Tottenham desperate for Antonio Conte return after slumping to Wolves defeat
Tottenham assistant Cristian Stellini admitted Antonio Conte’s return will be a “massive boost” after they finished a bad week with a 1-0 loss at Wolves.
Conte was absent again due to his recovery from gallbladder surgery and could only watch on from Turin as Spurs suffered back-to-back defeats for a fifth time this season following Adama Traore’s 82nd-minute strike.
A much-changed Tottenham XI had lost in embarrassing fashion to Sheffield United in the FA Cup fifth round on Wednesday, but their manager will be back in charge completely from Sunday and aim to lift spirits ahead of next week’s Champions League last-16 tie with AC Milan.
“Antonio will be a massive boost for us from tomorrow until the end of the season,” Stellini said after deputising for a fourth consecutive match.
“It is important that Antonio is back. We want to have him back with a different result but the team show to Antonio it is alive.
“They want to win, they want to control the game, they want to dominate the game and this is important I think.”
Harry Kane had been left on the bench for the midweek cup exit but returned to the starting line-up and helped Tottenham enjoy the better of a dull opening 45 minutes at Molineux.
January signing Pedro Porro hit the crossbar with a free-kick before Son Heung-min also hit the woodwork shortly after the break, but Wolves improved after a switch in formation for the second half and began to build momentum.
Spurs goalkeeper Fraser Forster made fine saves to deny Raul Jimenez and Ruben Neves, while Matheus Cunha hit the side-netting from a good position before Traore fired home after Jimenez had been thwarted to earn Wolves a vital win in their relegation battle.
Stellini admitted: “I think the mentality today was good. It is a lesson we have to learn because when you start the game and you control the game, you have to kill the game. This is a lesson we have to learn today.
“I think the performance was good, particularly in the first half when we controlled the game in every aspect. We had some chances to score. We were not so nasty in the way to score. When you have a chance like this, you have to kill the game.”
It took Tottenham until the 77th minute to make their first substitution, by which point Wolves had made all five, but Stellini defended their decision.
“We controlled the game. There wasn’t reason to change,” Stellini insisted. “After we change because there was a reason to change because we needed more energy.”
Wolves manager Julen Lopetegui was pleased to watch his team move five points clear of the relegation zone.
“First of all we are happy for the three points, but to be honest the match has two very clear halves,” he said.
“In the first half they (Tottenham) play with fantastic rhythm and they deserve more. In the second half we improve a lot and we show our face in the end.
“I am happy, but I have to recognise that Tottenham has had chances.”
Wolves lost veteran forward Diego Costa in the first half to a knee injury.
Lopetegui admitted: “We are going to check him tomorrow. He show pain in his knee. We have to wait. I don’t know.”