open to improve the Tottenham situation and I decided to sign a contract with this club and I'm available to give my opinion, to give my vision, and it won't be a problem for me, a short contract – only one year to go. It's OK because Tottenham has to be sure 120 per cent to continue to work with me.

"I'm happy to work with this group because they are giving me great availability. But at the same time, you know the club has to know my vision, has to know my opinion about the situation and especially what is our ambition."

Conte has overseen a turnaround in fortunes for Spurs, going unbeaten in his first eight Premier League games in charge, winning five of them.

Under the ex-Chelsea and Italy boss, Tottenham have scored 14 league goals, conceding just four times.

That is in contrast to 11 top-flight goals netted and 16 goals conceded across 10 games during Nuno's brief stint, with the Portuguese overseeing five wins and as many defeats.

 

Spurs are far more creative under Conte, averaging 11.5 chances per game compared to 7.1 under Nuno.

Their expected goals (xG) average per game has also doubled, from 1.0 to 2.0, while they are better defensively, facing on average 10 shots per match as opposed to 15, with their mean xGA (expected goals against) value dropping from 1.5 to 0.78.

"When I decided to sign with Tottenham, I know what happened recently in the story of the club," Conte said.

"When you arrive at a new club, you have to go into the situation to understand it very well and to know it very well.

"Outside you can only imagine. It's the same with the players. Outside, you can give an evaluation about a player and then I think when you are the coach of the player and you live with the player day by day, you understand everything about the player and I think it's the same for me.

"I am enjoying my time in Tottenham because I have found a group of players who have shown me a great availability, and they show me the will, the desire to improve in many aspects, and when you have this type of player you are happy."

Tottenham boss Antonio Conte fears Son Heung-min could be unavailable until after the next international break after the South Korea international picked up a muscle injury.

Son - who has made 21 appearances for Spurs in all competitions this season, registering eight goals and three assists - came off after 79 minutes of Wednesday's 2-0 EFL Cup semi-final first leg defeat against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, but Conte insists that was not because of an injury at the time.

Speaking at a news conference ahead of Sunday's FA Cup third-round tie against League One outfit Morecambe, the former Chelsea and Inter boss said the player felt a pain in his leg the following day and has had a scan to evaluate the damage.

"It was a strange situation," Conte told reporters. "Against Chelsea, I made two substitutions together, with Lucas Moura and then Son. But not for injury, the substitutions, but only to try to give them a bit of rest, 15 minutes of rest.

"Then the day after, he felt a bit of pain in his muscle, in his leg. He had a scan and now we have to make the right evaluation from the doctors. He has an injury.

"I don't know, but probably he will stay without training sessions until the end of this cycle, before the international break."

The next international break is scheduled for the end of this month, meaning that Son would be unable to play for Tottenham again until February.

It will be a big blow to Conte, with Son having created more chances (33) than any other Spurs player this season, ahead of Lucas Moura (27), Harry Kane (21), Sergio Reguilon (20) and Emerson Royal (18).

Conte was also asked about whether there have been discussions about potential incomings in the January transfer window, to which he responded: "The first person who wants to improve the situation is for sure our owner.

"I will have time to speak, also with the people who work within the club to try to understand well the situation, to understand if there is the opportunity to improve this squad in this transfer market. But I think we will do the same thing that all of the teams are doing in these days.

"We have two ways to improve the situation, one is to improve the level of the players that we have in our squad. Another is to implement new players and improve the quality of the squad. But, as you know very well, January is not easy for anyone. So we'll see what happens."

Antonio Conte pulled no punches in his assessment of Tottenham after losing 2-0 to Chelsea in the first leg of the EFL Cup semi-final, acknowledging "there's no comparison" between the two teams.

Spurs were well beaten at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, with two defensively poor goals allowing Chelsea to build up what proved to be an unassailable lead before half-time.

Japhet Tanganga first saw his pass cut out by Marcos Alonso, who fed Kai Havertz to open the scoring five minutes in.

Tanganga then saw his unchallenged headed clearance strike Ben Davies and go into his own goal, with Spurs failing to even muster a single shot before the break.

Conte altered his system at half-time, changing to a back four and bringing on Tanguy Ndombele in midfield – Spurs were better, but their five shots was still only a little over half of Chelsea's nine in the second period.

According to Spurs' expected goals (xG) of 0.37, they would have been extremely fortunate if they had managed to breach Kepa Arrizabalaga's goal, while Chelsea's 2.2 accentuated just how much more threatening – and clinical – they were.

For Conte, it was a brutal reminder of how far Spurs still have to go to be able to consider themselves competitive rivals of the likes of Chelsea, whom he was facing at Stamford Bridge for the first time since leaving them in July 2018.

"It was a difficult game, difficult from the start," Conte told Sky Sports. "Chelsea showed to be much better than us.

