Newcastle United’s Champions League rivals boosted by shock return
There was some good news for one of the Magpies rivals for a top four place after a challenging week.
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Tottenham Hotspur manager Antonio Conte is back involved with the North London club after recovering from emergency surgery on his gallbladder last month. The former Chelsea and Inter Milan manager had made a premature return to the touchline as he oversaw a Premier League defeat against Leicester City and a narrow loss in the first leg of a Champions League round of 16 tie against Serie A giants AC Milan.
However, Conte remained in Italy for further recovery in the aftermath of the latter of those two defeats and left assistant manager Christian Stellini to take charge of successive home wins against London rivals West Ham United and Chelsea, as well as a narrow defeat against Wolverhampton Wanderers and the FA Cup exit at the hands of Championship side Sheffield United.
Conte was back in the hotseat during the pre-match press conference ahead of Wednesday’s second leg against Milan and he gave an insight to his recovery and revealed why it was important he was back on the training ground as his side look to secure a return to European football’s elite club competition.
He said: “Yesterday was positive. My feeling was really good. It’s important for me to work with my players and the staff and prepare for the games. From afar I tried to stay very close with my players using video.
“To be present is totally different and for this reason I have to say thanks to my whole staff. They did a really good job and the players to stay for three weeks without the manager wasn’t easy. Now I’m back and I’m really happy. This type of situation can happen and I discovered after the surgery that many of my friends had the same surgery. This was emergency surgery, not planned, and that’s very different.
“Previously happened a lot of sad news and when they told me that I had only surgery for this reason I was happy, because you never know what could happen! This doesn’t change my mind. Now I repeat that I have to stay with the players and breathe the atmosphere of the training ground.”
Newcastle currently lie four points adrift of fourth placed Spurs but do have the advantage of holding two games in hand on Conte’s side.