Conte back for Tottenham against Milan in Champions League
After recovering from gallbladder surgery, Tottenham manager Antonio Conte will be back on the sidelines in the Champions League.
Conte's return for the second leg of the round of 16 against AC Milan on Wednesday, trailing 1-0 after the first game, is a boost for a team fighting to keep its season on track.
In three days last week, the London team was eliminated from the FA Cup by second-division club Sheffield United and saw its hopes of securing a Champions League qualifying spot in the Premier League dented by a 1-0 loss to Wolverhampton.
Conte, back after two-and-a-half weeks recuperating in Turin, is focused on the matches ahead.
“We live for this type of game. We live for this type of moment because when the pressure is going up, it means your level is going up,” Conte said Tuesday. “Don’t forget last season we play Conference League and instead this season we are playing Champions League. We won our group, the first leg we lost 1-0 and we have possibility tomorrow to beat Milan and then to go to the next round.”
Conte's burst of positivity could help lift the gloom over Tottenham after the disappointment of last week. But they will need more than just that against Milan at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Tottenham had more than 20 attempts on goal at Wolves and will have to be more clinical against a solid Milan team which has proved itself defensively strong of late.
“The pressure is normal and we have to live with this type of pressure,” Conte said. “Maybe if there is one thing that we have to try to improve, the whole environment here, is to live with the pressure. To live with the pressure means to sometimes be a bit stressed and not always to be in peace with yourself, but to stress yourself and to put pressure in a positive way."
Milan also lost over the weekend — 2-1 at Fiorentina — but had won its past four matches without conceding a goal.
The Italian champions also have Mike Maignan back. The goalkeeper was a crucial part of Milan’s Serie A-winning campaign last season but has only just returned to action — playing in the past two matches — after five months out with injury.
Milan, though, has struggled on the road. The team has won only one of its past five matches away from San Siro, losing three of the others. Last season, the team lost only one of its away matches in Serie A while winning 14 of them.
“We’re talking about a statistic that is punishing us a lot,” Milan coach Stefano Pioli said. “It’s strange not managing to win away from home.”
Pioli said he already knows what team he will use “more or less,” but Milan could be without Olivier Giroud. The veteran forward missed Monday’s training session with the flu.
Forward Brahim Díaz, who scored the goal in the first leg, is also a doubt.
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Daniella Matar, The Associated Press