Antonio Conte insists Tottenham travel to Chelsea with ambition despite their poor past form at Stamford Bridge but admits it is a “good surprise” to have seemingly closed the gap on their rivals so quickly.
Spurs have tasted victory at the home of the Blues on just one occasion since the Premier League started in 1992 and their overall record against the west London outfit is also extremely poor.
Chelsea have won the last five meetings and handed out three humbling defeats to Tottenham in January, which left Conte to reflect on the distance between his current charges and his old team.
The Italian has made huge progress at Spurs in the ensuing months, with a top-four finish achieved and several new signings improving squad depth while Chelsea are in a transitional period after long-term owner Roman Abramovich departed in May alongside numerous key personnel.
It adds to the intrigue before Sunday’s clash and Conte is confident a different Tottenham will show up.
“Honestly last season it was the period when I was really frustrated because for me it was not normal to lose three games in a row in only two weeks against the same team,” he said.
“My players tried to give everything but for injuries and a lot of situations, we had only been working together for two months, it was very difficult to reach a good result against Chelsea.
“Now on Sunday the situation is different. We worked for eight months together, we improved the team because we finished in the top four and to do that wasn’t easy but we showed we deserved it.
“The belief now is different. We don’t have the injuries we did last season, but for sure we are going to play against a top team. We want to try to show that we are going in the right way to face this type of team with ambition, not only to fight, but with ambition. This will be very important.”
Six signings this summer has added to the overall feeling Tottenham have a squad capable of upsetting the duopoly of Manchester City and Liverpool.
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January arrivals Rodrigo Bentancur and Dejan Kulusevski were the first pieces of the puzzle put together by Conte – with the help of sporting director Fabio Paratici – and progress has been tangible since March.
He added: “For sure this is a really good surprise, to see the change of the team in such a short time. It’s positive, positive for me and I can be surprised for the short time that we needed to do this.
“Now there is the more difficult part, because to have a good improvement quickly can happen but when you stay on one level, to have another step and another step becomes more difficult.
“It’s because you have to continue to work, don’t make mistakes about the players – signing the players – and this is really, really important because now is not the time for Tottenham to make mistakes in the transfer market.
“I know very well I can’t have everything quickly because it would be foolish to ask for a lot of players and to spend a lot of money. I think we are doing the right things with common sense, not to spend an amount of money for many players, also because this is not the policy of the club, so I understand this.
“You have to go in the right way, doing the right things and I think we are doing this.”
Despite Spurs’ fine work off the pitch, much of their hopes on Sunday lay at the feet of star duo Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, fresh from their Ballon d’Or nominations.
The attacking pair struck 40 times between them in the top flight last season and have played a big role in Tottenham being the leading league scorers of 2022 with 51 goals.
“The stats speak very clearly and in every team that I trained, we were always the first or the second-best attacking team,” Conte insisted.
“My football is attacking football. Our idea is to score one more goal than the other, for sure, but I know that to win something important, to lift trophies, you need to have a good balance offensively and defensively.”