Antonio Conte tells Spurs stars to start acting like a ‘big team’ as he plays down importance of derbies vs Arsenal

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ANTONIO CONTE has told Tottenham to start acting like a “big team” in north London derbies.

Spurs know anything less than a win against their arch rivals Arsenal on Thursday will all but end their hopes of playing Champions League football next season.

Antonio Conte has urged his players to act like a ‘big team’Getty
Spurs face a must win north London derby on Thursday against Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal[/caption]

Three points for the Gunners will hand them a top-four spot, while a draw would see the gap between both sides remain at four with just two Premier League games remaining.

This derby is one of the most emotive and ferocious in English football – one which every Tottenham and Arsenal fan looks for on the calendar at the start of any new campaign.

In recent years neither club has been fighting for the title, so north London bragging rights is all that has been on the table.

Yet on this occasion, a coveted prize is up for grabs, with fifth-placed Tottenham hoping to go within a point of fourth-placed Arsenal as the chase for Europe’s elite competition nears its conclusion.

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And Spurs boss Conte has urged his players to change their mentalities.

This is not about simply beating Arsenal and the bigger picture has to be their main priority.

He said: “I understand its importance and I understand the rivalry between the two teams.

“But in the past, when I played other derbies, with Inter or Juventus, I always said that a derby is one game or two games in one season.


“A big team has to think that you have to win the derby, not because it’s your rival, but because you get three points.

“These three points bring you nearer to winning something important at the end of the season, not only focused on beating your rival.

“Our mind has to be open for an important target, and for winning a derby to be a way to reach an important target.

“We know very well that if we don’t get three points then probably we finish in fifth in the table.

“There is a big rivalry, we know very well, the players know very well, and we want to give satisfaction to our fans and we’ll try to do our best. But it’s a game.”

Having been pegged back by Liverpool in a 1-1 draw at Anfield last weekend, Conte is confident Tottenham’s fans can push the side once more to another important result.

But talk of the top four and why Tottenham have faded so emphatically since challenging for the title in 2017 and 2018 sees Conte look to the future.

Harry Kane and Son Heung-min helped Spurs come away from Anfield with a point on Saturday[/caption]

The Italian coach’s time at the club has already been turbulent since joining on November 2 – grumbling at the lack of January investment before revealing in February after a run of poor results that he may not be the right appointment.

The majority of Conte’s career has seen him search for a club where investment is steady and consistent, the reason he believes Liverpool and Manchester City have progressed.

Qualification for the Champions League could see Conte’s investment wishes – aimed at Daniel Levy and the board – come true.

But Conte explained: “Liverpool and Manchester City have worked for a lot of years with the same coach, Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp.

“They gave continuity, they invest money, they worked a lot because to invest only money is not enough. But it’s important.

“If you work with important players with quality it means you have a very strong team and you can improve year by year.

“Tottenham missed something because Tottenham dropped. If you compare Tottenham three, four or five years ago to this moment they have dropped the level.

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“If you start to work very hard and continue a process to improve the situation you can hope one day to try to fight for something important.

“But at the same time, you have to be realistic because honesty is always important for the people.”

SPURS LIKELY LINE-UP: (3-4-3) Lloris; Romero, Dier, Davies; Emerson, Betancur, Hojbjerg, Sessegnon; Kulusevski, Son, Kane

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