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Tottenham boss Antonio Conte says his side have nine cup finals left as they try and earn Champions League qualification.

Spurs kept themselves firmly in the race for the top four with a 3-1 win over West Ham, which came thanks to Son Heung-min’s brace and a Kurt Zouma own goal.

That moved them three points behind Arsenal, who have a game in hand, but have to visit their north London rivals in a game that is yet to be rescheduled.

Having distanced his side from the race for so long, Conte says that top-four qualification is now the only target going into the final run-in after the international break.

“The only way to put pressure on Arsenal is to get three points and to win,” Conte said. “There are nine games to go and for us every game has to be a final.

“At the moment they have a good advantage, especially because they are working with the same coach for many years and they have had many transfer markets with the same coach, maybe at this moment they are more ready than us.

“But in five months we have done a fantastic job with these players and we have reduced the gap with many teams in England.

“Now in our dressing room there is only one target in our mind. I want this to happen because it is right, if you want to improve the mentality it is right to start under pressure.

“For this reason I want to make this target, the race for fourth place. We know the difficulty to reach this target. Tottenham needs to have the ambition to play the best competition.

“In England it is not simple, in this moment there are four teams that are very, very top but if one of these four teams has a struggle and then we have to try and stay there.

“We know there is Arsenal that is taking advantage in the table and they are showing great stability and there is West Ham and (Manchester) United. We want to try to fight and to have this ambition is important to ask all of the players, especially the important players because they are able to take the responsibility to show this message.”

West Ham’s own top-four challenge suffered a terminal blow as they are now six points behind Arsenal, having played two more games.

They got themselves back into the game through Said Benrahma but could not get anything out of it.

Boss David Moyes said: “I am a bit annoyed that I am getting asked it, but also I’m quite pleased because it’s telling me we were seen as a side that was getting seen for top four.

“If somebody had said that to me I would have belly laughed. We have been challenging but if you’d have said that at the start of the season none of you would have said yes.

“It should be put as how well have West Ham done to stay in the race until the last part of season and maybe for the first time they have dropped out of the running for the top four.

“Because in truth we have been in that bracket, but you would never see West Ham being a top-four side.”

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Chelsea put one foot in the Carabao Cup final with a commanding 2-0 win over miserable Tottenham on a wretched Stamford Bridge return for ex-Blues boss Antonio Conte.

Kai Havertz netted his fifth goal of the campaign before Ben Davies put through his own net as Chelsea prevailed in the semi-final first leg in west London.

The Blues will now hope to complete the job in north London next Wednesday, to reach their first League Cup final since 2019.

Chelsea were left to rue a string of missed chances despite dominating Spurs however, and will hope that profligacy will not backfire in the second leg.

The Blues drew first blood in a trio of January clashes between the fierce London rivals, with an absentee-induced 4-3-3 formation paying big dividend for boss Thomas Tuchel.

Havertz cut a battered and bruised figure on his half-time withdrawal due to a head knock and a suspected broken finger, with the Blues hoping the forward will not be sidelined for long.

Positive Covid-19 tests for Thiago Silva and N’Golo Kante were of more concern on the night, but Chelsea adjusted well for a fully merited victory.

Romelu Lukaku was back in action after his internal disciplinary omission from the 2-2 draw with Liverpool, but could not bag a goal to kick-start his redemption drive.

The Belgium striker had fallen foul of Tuchel and Chelsea for a recent interview revealing unhappiness at Stamford Bridge.

After missing Sunday’s Premier League encounter, apologising and paying a fine the 28-year-old club-record recruit was back in action and determined to prove his commitment.

Such was Chelsea’s superiority and Tottenham’s malaise however that the Blues could comfortably cope with a quiet night from their £98million talisman.

Chelsea raced into the lead, hassling Spurs with precision pressing.

Marcos Alonso robbed Emerson Royal amid Tottenham’s pedestrian passing, then fed Havertz down the inside left into the box.

Germany forward Havertz latched onto the pass and pinged past Hugo Lloris, via Davinson Sanchez’s deflection.

