(Reuters) - Tottenham Hotspur should no longer be considered “underdogs” after sustaining a Premier League title challenge for the second consecutive season, Chelsea manager Antonio Conte said ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final between the two sides.
Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs, who lost the league title to Leicester City and finished third last campaign, trail leaders Chelsea by four points with six games to play this season.
“Tottenham are a really great power in English football, they are working for three years,” Conte told the media on Friday.
”They are a great team, they are showing for the second year to fight for the title. Last year they missed this, they are doing it again and are full of great, strong players.
“They are building something important. There is a moment you have to finish to be considered underdogs, this is the moment.”
Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois will return for the Wembley clash after missing the 2-0 league defeat at Manchester United last weekend, but Gary Cahill could miss out after being taken to hospital earlier this.
”When we started to have the training on Tuesday, he arrived with a bit of fever,“ Conte added. ”Our doctor preferred to take him to hospital, it is not a serious problem.
“He is getting better, he is improving a lot. For tomorrow, it is very difficult.”
In the absence of Cahill, Conte may call on captain John Terry, who has made only 10 club appearances this season, to lead the defence.
Earlier this week, Terry, 36, said he will leave Stamford Bridge at the end of the campaign.
“He is a great captain, the problem is that John wants to play regularly and for this reason we have to respect his decision,” Conte added.
“If you ask me if next season it is a serious loss...yes, I think so.”
Chelsea have won seven FA Cup titles, with the last victory coming in 2012 against Liverpool.
Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru, editing by Neil Robinson