Antonio Conte has spoken of the “strange” experience of watching his two most senior players face each other from the penalty spot not once but twice during the World Cup.
The Spurs coach has the task of making sure both Harry Kane and Hugo Lloris are focused on achieving for Spurs in the second half of the Premier League season which resumes on Boxing Day. But the Italian has little doubt his two leaders will be ready, despite the unusual events of the quarter-final between England and France.
“During the game it was really strange because on one side I had Hugo and on the other I had Harry,” Conte said. “To see two penalties and two teammates against each other it was not easy, honestly, and I think for the players it was really strange. When you are used to living every day and stay in the same club [it] is not easy.
“Your keeper and your striker one against the other twice, it was really strange but then I said: ‘OK, that’s what happened.’ I enjoyed the game because the game was good and I think it was one of best games of the World Cup for sure.”
Lloris returned to the Spurs training group on Christmas Day and will be on the bench against Brentford, with Fraser Forster set to deputise. Kane, however, has declared himself “reset and ready to go again” on social media and Conte said he had felt no need to try to buoy the 29-year-old’s mood.
“I spoke to Harry about my experience when I was a player and negative situations happen,” Conte said, referring to being part of the Italy squad that lost the 1994 World Cup final on penalties. “But you know … it’s not so important to find people to tell you ‘don’t worry’.
“We are strong people. Anyone who plays at this level has to be strong. In any situation there is positive and negative and you have to address them in the right way. Harry is a strong person, I was a strong person when I was a player. It’s better not to speak and to try to justify because we are talking about an important player and they know the way to go.
“I think Harry will be motivated, I am sure, because Harry had a good period to rest and now he can come back strong and he knows well his role is very important. Like Hugo we are talking about our two most represented players and they have to show great motivation, to be leaders and to lead that group.”
Conte did joke that he was slightly more concerned about the World Cup winner in his squad, Cristian Romero. “I am a bit worried, honestly, because they are celebrating in an amazing way,” the Italian said. “To see 4 million people [on the streets] is amazing. But now he has to come back and go into Tottenham vision. I repeat that we need to have our players to have great motivation. The Premier League will be difficult, and we have the Champions League against AC Milan. The winners and the losers [of the World Cup] have to stay at the same level: both with great passion and desire.”
Conte said he was “not really happy” to be playing again so soon after the World Cup and will think carefully about whether to start anyone who was at the tournament. “On one side I have players who I worked with for four weeks really well and on the other side I have players who worked at the World Cup and are not at the top at the moment,” he said.