Antonio Conte leads Spurs back into the big time on Wednesday night with a Champions League home tie against Marseille but he continues to complain that they are not acting like a big club – specifically with regard to exerting an influence over fixture congestion.
Conte is stunned at the schedule that confronts his team with 17 matches in all competitions before the Premier League pauses after the weekend of 12-13 November for the World Cup. Spurs are in the midst of a run of seven games in 21 days and the manager is particularly aggrieved by what he feels are a greater number of compressed sequences when compared with rival English clubs in Europe.
Conte believes that the Spurs hierarchy must do more in their lobbying of the Premier League, echoing a comment he made towards the end of last season, when his team had to follow the derby with Arsenal on a Thursday night with a midday kick-off against Burnley on the Sunday. Back then, Conte suggested that a top club would not have accepted it.
Conte said on Tuesday: “Our schedule is incredible, it’s crazy. We played three games in six days [actually seven] against Nottingham Forest, West Ham and Fulham. Now we are playing after four days but it is three important games in six days [actually seven] – Marseille, Manchester City away and Sporting Lisbon away. This is maybe the first time in my career to see a schedule like this.
“I try to check the schedule of the other teams and I have seen that in this situation, Tottenham, they penalise a lot our club. In the future, and also I spoke with the club [about this], we have to pay great attention to speak to the Premier League.
“One day more, one day less, can change totally your life and you can drop points. This is no good for a team like Tottenham. When you want to start to think as a winner, you have to take care of the details. We can do much better for the future.”
Conte recalled the last of his four Champions League finals as a player – when he was in the Juventus team that lost on penalties to Milan at Old Trafford in 2003 after a 0-0 draw. Milan were managed by Carlo Ancelottti who, two years previously, had been sacked by Juventus.
“I think he had a big, big revenge, yes?” Conte said, with a smile. “I won the Champions League only once. It was unlucky [against Milan]. I hit the crossbar with a header.”
Conte’s record as a manager in Europe’s elite competition is less impressive – five participations: two with Internazionale and Juventus either side of one with Chelsea, two qualifications from the group stage and only one victory in a knockout tie.
The Italian was determined to micro-manage expectation levels as Spurs return to the tournament after a two-year absence, calling it “unthinkable” that they could compete on the same level as the established European powerhouses.
“The story [history] is very important in football,” Conte said. “When Real Madrid’s players play in the Champions League, they are in their house, they breathe the atmosphere, they know the way to manage the situation. Probably every season, they reach at least the semi-finals.
“To win the Champions League … it means you are a team that lives in this competition every season, it’s your natural habitat. Other teams have to build and go step by step. But with ambition. We have to grow with the ambition to go into every game and fight to get a win.”