By George Sessions, PA
Tottenham manager Antonio Conte has insisted he will relish the pressure environment on his return to work but called on the rest of the club to embrace their season-defining moment against AC Milan on Wednesday.
Conte is back in London after spending the last two-and-a-half weeks recuperating in Turin with his family following surgery to remove his gallbladder last month.
The 53-year-old returns with Spurs reeling after exiting the FA Cup last week and having lost at Wolves on Saturday to damage their hopes of another top-four finish.
Doctors ordered Conte to rest after the 1-0 defeat at the San Siro in the last-16 first leg on February 14 but the stakes will be even higher this week and while the Italian feels he can handle the moment of fighting to reach the Champions League quarter-finals, he posed the same question to the club.
“The pressure? We live for this type of game, we live for this type of moment because when the pressure is going up, it means your level is going up,” the Tottenham boss stated.
“Don’t forget last season we play Conference League and instead this season we are playing Champions League. We won our group, the first leg we lost 1-0 and we have possibility tomorrow to beat Milan and then to go to the next round.
“I think for sure don’t forget the past and to understand we need to have step by step to improve the situation. Then if you ask me do I want to win the Champions League? I tell you yes but then there is reality.
🔜 @ChampionsLeague pic.twitter.com/YlSKHdlynu
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) March 7, 2023
“We have to be ready to go game by game. Tomorrow the obstacle is Milan and we have to beat them with two goals if we want to go to the next round. The pressure is normal and we have to live with this type of pressure.
“Maybe if there is one thing that we have to try to improve, the whole environment here, is to live with the pressure. To live with the pressure means to sometimes be a bit stressed and not always to be in peace with yourself, but to stress yourself and to put pressure in a positive way.
“In this aspect we can improve a lot and the whole environment can improve a lot about this aspect.”
Conte wanted to return after Spurs’ FA Cup exit at Sheffield United last Wednesday but chose to “respect” the advice of his own doctors and those at the club.
The painful fifth-round defeat increased the likelihood that Tottenham will go another season without a trophy having last won silverware in 2008.
Quizzed on what success would look like this season, Conte again referred to the importance of “fighting to be competitive” and while there remains plenty of uncertainty over his own future, he insisted his players must learn from their cup exit.
He admitted: “We need to learn from these negative situations.
“If you don’t learn anything about this type of defeats, it means you’re ready to have another defeat next year. I hope after this type of negative game, the players learn a lot.
“We’re really disappointed for what happened, especially for our fans because we know very well our fans’ expectation and they wanted to see the team lift the trophy. For this season, we’re really disappointed.”
Nights like these we dream of 🤩 #TOTACM #UCL #SempreMilan pic.twitter.com/Xy6rmfm0hX
— AC Milan (@acmilan) March 7, 2023
Spurs will aim to keep the campaign alive on Wednesday and despite many supporters growing frustrated, Conte urged them to play their part.
“Now I am back, I’m really happy,” he added. “We have an important game. It’s a vital game for us because we want to go to the next round. We will try to do it and, for this reason, I hope to feel an amazing atmosphere in our stadium.
“Many times our fans gave us the right boost to overcome a difficult situation.”