Guess who’s back? Antonio Conte, that’s who’s back. The boss was back in front of the cameras after his suspension for Tottenham’s last match, the 2-1 win over Marseille in the Champions League, to give his usual press conference ahead of Sunday’s match against Liverpool.
Conte gave a quick injury update on Dejan Kulusevski, who is expected to be back in the matchday squad for Spurs on Sunday when Spurs host Liverpool. Conte also said that Rodrigo Bentancur is good to go after receiving some treatment on the pitch in France, and confirmed that Richarlison is still injured and would not feature. But Conte also noted that Lucas Moura is now experiencing some ligament issues ahead of the match.
“We have these injuries and I can confirm Richarlison is not available for the game. It is the same for Romero but Bentancur is much better. Today he was part of the training session. It was the same for Kulusevski, today he had half training session with us.
“The problem is Lucas Moura is having some different faces for his pain in his tendon. Today he was really bad and he said to me he was really worried for this but I ask of him to try to be available because we need. Also Sonny you know is having now surgery. At the end, we have to be happy for qualification for the Champions League and now we have to try to finish these last three games in the best possible way.”
That does bring up some really interesting possibilities for Tottenham’s starting lineup on Sunday. Considering Deki has only had a half session in full training for Spurs, expecting him to come back and start after a long injury layoff feels a little farfetched. I’m also not sure what Conte’s comments mean for Lucas Moura. It could be that he starts the match but isn’t able to go the full 90. Does that mean a starting front three of Lucas - Kane - Bryan? Perisic - Kane - Lucas? If Lucas can’t go, who’s up next? It’s a mystery! Should make for some fun things to think about ahead of Sunday.
Also on the agenda was the subject of injuries, which have been rampant ahead of the World Cup. (You might almost come to the conclusion that scheduling a winter WC in Qatar wasn’t a good idea!) Reports circulated that Cuti Romero would be out for the next ten days, which felt awfully convenient when you consider that Argentina is set to name its World Cup roster shortly afterwards. It led some to wonder if Romero was “quiet quitting” ahead of the trip to Qatar. But Conte was clear that his players, all of them including Cuti, are fiercely dedicated to Tottenham Hotspur, even though the leagues don’t seem all that dedicated to keeping the players healthy.
“About Romero I can tell you that for him, if I ask the possibility to play with one leg, he wants to play with one leg. For this reason I tell the fans we have players really committed for the club and maybe Romero, he had an injury because he wanted to risk [for the Sporting match] and we wanted to take the risk. Then he had this injury but for sure many teams are having big injuries and this is because we are playing every three days.
“I think we are seeing this situation is impossible, it is impossible for the future and it would be important for the future to understand because many times I hear about the welfare of the players but it is only a polite way to show that you are really interested in the welfare of the players, because they are not really worried about the welfare of the players if the schedule is this. In every moment you show that the most important thing is the show must go on and then please I don’t want to hear in the future, to listen about people speaking about the welfare of the players because this is not true.
“The show must go on, this is the truth, but honestly I don’t like it if the fans think some players try to protect themselves for the World Cup because this is not true, at least for my team. I see them every day. I am seeing RIcharlison with the will and the desire to come back and help us. Another player might stay and wait because there is only 10 days to the World Cup and instead Richarlison wants to come back and help us. It’s crazy when you finish the World Cup and after three days they start to play.”
Conte finally was asked about the current form of Rodrigo Bentancur, who has been on an absolute tear over the past few matches. The Spurs’ boss praised his work over the past year, and implied that he’s on the verge of making a jump from a good footballer to a world-class one.
“Rodrigo has only one problem in my opinion. He has the real possibility to be really, really top, top, but you know that to become a top player you need to will it and to decide this.
“In the last period I think that Rodrigo has been playing in an outstanding way, and he’s a player that is giving us a lot on the pitch, outside the pitch, and we are talking about a player that is showing the possibility to be one of the top, top midfielders, one of the best midfielders in the world.”