March 16 (Reuters) – Finishing in the Champions League places would represent a successful season for Tottenham Hotspur, manager Antonio Conte said on Thursday, despite the Premier League side not getting close to capturing any silverware this year.
The north London club go into Saturday’s clash at Southampton fourth in the standings on 48 points, two behind Manchester United in third who have a game in hand.
However, they may feel some added pressure after they crashed out of the Champions League to AC Milan and the FA Cup following a 1-0 loss at Sheffield United over the past two weeks.
“For sure it will be a good achievement to finish in Europe this season, like last season. I think in every season, to finish in the top four means you had a good season,” Conte told a news conference.
The coach will have an unchanged squad available for the Southampton game, with key players Ryan Sessegnon, Yves Bissouma, Rodrigo Bentancur and Hugo Lloris still out with long-term injuries.
Conte added that captain and goalkeeper Lloris would be his first choice once he returns, despite back-up Fraser Forster’s impressive performances.
“For sure Fraser is playing very well. He’s showing to be a reliable player. He’s showing to be a really good guy,” Conte said.
“Hugo is our keeper but before (coming) back he has to (be) well. We won’t force the situation because he, Fraser, deserves credit. We are really happy with Fraser but when Hugo will be ready he is our first choice.”
The Italian also shrugged off questions about his future at Tottenham, with his contract set to expire at the end of the season.
“I think there is not one club that can tell the manager ‘You stay here until the end of the season’,” Conte said.
“You know, football is really strange. You don’t know what happens tomorrow, you understand. But I repeat: in my opinion, we try in every moment to do everything, me and my staff. And I think the club appreciates this.”
Editing by Christian Radnedge
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