A goalmouth melee left Havertz with a suspected broken finger, but after touchline treatment the former Bayer Leverkusen player was back in action.

Havertz should have doubled both his and Chelsea’s tally when a deflected clearance fell straight into his path, but a scuffed first-time shot allowed Lloris a routine stop.

Toni Rudiger’s far-post shot was deflected wide from a corner as Chelsea’s dominance continued, and then a major defensive bungle gifted the Blues their second goal.

Japhet Tanganga’s headed clearance ricocheted off the nonplussed Davies’ shoulder – and straight past the statuesque Lloris.

Lukaku should have made it three before the break, but the striker could only nod wide from Hakim Ziyech’s teasing cross.

Timo Werner replaced Havertz at half-time, immediately adding more width to the Blues attack.

Spurs were improved after the interval, and Harry Kane’s drilled free-kick forced a solid stop from Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Chelsea’s riposte was a hooked shot from Lukaku, but the first-time effort lacked venom.

Ziyech should have buried a golden chance when worked free by Werner’s neat link play with Lukaku.

But the Morocco winger failed to generate any power on his left-footed shot that gifted Lloris an easy save.

Werner had everybody beaten – including Lloris – with a curling shot cutting in from the left, only for the ball to whip wide of the post.

Ziyech conjured the pass of the night to send Werner clear through the middle, but Lloris extended a palm to his attempted chip to thwart the German.

Spurs started to overrun a tired-looking Chelsea, so Mateo Kovacic and fit-again Ruben Loftus-Cheek replaced Mason Mount and the much-improved Saul Niguez.

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Tottenham manager Antonio Conte endured a frustrating start to his Premier League return as his shot-shy side drew 0-0 at Everton, who ended a run of three successive defeats.

The Italian had warned his players they would have to be prepared to suffer after he took over from Nuno Espirito Santo, but it was the former Chelsea boss who was put through the wringer at Goodison Park.

Having kept faith with the same team which were unconvincing 3-2 Europa League winners over Vitesse Arnhem on Thursday, he witnessed his side come off second best to opponents beset by injuries and low on morale who had not won in their previous four matches.

Spurs have now gone three hours and 47 minutes without registering a shot on target in the league, which undoubtedly helped Rafael Benitez’s fragile team grow in confidence.

Although the better side, Everton, who had a penalty award overturned by VAR and substitute Mason Holgate sent off in the 90th minute, just eight minutes after coming on, only had two attempts on target themselves.

Nevertheless, Benitez will have been delighted to have stopped the rot heading into the international break, which will give him some breathing space in which to get some of his injured players back.

The performance also restored supporters’ faith after witnessing some abject displays over the last month.

Benitez’s decision to hand Fabian Delph his first start since December was pretty much forced upon him due to injuries and Jean Philippe-Gbamin’s woeful 45 minutes in Monday’s defeat at Wolves.

But it made Everton better. Inside the first 20 seconds he had set the tone by snapping into a tackle on Harry Kane – it may have been a foul, but it sent out a strong message after the insipid showing at Molineux and his team-mates took the hint.

But the former England midfielder has plenty more strings to his bow and his organisational skills and reading of the game helped form a more co-ordinated midfield which fluctuated from a three to a four as Tottenham worked their way back following their hosts’ positive start.

However, the meeting of two under-achieving sides, Everton having more of an excuse with key players Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Abdoulaye Doucoure, Andre Gomes and Yerry Mina out injured, produced an underwhelming first half.

There was more intensity from Conte in his technical area than his players, however, as Everton started brightly, but the match did not really come to life until after the interval.

Twice early in the second half Conte turned his back on the pitch in disgust as his players once again failed to follow his plan and the most commonly seen sight was of the Italian, arms outstretched questioningly.

Delph, meanwhile, was seeing everything and when left-back Lucas Digne charged forward the former Aston Villa and Manchester City man dropped back to cut out a through-ball which would have sent Lucas Moura racing clear.

