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Antonio Conte: ‘We will not take stupid risks with Dejan Kulusevski’

Antonio Conte: ‘We will not take stupid risks with Dejan Kulusevski’

Tottenham Hotspur manager Antonio Conte has insisted that he will not take a “stupid” risk with Dejan Kulusevski after ruling the Swedish attacker out of Wednesday’s Champions League clash with Eintracht Frankfurt.

Kulusevski has been nursing a hamstring injury since the recent international break and has missed Tottenham’s last three games against Arsenal, Frankfurt and Brighton & Hove Albion.

In the Juventus loanee’s absence, Tottenham have scored just two goals in their last 270 minutes of football and settled for a 0-0 draw away to Die Adler in Group D last week.

Hopes of a swift comeback for Kulusevski were raised on Tuesday morning, as the 22-year-old was pictured alongside his teammates in the open part of Tottenham’s training session.

However, Conte revealed at his press conference that Kulusevski would not be ready to make his return against Frankfurt, but he should be fine for Saturday evening’s Premier League clash with Everton.

Dejan Kulusevski in Tottenham Hotspur training on October 11, 2022© Reuters

“I think Deki is almost ready. Yesterday he had an MRI and it was really, really positive but at the same time, I spoke to the doctors and they said tomorrow we can have 5% of risk,” quotes Conte as saying.

“I don’t want to take a risk because Deki is an important player for us. It would be stupid. We need patience and we’ve faced this situation well without him. Against Everton I think he will be able to play.”

While Kulusevski is still absent for Tottenham, Conte has confirmed that Lucas Moura will be part of the squad after the 30-year-old finally managed to shake off a troublesome tendon problem.

Conte conceded earlier this month that he was “really worried” about Lucas’s recovery, but the Brazilian was involved in training on Tuesday morning alongside Japhet Tanganga, who has missed all three of Spurs’ fixtures this month with a fresh injury.

During the absences of Kulusevski and Moura, Conte has been working with Bryan Gil as his only backup option to his attacking trident of Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and Richarlison.

Tottenham Hotspur manager Antonio Conte on October 1, 2022© Reuters

The Spurs boss decided to drop the latter to the bench for the weekend’s win over Brighton, instead experimenting with a 3-5-2 formation as Yves Bissouma was introduced into the fray from the off.

When asked about the possibility of sticking with the 3-5-2, Conte affirmed that Richarlison’s withdrawal from the first XI was largely fitness-related, but a midfield-heavy formation could still be a “good option”.

“We try to use the best formation but at the same time don’t lose our identity. This is very important. If you do something is going to change on the pitch,” Conte added.

“It can be for me a good option in the future. We’ll see. We go game by game. When you play games every two to three days it’s important. At Brighton it was important to give Richy a bit of rest.”

Tottenham and Frankfurt are locked together on four points in Group D, with Spurs ahead on goal difference and two points adrift of group leaders Sporting Lisbon.

Kane also joined Conte for Tuesday’s press conference, during which he gave an emphatic response when questioned on recent transfer links with Bayern Munich.

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