By Rachel Steinberg, PA
Tottenham assistant manager Cristian Stellini refuses to take full credit for his perfect record at the helm as he prepares for his fifth match leading the side in the absence of recuperating boss Antonio Conte.
Conte continues to recover from the gallbladder issues and subsequent surgery that have kept him out of the manager’s chair for three games in 2023, victories for Spurs against Manchester City, West Ham and Chelsea.
Tottenham also ran out winners under Stellini when they beat Marseille 2-1 in their Champions League group stage meeting in November, with Conte serving a suspension during that contest.
“I try to be successful working in football as an assistant or whatever. I’m focused on my job as an assistant,” Stellini said.
“I enjoy seeing the team play well, I enjoy seeing the team playing with energy, enthusiasm and everything they have. They push with 100 per cent on the pitch. This makes me enjoy.
“I want to work on this aspect and follow this momentum. At the moment we’re waiting for Antonio to come back but Antonio is still here because we work with him from here and we speak a lot.”
Stellini repeated his prediction that his boss could return later in the week, but he will be the man in charge when Spurs travel to second-placed Championship side Sheffield United for their fifth-round FA Cup meeting on Wednesday.
Tottenham will be looking to advance to the quarter-finals for the first time since the 2017-18 season, when Fernando Llorente scored a hat-trick in their 6-1 replay against Rochdale.
Spurs, who have no fresh injury concerns, have been knocked out of the competition in the fifth round for three consecutive campaigns.
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— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) February 26, 2023
Last season that defeat came at the hands of Championship side Middlesbrough thanks to Josh Coburn’s 107th-minute winner.
Stellini stressed the cup was still of utmost importance to his fourth-placed Premier League side, who remain in a tight battle to secure a Champions League place next season.
He added: “We have to progress. We have to try to win the game. It’s an important competition, we take seriously all the competitions and we want to follow our momentum and we want to bring the same energy we had in our stadium to an away game.
“This is really important. If we feel good to do this, we can win the game, progress in the FA Cup and then we will see what happens in the next round. We have to be good, focused and determined to win this game.
“There is no priority. We have to win and we have to try to win every game and then we’ll see what happens in the end.
“Step by step we look what happens in the next game. We decide by taking decisions thinking about the next game but we don’t like to look long-term. But to have a good vision in a long period you have to be careful in what happens today, tomorrow and the next game.”