With only 52 minutes’ action this season he was replaced on the hour, and almost immediately Richarlison thought he had won a penalty when he was brought down by goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

However, referee Chris Kavanagh was advised by VAR to check the monitor and he overturned his original decision.

The home fans were incensed but that in itself was a positive as the Goodison Park crowd, and by extension their team, are often at their best when they have a perceived injustice to rail against.

Cristian Romero’s diving block denied Demarai Gray, while Richarlison’s control let him down as he got behind the Spurs backline from Allan’s chip as Benitez’s side continued to play better in the final third.

Conte’s arm-waving was akin to an angry traffic policeman as he pointed first forwards and then backwards, but it had little effect with Gray steering another shot wide.

Substitute Giovani Lo Celso came closest to making a dramatic impact when he beat Jordan Pickford but not the post in the 88th minute.

Holgate was then dismissed after Kavanagh changed his decision on a yellow card for an unnecessary over-the-top tackle on Pierre-Emile Hojberg.

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Tottenham are closing in on the appointment of Antonio Conte as their new boss after sacking Nuno Espirito Santo.

Spurs fired Nuno after just four months on Monday morning following Saturday’s 3-0 defeat to Manchester United where the fans turned on him.

They moved quickly to find a successor, renewing interest in former Chelsea boss Conte, who was close to getting the job before Nuno in June.

The two parties were in advanced discussions on Monday, the PA news agency understands, with the Italian believed to be in London ahead of a possible announcement.

A deal would see Conte, who has been out of work since leaving Inter Milan at the end of last season, return to the Premier League where he guided Chelsea to the title in 2016-17, adding an FA Cup the following season.

Conte, who delivered the Scudetto to Inter before departing, had previously been in advanced talks with Spurs about becoming Jose Mourinho’s successor in June, but they broke down after the two parties were at odds over key issues.

However, managing director Fabio Paratici is now in position at the Premier League club and has a strong relationship with the 52-year-old, having worked with him at Juventus.

And it looks like any differences will be overcome, with chairman Daniel Levy turning to the serial winner to turn Spurs back into a force in English football.

Nuno was relieved of his duties after Levy and Paratici met on Sunday to discuss his future, with the news delivered early on Monday morning.

The Portuguese was a condemned man following the loss to United at the weekend, where fans chanted ‘You don’t know what you’re doing’ and roundly booed him at full-time.

And a statement from Tottenham on Monday morning read: “The club can today announce that Nuno Espirito Santo and his coaching staff Ian Cathro, Rui Barbosa and Antonio Dias have been relieved of their duties.”

Paratici said: “I know how much Nuno and his coaching staff wanted to succeed and I regret that we have had to take this decision. Nuno is a true gentleman and will always be welcome here. We should like to thank him and his coaching staff and wish them well for the future.”

Nuno’s appointment on June 30 ended a 72-day managerial search following Jose Mourinho’s sacking six days before the Carabao Cup final.

The former Wolves boss was previously discounted from the role by Levy for his pragmatic style of play, but after the likes of Julian Nagelsmann, Brendan Rogers, Erik Ten Hag, Mauricio Pochettino and Conte proved elusive, the chairman was eventually persuaded by Paratici to appoint Nuno.

It started well as, amid the backdrop of Harry Kane’s summer transfer saga, they won their first three Premier League games, including an opening day 1-0 victory over Manchester City which helped win Nuno August’s manager of the month.

However, they lost five of their next seven games and the style of play flew in the face of Levy’s demands for “free-flowing, attacking and entertaining football”.

The losses to West Ham and Manchester United in their last two Premier League matches have seen them go two hours and 16 minutes without having a shot on target.

Conte could be in charge for the Europa Conference League clash with Vitesse Arnhem on Thursday night, with a Premier League trip to Everton following on Sunday.

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Arsenal reach preliminary agreement with Antonio Conte

Arsenal have allegedly reached a ‘preliminary agreement’ with Antonio Conte to take over from Mikel Arteta next month.

