Look away now Spurs fans! Antonio Conte has a WOEFUL Champions League record with a win rate of 33 per cent and went out in the groups with Inter back-to-back… Tottenham are huge underdogs for the trophy and that may play into the Italian’s hands
- Tottenham kick off their Champions League campaign against Marseille tonight
- Boss Antonio Conte does not have the most gleaming record in the competition
- He has won just three of his last 15 matches in charge of Inter Milan and Chelsea
When you’ve won as many trophies as Antonio Conte has, it seems bizarre when you consider that he’s never won the Champions League.
But Europe’s grand prize isn’t just something that’s eluded the Tottenham boss – it’s been an Achilles heel for his entire career. The Italian is a speciality manager – he wins a league title practically everywhere he goes – but the Champions League is just something he can’t seem to crack.
Conte has three wins in his last 15 matches in the competition, spanning back to his time in charge of both Inter Milan and Chelsea, a record that may have Spurs fans concerned ahead of their group stage opener against Marseille on Wednesday night.
Antonio Conte has a miserable record in the Champions League – with three wins in 15 games
The Italian has never got past the quarters and has suffered back-to-back group stage exits
In his last two seasons in the tournament, his Inter Milan side failed to get out of the group stage and last year they finished rock bottom of their group, below Shakhtar Donetsk, with just six points after one win, three draws and two losses.
His wins rate stands at 33 per cent after 12 victories, 13 draws and 11 defeats – that works out as 1.38 points per game. He’s reached the quarter-finals once in 2013 with Juventus as his team were swiftly beaten 4-0 on aggregate – his first campaign in the competition. He has gone no further.
His Chelsea side were swiftly dumped out by Barcelona in the last-16 in 2018. In the first leg The rest of his five seasons have been demoralising group stage exits.
So how is it that such an esteemed like Conte has such a strange relationship with football’s most prestigious trophy? His teams play with discipline, are ruthless on the counter attack and score plenty of goals. It would make sense that this competition is tailor made for him.
Lionel Messi netted a double against Conte’s Chelsea in 2018 to dump them out in the last 16
The Blues stormed to the title the previous season but struggled with Europe in their calendar
‘People live by cliches,’ he said in 2019 after a frustrating draw with Slavia Prague when asked to explain why he is so successful domestically but never on the continent. ‘As soon as someone says something on the television, everyone else starts copying it.’
Conte then suggested that a reason for his difficulties might be that he often works with ‘new creations’, while other managers in Europe have solid, stable teams.
‘You have to work in the Champions League. So far, I have always taken part with new creations while the other (teams) are solid realities. That is what needs to be explained to the pundits. It’s not that I simply win everything I touch.’
It should be no coincidence, though, that Conte has had his best success as a manager when his team are not playing in Europe.
The 53-year-old is known for his meticulous preparation of games and a huge degree of research going into each team he faces – and the testing run of weekend to midweek games minimises the amount of planning he can do.
Last time out in the 2020-21 season his Inter side finished rock bottom of their group after two defeats against Real Madrid
That might help explain why Conte has had difficulty with the Champions League, but the extent of his woes in the competition remain an anomaly, especially given that he’s struggled while in charge of European heavyweights like Juventus, Inter Milan and Chelsea.
Spurs are no juggernauts in Europe and are by no means favourites to lift the trophy this season – something which may help Conte, allowing him to guide his new team through the tournament without huge pressure.
It’s been two years since Conte was in the Champions League and it’s clearly given him some much needed time to reset from the format. Now he’s back with a new team and already has his sights set on winning the competition despite his poor track record – saying he will always have a ‘will in his heart’ to lift the trophy.
‘I think success in Europe with a trophy is important for every manager,’ he said ahead of his side’s home game against Marseille. ‘You know very well it is not simple, it’s not easy because to lift a trophy in Europe – especially the Champions League.
‘It’s important to be there because you’re more likely to win a trophy if you are the coach in a team that is used to winning. Two years ago with Inter Milan we lost the Europa League final against Sevilla.
Now at Spurs, Conte insists he has the ‘will to succeed’ in Europe despite his poor record
‘But for sure in my heart and in my mind there is there is the will to have success in Europe. I know very well that it’s difficult but at the same time I have these ambitions.’
Certainly Tottenham’s group stage draw will give him fewer sleepless nights after avoiding Europe’s top dogs. His last Champions League group pitted Inter against tournament heavyweights Real Madrid and the previous year he was up against Barcelona and Dortmund.
This time around he’ll face a more forgiving task against Marseille, Frankfurt and Sporting Lisbon – though none of those tests should be underestimated whatsoever.
The latest vistors Marseille are flying in Ligue 1 with five wins from their first six games and are joint top alongside PSG and have a handful of former Arsenal players who will be looking to inflict misery on Spurs – Sead Kolasinac, Nuno Tavarez, Matteo Guendouzi – as well as former West Ham man Dimitri Payet.
Spurs have made a solid start to the season and are unbeaten with four wins and two draws
They’ve also strengthened well by bringing in Eric Bailly from Man United, Jordan Veretout from Roma and Alexis Sanchez from Inter Milan.
As for Frankfurt – take them lightly at your peril. That’s what happened to a majority of teams in the Europa League last year as they romped to the trophy after seeing off both Barcelona and West Ham United.
They have Japenese star Daichi Kamada in hot form with six goals in five games, while Mario Gotze has returned and looks to be rejuvenated after netting 12 times at PSV last season.
Frankfurt had a little wobble at the start of the season – losing 6-1 to Bayern on the opening day before successive 1-1 draws, but they’ve since scored eight in two games, beating Werder Bremen 4-3 before smashing Leipzig 4-0.
Conte will certainly need to rotate to give his Spurs side a good chance of coming through the group unscathed – and luckily he was backed by the board with a summer spending spree of £165m to bring in six new signings.
Conte claims the Champions League is the hardest competition in the world but promised his team will ‘play with ambition’ ahead of their clash against Marseille
Richarlison adds much-needed depth up front while Clement Lenglet, Ivan Perisic and Djed Spence bolster the defence and Yves Bissouma adds steel to the midfield. Conte will feel he is equipped for the challenge, but recognised in his pre-match press conference that his team need to be realistic – while playing with ambition – and acknowledge that they are playing in the world’s toughest tournament.
‘This tournament in the most difficult in the world, but it’s also a great opportunity for us to show we are going in the right way and that we’ve taken a step forward,’ he told the media. ‘We want to give satisfaction to our fans and to ourselves.’
‘We are talking today in a Champions League press conference for what we did last season. We did a fantastic job with the club and the players and honestly it was difficult to think about playing Champions League.
‘Through hard work and great compactness between us we got this achievement. We have to enjoy to play this important competition. For sure we want to play and to try to do our best. We have to play with ambition and great desire and will to be protagonists in this Champions League.’
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