Thursday, January 27, 2022

Conte recognises size of Spurs task after drawing former side Chelsea in EFL Cup

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 22 Dec 2021

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Antonio Conte is looking forward to taking on former club Chelsea in the semi-finals of the EFL Cup but accepts he faces a big challenge in winning silverware with Tottenham.

Spurs battled to a 2-1 win over West Ham in Wednesday’s quarter-final and will now face fellow London side Chelsea over two legs in early 2022.

Conte’s men are through to the last four of the competition for a 17th time, a tally bettered only by Liverpool (18), who will take on Arsenal in the other semi-final tie.

It means a reunion with Chelsea for Conte three and a half years after ending a two-season stay at Stamford Bridge, during which time he won the Premier League and FA Cup.

But while his side are potentially just 180 minutes from a shot at redemption after last season’s final defeat to Manchester City, Conte knows there is plenty of work to be done.

“It will be nice to play against Chelsea,” Conte said. “I spent two amazing seasons there but now I’m the manager for Tottenham and I’m ready to give everything for this club. 

“But in England to lift a trophy is very, very difficult. We find Chelsea, then Liverpool or Arsenal. In England the level is very, very high.”

Tottenham advanced to the semis thanks to goals from Steven Bergwijn and Lucas Moura, either side of Jarrod Bowen’s temporary leveller in the space of five pulsating minutes.

The second half was a case of Spurs holding on to what they had, and the hosts survived a late scare when the lively Tomas Soucek’s deflected cross hit the frame of the goal.

Spurs finished with an expected goals (xG) return of 1.2 compared to West Ham’s 1.8, evidence of the Hammers posing greater threat in attack, with Conte putting his side’s cautious second-half display down to fitness reasons.

“Their overall performance was good,” he said. “I think we tried to control the game to begin with and then scored, before conceding an unfortunate equaliser.

“Then we scored again and I liked the way we moved the ball around. 

“In the second half we tried to manage the COVID situation. Many players who had COVID played today and the levels dropped. I had to make lots of substitutions.

“We have to manage this situation. This period is going to be very tough for us.

“I see the positive aspect for us. I’m giving the possibility to the players to play and show that they deserve to stay here at Tottenham.”

One of those who made the most of a rare start on Wednesday was Netherlands international Bergwijn, who scored the opener and created Lucas’ winning goal.

Bergwijn led the way for shots (four) and touches in the opposition box (eight) before being replaced on the hour mark, the Dutchman catching the eye with his attacking display.

“I’ve had two weeks with Steven to know very much what I want,” Conte said at his post-match news conference.

“We had training sessions with only 11 or 12 players and on one hand it was very difficult but on the other we exploited the situation to improve the players.

“Now Steven is a player totally involved in what I want and what I ask of our players, because don’t forget, I like to have a plan and give options to my players.”

Conte has made clear that he aims to win a trophy during his time at Tottenham, whose last major success came in the 2007-08 EFL Cup.
 
Lucas, who has two goals in his last three appearances, feels Spurs are better placed to lift the trophy than they were last season.

“It meant a lot to win today,” he told Sky Sports. “It was a big game, a derby. It’s a competition we can win, so let’s fight for this.

“We started very well, conceded a goal by our mistake but controlled the game in the first half. In the second half they tried to score but we were solid and suffered together.

“Last season we had the chance to get this trophy but in the final we didn’t play very well. 

“Now is another opportunity, another season, another manager, another squad and I think we’re better now.

“A trophy is my objective. I think we deserve it, but we need to show it on the pitch.”

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