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Chelsea v Spurs – A Match Conte Cannot Afford To Lose

Chelsea go into the London derby at Stamford Bridge lying five points behind their fourth-placed rivals and, with only seven games to go in the Premier League season after the match, anything other than a win would leave Conte’s team with an almost impossible task.

And the Chelsea manager is struggling with injuries to two of his key players, with Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and Danish defender Andreas Christensen both returning from the international break injured.

“If we win, we go very close to Tottenham,” said Conte. “Otherwise, it will be difficult to take a place in the Champions League.

“Nothing is impossible. But we have to win every game, not make mistakes, and not drop points in this final run of the season.

“Our target for this final stretch is to take a place in the Champions League and reach the final of the FA Cup, and then try and win it. These must be our targets.”

Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino has hinted that top scorer Harry Kane could make a surprise early comeback at Stamford Bridge after three weeks out with ankle ligament problems but Conte has warned his team that their opponents are not just a one man side and have other players that can cause Chelsea problems.

Conte said: “We are talking about one of the best strikers in the world. When you have a striker who scores 30 goals every season, for sure when he’s missing you feel it.

“But Tottenham have many talented players. They play good football with great intensity. In the past, they showed that, despite Kane missing games, that did not change.

“We are talking about a great team, a really good manager, many talented players in this team. I have great respect for Tottenham. In these last few years, they have grown a lot. Now they are one of the best teams in England.”

Courtois withdrew from the Belgium squad this week with a hamstring problem and returned to Chelsea for treatment, while Christensen was sent home by the Danes suffering from fatigue.

Conte will monitor the duo over the next 24 hours before making a decision but the Chelsea coach has a problem if Christensen is ruled out, with his normal potential replacement, Brazilian David Luiz, now out for three weeks with a knee problem. Gary Cahill, left out by England this past fortnight, is the man likely to step in.

Conte said: “We have to check this couple of situations, see what their real physical condition is, if they’re able to play. At this moment it’s very difficult to tell.

“We’ll try and recover Christensen but, otherwise, it wouldn’t be the first time Gary has played in this role. We are talking about a great player and someone I trust.”