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Conte coy on Kulusevski injury ahead of NLD

Conte wouldn’t talk about the extent of Deki’s injury, but was adamant that his own future remains at Spurs.

Tottenham Hotspur Training Session Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

News broke this morning that Tottenham Hotspur’s Dejan Kulusevski is a doubt for Saturday’s North London Derby match against Arsenal after picking up an injury while on international duty with Sweden. However, Spurs manager Antonio Conte didn’t directly comment on that in his press conference ahead of the derby. Conte kept it coy in front of the press, claiming he didn’t want to give Arsenal “an advantage.”

“We have to wait until tomorrow to check some players because they return from the national team with some physical problems. Tomorrow will be very important, the last training session, to understand the players we can count (on). At the moment we have to wait.

“Honestly I don’t want to speak about the injury because I don’t want to give advantage to Arsenal, yeah? But for sure we have to face some problems, some physical problems and we have to know also that we have just started to play the first game in a run that we have to play 13 days in 43 days. For sure we have to try to make the best solution and to try not to take big risks because if we take big risks and lose players for the rest of the games, it will be a disaster. I repeat to play every three days I need to count on the whole squad and we try with the players to also make the best decision.”

There are reports circulating that Deki’s injury is in his hamstring and that he could be out several weeks. That’s not great for a Tottenham side that is facing a grueling run of fixtures over the next six weeks, as it takes a very important player off the board and means more and more minutes for Harry Kane, Son Heung-Min, and Richarlison.

But because Conte’s cards are closet to his vest, that also means that there’s the possibility that Deki’s injury isn’t as bad as feared. That said, I think it wouldn’t be realistic to see him on Saturday morning.

Elsewhere, Conte left the door open to returning to the 3-5-2 formation that was so effective in Spurs’ 6-2 win over Leicester City. Conte claimed that he’s open to playing with three midfielders, especially since he will need to rotate frequently when the matches come so frequently.

“For sure it could be a good option because we have midfielders who are good also to play in a three. Bissouma when he came in against Leicester played well and he was really good integrating with Pierre [Emile-Hojbjerg] and Rodrigo Bentancur. This could be an option not only for tomorrow but for the future if we need to rest players, especially when you have this type of situation as happened when Kulusevski has this injury. Could be an option.”

Finally, Conte addressed Tottenham fans who are still jittery over the Italian media linking him with a spectacular return to Juventus as soon as this summer. Conte, who has taken a very consistent tone with regards to his future at Tottenham, was as explicit as he ever has been — he’s happy at Spurs, and he doesn’t see any reason to leave at this time.

“It’s incredible that in this period and I think this is disrespectful for the Juventus coach and disrespectful for me [when] working for Tottenham. We’ve just started the season. Many times I spoke about this topic and I always said to you I’m happy and enjoying my time with Tottenham. Then we have the whole season to find the best solution for the club and for me.

“And for sure, I’m enjoying the time working for Tottenham, to work for Tottenham, with these players. I have a great relationship with the owner and Paratici. I don’t see a problem for the future. Now it’s important to be focussed. We signed a contract because both parties agree to sign this contract. I don’t see a problem in this moment. And I don’t want in the future to listen to someone speak about this because it’s disrespectful to the other coach and to me.”

The North London Derby kicks off in the early Saturday match, 7:30 a.m. ET / 12:30 p.m. BST at The Emirates.