"The first half, we struggled a lot from the start but we know that we are talking about one of the best teams in Europe, in the world.

"Last season they won the Champions League. If you compare the two teams, there is not a comparison.

"We are talking about a team ready to win – we have seen the difference between the two teams.

"It is not easy to play at Stamford Bridge, the way they were very concentrated, they won the ball every time and then we conceded also a goal [that was] unlucky.

"When you start the game and after a few minutes they score, for sure the game becomes very difficult, but I know the situation, it's very clear in this moment there is an important gap [between Spurs and the best teams].

"We have to try to fight to stay in the league in a good position, but if we think we are close, I think we are not in the right way."

The defeat and Conte's scathingly honest appraisal of Spurs' situation might be hard to stomach for some, but the Italian reiterated the need for patience and highlighted the importance of not sugarcoating anything for his team.

"There is a lot of jobs to do," he continued. "In this moment, it is very difficult to understand which part you take to improve because there is a lot of situations to improve.

"We need time, and patience. Everyone has to have patience, because Tottenham in the last years the level has dropped a lot and now we have to fight to win every game.

"I started my experience with Tottenham and every game we have fought, and now we struggle to win the game, it wasn't a game you could say it was easy.

"We have to be humble, to understand the situation at the moment and continue to work to improve our players, then we will see. It is not simple to say go in the transfer market, in January it won't be easy and now the most important thing is to be focused and work to improve.

"The results in the league were good, we reached the semi-final in the EFL Cup and for Tottenham at this moment that is a good target.

"I am always very honest with my players, we have to clap the performance of Chelsea. I like to tell the truth and with a good lie you don't go anywhere. They showed to be a really good team, much better than us.

"We have to try to change this situation, slowly, slowly. It is impossible to change the situation in one or two transfer windows.

"There is a lot of jobs to do in Tottenham and we need a lot of time. It is important for patience and for me also to have patience."

Chelsea put one foot in the EFL Cup final thanks to a comfortable 2-0 victory over Tottenham in Wednesday's semi-final first leg on a chastening return to Stamford Bridge for Antonio Conte.

Thomas Tuchel, seemingly eager to put recent indiscretions to one side after an apology, reinstated Romelu Lukaku to his starting XI, though Chelsea's victory arguably said more about Spurs' defence than the hosts' attack.

The Blues were ahead inside five minutes as Kai Havertz punished a Japhet Tanganga error at the back, and a comical Ben Davies own goal had Chelsea cruising at the interval.

Spurs improved somewhat in the second 45 minutes but were fortunate not to concede more goals, with Timo Werner spurning a couple of excellent opportunities, perhaps giving Conte's men a lifeline for the return leg.

Lukaku should have made a swift impact when released into the box in the first minute, only to bizarrely opt for a cut-back that went to no one.

Spurs gifted them another chance soon after, though, and Chelsea took it – Marcos Alonso cut out Tanganga's dreadful pass and fed Havertz, who found the net despite Davinson Sanchez's best efforts.

The dominant home side made it 2-0 just past the half-hour mark, Tanganga's unchallenged headed clearance bouncing back off Davies and going in.

Spurs, who introduced Tanguy Ndombele at half-time, were brighter early in the second period, with Harry Kane testing Kepa Arrizabalaga via a 20-yard free-kick.

Still, the best chances went the way of Chelsea and Werner, who first shot agonisingly wide and then saw Hugo Lloris just about reach his lobbed effort after an exquisite pass from Hakim Ziyech.

A late Ndombele effort from Bryan Gil's pull-back was then well saved by Kepa as the Blues kept their clean sheet intact.

What does it mean? Chelsea in control of the tie

The last trophy Spurs won was via this competition in 2008 – on the evidence of this first leg, they will not be ending that drought in next month's final.

Sure, there was undoubtedly an improvement from Spurs in the second half here, but they could not really have gotten any worse – they failed to register a single shot in the first 45 minutes. Even then, Chelsea were still on another level after the break.

Conte has received a lot of praise for the impact he has had on Spurs in just a couple of months at the helm, but this was a reminder of how far they still have to go.

Fruitful from the flanks

Alonso and Ziyech were both impressive out wide for the Blues. The Spaniard was deployed as a left-back rather than wing-back but still got forward to great effect, making the interception and playing the pass for the first goal – that was one of three key passes. The only player to register more (four) was Ziyech on the right, whose use of the ball was often excellent in the final third.

You've been Tangangoed!

This was a day to forget for Tanganga. It was his poor pass to Emerson Royal that was intercepted in the build-up to the first goal, and then his header went in off Davies for the second when he was under virtually no pressure.

What's next?

These two will resume hostilities next Wednesday in the second leg at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, but before that, both teams are in FA Cup action. Chelsea host Chesterfield on Saturday, while Spurs welcome Morecambe to north London the following day.

Page 1 of 13
© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.