‘An important gap’: Conte admits Chelsea are much stronger than Spurs

Antonio Conte acknowledged Chelsea were “much stronger” than Tottenham Hotspur after watching his side get outclassed at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night.

“There’s an important gap, an important difference, there’s a big job to do to retrieve the situation,” said Tottenham’s manager following Chelsea’s 2-0 Carabao Cup semi-final, first leg win.

It was not the first return to his former club Conte would have desired in the wake of his sacking by Chelsea in 2018 but, after seeing his team sunk by Kai Havertz’s opener and a comedic Ben Davies own goal, the Italian was in no mood to sugar-coat Tottenham’s situation. Stressing the superiority of Thomas Tuchel’s side, he suggested there would be no quick fixes.

“Last season Chelsea won the Champions League and this is enough to explain the difference between us and them,” said Conte who took charge of Spurs in November. “We need time, so much time, to retrieve the situation. You cannot do this in only six months or one year. They were much stronger than us. I do not see a solution in this transfer window.

“It was a difficult game, difficult from the start, Chelsea were much better but we are talking about one of the best teams in Europe, in the world. If you compare the two teams there is not a comparison.

“I know the situation, it is very clear in this moment there is an important gap. If we think we are close [to Chelsea] we are not in the right way.”

Although Tuchel cautioned the tie is “not yet decided”, Chelsea’s manager looked suitably delighted at the end of an evening on which he recalled Romelu Lukaku.

“It seems like a deserved win, an excellent result,” he said. “It reflects the game. We could have scored more but it is hard to score against Tottenham. We did create a lot, some huge chances. We never lost the focus, never lost the commitment; it was impressive. The team was very focused, very open-minded.”

Tuchel, who revealed Havertz broke a finger in the first half, expressed satisfaction with Lukaku following the striker’s re-admittance to the first team fold in the wake of his apology following a well-documented, and controversial, Italian interview.

Having, perhaps generously, described Lukaku’s often underwhelming display as “good”, Tuchel said he was “absolutely happy” with the Belgian. “Romelu can handle pressure and adversity. It was a good performance, he contributed a lot to our defensive set up and had chances. I liked how he played.”