Tottenham manager Antonio Conte is “very close” to returning fully to work but is not set to attend Sunday’s match against former club Chelsea.
onte remains in Italy recovering from gallbladder surgery after doctors told him last week to rest again, having rushed his return to first-team duties at Spurs by being involved in their defeats at Leicester and AC Milan.
Assistant Cristian Stellini led the team for last weekend’s win over West Ham and has been in regular contact with Conte, who has been watching back training and calling his long-serving coach several times a day.
Even though Conte’s workaholic nature pushed him to return to action earlier than planned before, he is not expected to be present for the visit on Sunday of a club with whom he won two trophies.
“We don’t know yet but my feeling is that he’s very close to coming back,” Stellini said.
“No, I don’t think so (for Chelsea). It is not the moment, but he is very close because I feel also his energy. We have a call three times a day, also in the evenings so absolutely I feel Antonio like he is here.
“We speak a lot and, if we compare when Antonio had the surgery three weeks ago to now, it is completely different. He is completely involved. We transfer to him our feeling, this sensation we have on the players.
I am looking forward to have him back and when he would be back I think the impact of Antonio will be incredibleCristian Stellini
“He can watch also the training so the energy is coming again 100 per cent.
“I am looking forward to have him back and when he would be back I think the impact of Antonio will be incredible.”
Spurs lost all four meetings with Chelsea last season, which included three last January where the Blues won 3-0 on aggregate across a two-legged Carabao Cup semi-final.
Yet 12 months on and Tottenham could move 14 points ahead of their London rivals with victory this weekend, but Stellini is eager to play down talk of where they could be this time next year.
“We have the same points we had last season and we finished fourth. We can do it also this season, but we need to feel the confidence to do it,” he insisted.
“Title contender is not a description we like because to be a title contender you have to show in the schedule to be a title contender.
“We need facts to be a title contender. Everyone can speak about this but you have to show and need to stay there.
“We are happy because if we compare our team to last January, now we are better, but we have to continue to work and improve. Last season we struggle too much against Chelsea and we hope this season that can change.”
Stellini continues to impress in Conte’s absence and has now won three games in charge of Tottenham after also achieving the same number of victories when he deputised for his boss at Inter Milan.
The one-time Alessandria manager added: “I enjoy a lot to be a coach in charge, but when you take a decision you have to do your best.
“Sometimes I think about being a coach, like a dream. But I’m an assistant and that’s the reality.
“I enjoy being an assistant. I feel I’m good in this job enough to continue.”