Tottenham Hotspur manager Antonio Conte has hit back at comments made by Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp following Saturday’s 1-1 draw in the Premier League.
The Lilywhites went ahead against the quadruple-chasing Merseysiders at Anfield through Son Heung-min before being pegged back by Luis Diaz‘s deflected effort to share the spoils.
Tottenham put out a strong defensive showing at Anfield, but Klopp was not a fan of the Lilywhites’ game plan and also had a dig over their league position after dropping two points in the title race.
“I don’t like this kind of football. I think they’re world-class, and I think they should do more for the game. They play a world-class team, they sit back,” Klopp told the press on Saturday.
“They drew against us now, they won against [Manchester] City. So the game plan works for these games but they’re still fifth, so that’s how it is.”
The Reds boss has since admitted that his comments were said in the heat of the moment and he would not repeat them, but Conte was unsurprisingly asked for a response to his counterpart’s verbal tirade.
Speaking ahead of Thursday’s North London derby with Arsenal in the Premier League, Conte suggested that Klopp was looking for an “excuse” after Liverpool failed to triumph against his side.
“Jurgen is intelligent, he was a bit frustrated after the game. At the same time, for us, for a top coach, it’s important to be focused on your team, not your opponents,” Conte told the press, as quoted by football.london.
“If you are focused on your opponent it means you want to find an excuse because you didn’t do your job well or something was wrong.”
The Italian proceeded to bury the hatchet with Klopp, though, adding: “Honestly, for the coach it’s not simple or easy after the game. You have to try to keep a cool head. It’s not easy or simple sometimes.
“If you remember this season it always happened to me, when I was disappointed after a bad result. I repeat, I have great respect for Jurgen & I know he respects me a lot.”
Thursday’s North London derby takes place after Arsenal successfully requested the postponement of the original fixture due to a depleted squad through injuries, COVID-19 and the Africa Cup of Nations, and Conte was not afraid to hit out at the “unfair” decision.
“To speak now about what happened in the past, it is not useful. It was very strange that our game was postponed for Covid and Arsenal didn’t have one player with Covid,” Conte added.
“We lost a game 3-0 because the Premier League didn’t want to move a game when we had 10 players with Covid. At that time it was unfair, this is the past and we have to be focused on the present, to try to get the best result. I think this could be a good chance for us to get three points against the whole team.”
The Spurs boss also confirmed that the team had suffered no fresh injury concerns ahead of the derby, with Oliver Skipp, Sergio Reguilon, Japhet Tanganga and Matt Doherty the only absentees.
Tottenham will begin the day one place and four points worse off than Arsenal in the table, and victory for the Gunners would confirm their place in the Champions League for next season.
Defeat for Spurs coupled with a Chelsea win over Leeds United on Wednesday will end their top-four hopes, but Conte’s side will remain in Champions League contention either way if the Blues drop points at Elland Road.