The Gunners have made an abysmal start to the 2021-22 Premier League season, collecting zero points and zero goals from clashes with Brentford, Chelsea and Manchester City.

Arteta did deliver an FA Cup in his first half-season in charge, though, and the Gunners board are believed to retain faith in the Spaniard to turn Arsenal’s fortunes around.

However, Todofichajes reports that Arsenal director Edu has reached a ‘preliminary agreement’ with Conte to take control of the reins from October, and Arteta must make a ‘radical’ change in the next few weeks to save his job.

The report claims that Conte has agreed to become Arsenal’s next head coach so long as he does not take charge any later than October, and he was initially contacted by the Gunners following their loss to Chelsea.

Conte has been out of the game since leaving Inter Milan following their triumphant 2020-21 Serie A campaign, and he previously won 70 of his 106 games in charge of Chelsea between 2016 and 2018.

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Antonio Conte has left his role as Inter Milan manager despite leading the club to the Serie A title this season.

The former Juventus, Chelsea and Italy boss ended Inter’s 10-year trophy drought by clinching the Scudetto ahead of city rivals AC Milan, but his exit comes amid reported disagreement with the club’s ownership over finances and the need to cut costs and sell players this summer.

A club statement read: “FC Internazionale Milano announces that it has reached an agreement for the consensual termination of the contract with the coach Antonio Conte.

“The whole club would like to thank Antonio for the extraordinary work he has done, which culminated in winning the nineteenth Scudetto. Antonio Conte will remain forever in the history of our club.”

Conte joined Inter in 2019 and guided the club to the Europa League final in his first season, where they were beaten by Sevilla.

This year Inter, with former Premier League stars Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez, Christian Eriksen and Ashley Young in their ranks, finished 12 points clear of AC Milan to end Juventus’ nine-year reign as Serie A champions.

Conte, who won the Premier League title and FA Cup with Chelsea, as well as three Serie A crowns with Juventus, is likely to be in high demand across Europe.

Tottenham have yet to replace Jose Mourinho after his sacking in April, while question marks remain over Zinedine Zidane’s future at Real Madrid and Andrea Pirlo’s position at Juve.

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Antonio Conte hopes Inter players feel at least “one per cent” of his disappointment following their 2-1 Serie A defeat to Bologna at the San Siro on Sunday evening.

Inter had forged ahead in the first half courtesy of Romelu Lukaku before Bologna’s Roberto Soriano received a red card for dissent after 57 minutes.

Lautaro Martinez could have all but wrapped up the win from the penalty spot five minutes later but Lukasz Skorupski kept out his tame effort.

That gave the impetus to the visitors, who roared back to steal a stunning winning thanks to goals in the final 16 minutes from Musa Juwara and Musa Barrow, either side of a red card for Inter’s Alessandro Bastoni.

Conte, who spent close to an hour in the changing room with his side before talking to the media, could not hide his frustration and says his players should be angry at their display.

“The disappointment is enormous, at least as far as I’m concerned,” Conte told reporters. “I hope this disappointment that I feel is also felt by the players for at least one per cent.

“I am angry at myself because I’m the manager. I have my responsibilities; I am the one who directs the situation and it is right that I am very angry first of all with myself. Then I think that the players must also be with themselves.”

The setback leaves Conte’s side four points behind second-placed Lazio and just one ahead of Atalanta in the battle for UEFA Champions League qualification.

Conte is under no illusions that he is expected to win trophies at Inter and says he fully expects to be scrutinized when things do not go well.

“Situations are evaluated only by facing them,” he added.

“For me this is the first year of working with Inter and I have taken a situation with many situations to improve. At the same time, I also say that it is right to challenge everyone, me first.

“I was brought here for a winning project and to bring Inter back to winning things. Clearly, the victory does not come overnight, but many situations leave a lot of bitterness. You think you are at a level and instead you are at a much lower level.

“From here to the end we will all have to prove that we deserve Inter. Otherwise it is right to make other decisions too.”