for an all-London affair this Monday night. Here’s my colleague Ian Winrow to set the scene for you:
Tottenham Hotspur Antonio Conte still dreams of Champions League qualification. But he knows they must strengthen their defenses to achieve this.
Spurs scored four goals at champions Manchester City on Thursday night, suffering a second successive Premier League defeat after their recent humiliation at the hands of rivals Arsenal.
Next assignment for Conte’s side is tonight’s trip to Fulham, who have made an excellent return to the top flight and are one place below Tottenham in sixth.
“We tried to improve the squad this summer, but you know this is just the beginning,” explained the 53-year-old. “If you think to send nine players off, it’s so easy to get other players to be competitive. I can tell you we need time and patience.”
“All we do is work, we keep working with the players. Then we want to be realistic, but at the same time inside myself, I dream.”
“I dream, I want to play in the Champions League, there are 18 games in the Premier League, there is one more competition in the FA Cup and in our minds we must definitely be dreaming of something important.
“But being realistic at the same time, because if you’re realistic, I think you’re not stupid and you understand the work we still have to do to make the dream a reality.”
If the Spurs have any hope of a top four finish this season, they need to improve defensively.
Tottenham have conceded 21 goals in their last 10 league games and lost ground in the battle for qualification for the Champions League.
“Progress does not depend on the end result,” Conte insisted.
“The progress is when you start to see the players play with personality, start the game with the will and desire to have the ball, create chances, go strong, apply pressure and win duels.
“In this situation, for the coach you can see the progress. Then if you have this progress, you probably have a good result, but I said on the one hand that we are making progress. On the other hand, compared to last season, there are we do less.
“To conced 21 goals in the last 10 games, usually this is a team fighting for relegation to conced 21 goals in 10 games, but we have to find the balance.
“I think we need to improve the spirit, the cooperation, the will, the desire, the feeling of suffering, also because we may have forgotten to suffer and understand that if we want to win the game, you may have to stay there. Suffering like last season.
“You have to defend the result, the will and the desire not to concede a goal. Last season I don’t remember how many clean sheets with Hugo (Lloris), but this season in every game this season we conceded at least two goals, but this is our medium, our average, like a team fighting for the relegation zone.”