Tottenham manager Antonio Conte
London (AFP) - Antonio Conte said he would try to transfer his energy to his players when he returns to the touchline for Tottenham’s Champions League clash against AC Milan on Wednesday following his recovery from gallbladder surgery.
The Italian manager has been absent from the dugout since Tottenham’s 1-0 first-leg last 16 defeat to Milan on February 14 with his assistant, Cristian Stellini, taking the reins.
Spurs host the seven-time European champions in the second leg on Wednesday, looking to overturn a deficit from the first meeting at the San Siro.
Conte told reporters on Tuesday he had been keeping in touch while he was recovering from his operation in Italy.
“But to be present is totally different,” he said.
“I thank the whole staff because they did a really good job.
“Also, the players to be without the coach for three weeks wasn’t easy. I know this but now I’m back, I’m really happy.
“We have an important game tomorrow. We want to go to the next round. I hope tomorrow to feel an amazing atmosphere in the stadium.”
Conte had returned for two matches after his surgery, which took place at the start of February, but said he had underestimated the time he would need to recover.
“Now I am well and I have recovered energy,” he said.
“I have to still recover weight but for the rest I am OK.
“My feeling is good, I have a lot of energy and will try to transfer my energy to my players because it’s an important game for us.”
- Energy and passion -
Tottenham’s South Korean forward Son Heung-min said Conte would infuse the team with both “energy” and “passion”.
“I’m glad that the manager is sitting next to me,” he said.
“He brings good energy for the team, obviously. When he was not here I think the staff did a good job and I think obviously when the boss is not here it’s different.
“From yesterday we could feel that energy and his passion again. If he’s on the touchline players will be more comfortable and I think it will give us an amazing boost and amazing energy.”
AC Milan manager Stefano Pioli agreed that Conte’s return should give Tottenham a lift.
“Well, yes a coach being in the dugout is always important,” he said.
“Conte, there is no doubt will represent some added value by being present, but in any case we are playing against a tough opponent, who will be well prepared and very motivated.”
But Piolo warned Tottenham that the Serie A champions would not sit back and defend their lead in north London.
“We expect Spurs to put our ball carriers under more pressure compared to what they did in Milan,” he said.
“I think they will be tough, strong and Tottenham if you look at their data, particularly in the second half, are a top, top team so we need to be really careful playing them.
“We do prepare our game from a tactical point of view, a strategic point of view but certain episodes determine the outcome of a game.
“We have a slender lead but we can’t just sit back and manage the game. We need to try to score through our game.”