LONDON (Reuters) - Chelsea manager Antonio Conte envies bitter London rivals Tottenham Hotspur despite having pipped them for the Premier League title last season.
He told a news conference on Friday -- ahead of Sunday’s league meeting at Wembley -- that opposite number Mauricio Pochettino has built the sort of solid foundation that Chelsea need to do again after losing a number of experienced players.
“He created a great foundation for his club and we must do the same,” Conte said.
“I want to help my club to build the same solid foundation. We lost a lot of players in the last few years who created this basis for us.”
In the shorter term, the manager must work out what his strongest team is to face Tottenham, with captain Gary Cahill and midfielder Cesc Fabregas suspended and Eden Hazard and Pedro among those who have been injured.
Conte admitted he may have to use one or two players who were not 100 percent match fit, including new signings Alvaro Morata from Real Madrid and Tiemoue Bakayoko from Monaco.
”I have to make difficult decisions,“ he added. ”Bakayoko is improving and could be in contention.
“When you try to put players in too soon the risk of injury is high.”
Chelsea lost their first game of the season for the first time in almost 20 years when Burnley shocked them 3-2 at Stamford Bridge last Saturday after Cahill and Fabregas were both sent off.
They generally enjoy meeting their London rivals, having beaten them more times than any other Premier League opponents, as well as inflicting a 4-2 defeat on them at Wembley in last season’s FA Cup semi-final.
If Conte is happy with the venue, where Spurs are playing all their league games this season while White Hart Lane is rebuilt, however, he does not welcome the fixture coming at a time when Chelsea’s playing resources are so stretched.
“I don’t think it’s a good time to play against them,” he said.
”I knew this season would be very difficult for us. Last season we won the league and reached the FA Cup semi-final with only 13 players playing regularly.
”We were lucky not to have injuries but this season we lost players.
“It’s not easy but we must be strong to face this situation and it’s very important I don’t find excuses.”
Reporting by Steve Tongue Editing by Jeremy Gaunt