Antonio Conte has suggested some of his Tottenham players could buckle under pressure.
Spurs resume their Champions League campaign on Tuesday with a draw in the first leg of their last 16 games at AC Milan amid an inconsistent run in the Premier League.
Conte, who says he’s still not 100 per cent after gallbladder surgery, watched his team beat champions Manchester City and then be thrashed 4-1 at Leicester at the weekend as a top four finish in the Premier League of them. up for grabs.
Spurs have failed in big moments over the years and Conte has hinted that some of his players can’t live with the pressure.
“If you want to win or reach goals and have a good position in the Champions League or in England in the Premier League, you have to be stable,” said the Italian, who had his gallbladder removed two weeks ago.
“And that stability is missing this year. I always talk about it with my players. It is very difficult to maintain concentration, it is very difficult to stay focused all the time.
“It is not an easy task to be so focused. We are working on that, playing under pressure all the time is good for some players and bad for others.
“Sometimes players feel motivated, other times they feel so pressured that they can’t perform.
“Maybe they have a good performance for a while and then suddenly they collapse when they feel too much pressure.
“We are working on this, we want to make our players more resilient.”
He added: “I think the pressure between Italy and England is different. In Italy you talk about football from Monday and finish on Sunday. You only talk football and then you have a lot of TV talking about football and putting a lot of pressure .
“You are born this way and you grow this way, with this pressure, and you are used to living with these kinds of situations.
“I think there is an atmosphere in England that allows you to enjoy football without a lot of pressure, because football is a sport and in Italy sometimes football is not just a sport, it is a war between the teams and the fans. “
The Spurs have had a tough streak of injuries this season, including Dejan Kulusevski, Richarlison and Lucas Moura. Bentancur faces a long stint with an ACL injury.
And Conte says this has played a part in his side’s turbulent season.
“There are also external factors such as injuries for very important players for us,” he said. “And those injuries affect the team, affect the growing evolution of the league.
“You can be prepared for anything, you can be a tactical guy, good strategies, good line-up, you can have high quality players, but when those high quality players get injured, you have to change things.
“Every manager wants to have the best players available. Luck has failed us.”
Due to the injuries of Bentancur and Bissouma and the suspension of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Conte is deprived of midfielders in San Siro.
He said he hasn’t had enough time to consider the option of playing Eric Dier in a more advanced role and effectively confirmed that Oliver Skipp and Pape Matar Sarr would start.
“We have the solution in house, with the two young players, Skippy and Pape Sarr,” he added. “You know we are talking about two young players, their first game in the Champions League, they are very young – 20 and 22 years old.
“That’s why we have to be good to help them overcome the emotion, and then we trust them.”
Conte was back in the dugout for the hammering at King Power Stadium and says it’s important to be back with the team in difficult situations.
“It was certainly very difficult to stay far from the team,” he added. “Because you have a sense of responsibility that you want to stay with your players every moment, to breathe the environment in every situation.
“But this problem happened and now I feel much better than before.
“I’m not 100 per cent yet, but I think I’m recovering well. It’s very important for me to stay with the team, work with them and try to stay together in a difficult moment for us .”
Milan boss Stefano Pioli thinks his team is on an equal footing with the Spurs.
He said: “We believe we are equal to Tottenham. Winning the Champions League is a dream, but there is no point in thinking about it now.
“A week ago they beat Manchester City, but we are no better or worse than them. It will be a big game that we will have to play well.”