Antonio Conte: Tottenham securing Champions League spot is important to me

Spurs find themselves in a race with Arsenal and Manchester United to reach the top four heading into the final two months of the season.

Tottenham manager Antonio Conte (Adam Davy/PA)

By Jonathan Veal, PA

Antonio Conte says it is “important for me” that Tottenham secure Champions League qualification this season.

Spurs find themselves in a race with fierce rivals Arsenal and Manchester United to reach the top four heading into the final two months of the campaign.

They can climb above Arsenal and move into fourth if they beat Newcastle by two goals on Sunday ahead of the Gunners’ trip to Crystal Palace on Monday night.

Conte has always been coy on his long-term future but qualifying for the Champions League appears a key achievement in keeping him happy.

“If you ask me about the past, about our possibility to reach a place in the Champions League, I could say to do it’d be very, very, very difficult,” the Italian said.

“Now after five months I’m seeing great improvement of my team and we have to fight until the end.

“We have the possibility to reach this target and it’s important to have this type of ambition and put pressure on ourselves for this target.

“To play Champions League next season is important for me, the club, the players, the fans. Everybody.

“Because to play Champions League is totally different to Europa League or Europa Conference League or not playing in UEFA competition.

“It’s an important target for many reasons, for the club, because for sure you can play important things.”

Conte’s side are in a race that they have seemed out of on many occasions due to inconsistency.

The Italian says it would be a “miracle” if Tottenham qualified owing to the size of Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United, but believes they now have the possibility to do it.

“Before it’s right to underline that this target is very, very difficult. We are not the only team that wants to try to do this miracle,” he added.

“There’s also Arsenal, that in this moment has an advantage, and then there is United. United is the team that in this season are struggling a lot.

“Last season was Liverpool. Otherwise in England, I continue to repeat, you play for other targets. Because there are a top four, who at this moment are stronger clubs than the others, for many reasons. Chelsea, Liverpool, City and United. Last season Liverpool struggled to reach a Champions League place.

“Then Liverpool have taken this place. And this season it depends on United. At the moment we are among the teams that have to try to stay very close and exploit if someone fails this season.”

Tottenham’s fight for Champions League qualification is not going to get any easier next season as Sunday’s opponents Newcastle could be in the running given their vast financial resources.

The Magpies have been led to safety by Eddie Howe and they are sure to invest heavily in the summer.

“We’re talking about a club that now wants to invest,” he said. “I know very well these people decided to come into football not just to participate but to win, to be competition. They want to invest money to bring Newcastle to another level.

“In England when I speak about a tough league, a league where the difficulty is very high. Every team wants to improve, not only Newcastle next season.

“There are many teams. Aston Villa wants to improve the team. This league is very difficult and for this season you have to work very hard to build something important and go season by season to improve the quality of your squad.

“You have to continue this idea of football and improve the quality of your squad. This is the only way to be competitive in England.”

Injured duo Oliver Skipp and Ryan Sessegnon will be back in training next week while Ben Davies is fit after cutting his time with Wales short during the international break.

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