Tottenham Hotspur manager Antonio Conte believes Newcastle United’s ‘incredible’ progress has hampered his own side’s chances of returning to the Champions League.
Spurs wasted a two-goal half-time lead in their 3-2 defeat at Manchester City on Thursday night to leave themselves five points adrift of the Magpies, who also have the benefit of holding a game in hand. That gap could be stretched further over the weekend as Eddie Howe’s side visit an inconsistent Crystal Palace on Saturday evening and Spurs visit sixth-placed Fulham just over 48 hours later.
There has been plenty of speculation over Conte’s future with Spurs following recent Premier League defeats against Aston Villa and title contenders Manchester City and Arsenal. Securing a top-four place at the end of the season would go some way to reducing the talk over the former Inter Milan manager and his long-term prospects in North London.
But Conte was realistic about the challenge that lies in wait during the second half of the season and he made a major reference to Newcastle’s progress before admitting his own side ‘have to do something more’ if they are to turn their Champions League dream into a reality.
Speaking on Friday morning, he said: “To stay in the top four as one team with Man City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal, means that two teams stay out. There are other teams who are growing in an incredible way like Newcastle and I say this because last season we made a fantastic achievement but we could focus only on the league and with no injuries.
“This season, we’ve started to face four competitions and the Champions League costs you a lot of energy, if you understand, because you have to make rotations and it’s the same for the Premier League and this situation compared to last season is different. We tried to improve the squad this summer, but this is only the start because if you think that to send away players and to bring in other players, it isn’t so simple to be competitive. I can tell you, no, we need time and patience.
“The only situation we are doing is the work. We continue to work with the players but this is not the only way. We want to be realistic, but at the same time, in myself I dream of playing Champions League. There are 18 games in the Premier League and another competition like the FA Cup and in our mind we need to dream of something important, but at the same time, to be realistic. If we are realistic, I think that we are not stupid and we understand that we have to do something more if the dream is to become a reality.”