Antonio Conte declared his Tottenham team to be “now in the race” for Champions League qualification after they swept Newcastle away with a devastating second-half performance.
Tottenham’s third successive win, and their sixth in eight, lifted them into the top four for at least 24 hours and the manner in which they cut loose to score five goals may look ominous for their rivals. Conte has urged caution about their prospects since being appointed in November, suggesting more than once that they are well short of the level required for Europe’s elite, but he has seen enough improvement to believe they have a realistic shot at finishing the season successfully.
“When I arrived I found one type of situation and at that time it was very difficult to believe [we would]be in the race for the Champions League,” Conte said. “But I think in the last period I have seen my team is now in the race because I have seen great improvement.
Conte went out of his way to praise Harry Kane, who was heavily involved in Spurs’ second and third goals but did not score himself, and said he wants to ensure the England captain is convinced about the club’s long-term direction.
“He deserves the best because he’s a great worker,” he said. “He was a big example for his teammates. When you see him working this way, you have the desire to continue to work and to work very hard. For this reason I want to tell him thanks, because he is always a big example and I hope to give him satisfaction. I think he is enjoying playing this type of football and we have to try to continue together because I’m seeing great improvement in many players. Everyone is improving their level and for this reason Tottenham is going up and up.”