Tottenham may only have the Premier League to focus on in the final months of the season, but that is motivation enough for coach Antonio Conte.

Spurs exited the FA Cup and the Champions League in quick succession at the start of March.

It means another season will pass without Tottenham winning silverware, but they still have plenty to play for, fourth in the Premier League and in the final Champions League qualification place heading into Saturday's game at lowly Southampton.

Just being in the Premier League is a challenge that means a great deal to Conte, he explained ahead of the Saints match.

"I think that for sure to play the Premier League, to be a coach in the Premier League means you have to be ready to face a great competition," he said.

"To face important players, important clubs, important coaches... and for this reason, the motivation is really, really high.

"For this reason, you want to be strong, to have a strong team and to try to be competitive."

 

Conte appears focused again on the task at hand, describing his discussion of potentially being sacked after losing to Milan as "a joke".

"I don't think the club is thinking this," he said.

Opponents Saints have sacked two coaches this season, with Ruben Selles now tasked with keeping them in the top flight.

With an international break following this weekend's action, Selles sees the meeting with Spurs as key.

"I don't want to sit on defeat for one hour, that is what I can tell you," he said. "So, imagine for two weeks.

"I will prepare every game to win the game, to do the best performance we can and to get the best results."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Southampton – James Ward-Prowse

Southampton dominated the possession against Brentford in midweek but attempted only seven shots and one on target.

They need more creativity on the ball so will inevitably turn to captain James Ward-Prowse, who has created more chances both from set plays and in open play than any team-mate this season. He also scored against Tottenham in the reverse fixture.

Tottenham – Richarlison

After announcing his frustration at his limited playing time following Tottenham's Champions League exit, Richarlison looked to have come up with an ideal response when he found the net early against Nottingham Forest.

But his celebrations were for nought due to the tightest of offside calls. He is still without a Premier League goal in 18 games for Tottenham, although he netted five against Southampton for Everton.

 

MATCH PREDICTION – TOTTENHAM WIN

Expect goals in this one, as Southampton have scored at least once in each of their past 14 Premier League games against Spurs while keeping just one clean sheet in their last 21 against them.

Southampton have won only two of their 10 home league games against Tottenham since returning to the top flight in 2012, with Spurs now aiming to complete a home-and-away double over Saturday's opponents for a seventh time in the Premier League era.

Conte's side will have to snap a four-game losing run away from home in all competitions, but Southampton are winless in 15 games against teams starting the day in the top four of the table.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Tottenham – 54.0 per cent

Southampton – 20.3 per cent

Draw – 25.7 per cent

Tottenham wish to keep hold of Harry Kane for the rest of the striker's career, according to Antonio Conte, who reiterated his own commitment to Spurs.

Kane's double against Nottingham Forest last time out moved him onto 20 Premier League goals for the season – the sixth time in his career he has achieved that feat.

The England captain has been in sensational form in what has otherwise been an up-and-down campaign for Spurs, whose sole focus for the remainder of the season is on securing a Champions League place.

Kane will be out of contract at the end of next season, though it has been reported Spurs are desperate not to lose the 29-year-old.

While Conte's own future at Spurs appears far from certain, the Italian is convinced Tottenham will do all they can to keep hold of Kane for the rest of his playing days.

"I think this is a question for the club," Conte said in a press conference on Thursday. "For sure the club wants to involve Harry Kane for the rest of his career, in my opinion.

"When you have this type of player, a world-class striker like him, you want him to stay here for the rest of his life.

"But then, you know football. Sometimes it's unpredictable but it's not in my task to make a decision. This is the decision for the club and for Harry."

 

Conte was also pressed on his situation, with some disgruntlement having grown within the Tottenham support following meek Champions League and FA Cup exits to Milan and Sheffield United respectively.

"I think that we have to accept every type of situation," Conte said. "The most important thing to know is that you are working very hard every day at the club that you are working for.

"For the manager, it's important to do this and to know that you are giving not [just] 100 per cent, but much more to improve the club that believes in you."

Reflecting on his comments in the wake of Spurs' defeat to Milan, when he said Tottenham might sack him at the end of the season, Conte explained: "I don't think the club is thinking this. I think the club sees every day what me and my staff are doing at this club. It was only an answer about my future.

"I think there is not one club who can tell the manager you are staying here until the end of the season. The future is really strange and you don't know what will happen tomorrow.

"But I repeat, in my opinion, I will try in every moment to do everything. Me and my staff.

"The club appreciates this. If you continue to ask me if I'm going to sign a new contract, it shows the club is appreciating what we [have been] doing in the last year and a half."

Mohamed Salah is contracted with Liverpool until 2025 having penned an extension in July.

Salah's new deal is reportedly worth around £350,000 per week.

However, the 30-year-old has only managed 11 Premier League goals this term, with Liverpool's hopes of mounting a title charge long gone, and their place in next season's Champions League is far from secure.

There is now speculation that one of Europe's elite is looking to poach Salah ahead of next season.

 

TOP STORY – SALAH STRONGLY WEIGHING UP LIVERPOOL EXIT

Fichajes reports Mohamed Salah is strongly considering departing Liverpool, with Paris Saint-Germain circling.

The Egypt forward extended his Anfield stay last year but the situation has changed amid an underwhelming season.

Liverpool might be in need of a revamp next season, with Roberto Firmino already confirmed to be on his way out, following Sadio Mane's exit last year.

Jurgen Klopp will surely want to keep Salah, but if PSG offer huge money, it could provide the German with the cash needed to rebuild, with Borussia Dortmund's sought-after midfielder Jude Bellingham widely reported to be Liverpool's priority target.

ROUND-UP

–  Tottenham do not want to sell talisman Harry Kane even if he does not commit to a new deal, with his contract due to expire in 2024, according to Sky Sports. Kane has been linked with Manchester United and Bayern Munich, while he wanted to join Manchester City in 2021.

City, meanwhile, have agreed on a new five-and-a-half-year contract for Argentina forward Julian Alvarez amid interest from Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona, according to Fabrizio Romano.

City have also asked Napoli about Victor Osimhen's availability, reports Florian Plettenberg. The Nigerian forward has interest from PSG, Chelsea and Manchester United too.

– Football Insider claims Chelsea have made Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong their primary focus for the next transfer window.

Juventus may move for PSG pair Juan Bernat and Renato Sanches with Juan Cuadrado and Adrien Rabiot set to exit, reports Calciomercato.

– The Times reports former Spain head coach Luis Enrique would be interested in becoming Tottenham boss should Antonio Conte depart.

Antonio Conte hailed his Tottenham side for showing a strong mentality to return to winning ways against Nottingham Forest, but made it clear this is only the start.

A 3-1 victory at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium saw the north London side end a streak of three consecutive defeats in all competitions, having exited the FA Cup and Champions League either side of a Premier League defeat at Wolves.

A brace from Harry Kane was added to by Son Heung-min's second-half effort to ease the pressure upon Conte, following a sequence of results where his future was brought into question.

That pressure did not affect his side, however, who secured three points comfortably, though Conte was keen to stress this has to be a benchmark for their upcoming matches.

"Today was important, especially because after the game against Milan, we weren't able to go to the next round of the Champions League, but today it was really important because we know we only have the league now," he told a post-match press conference.

"We have only 11 games to go, we needed to bounce back and show that we are strong mentally and in this type of situation the morale can be really down.

"Instead I saw the right desire to get a win, and it was positive, but at the same time I said to my players this has to be the start."

Victory against Forest moved Spurs six points clear of Liverpool in the hunt for Champions League football after Jurgen Klopp's side suffered a shock defeat to Bournemouth earlier in the day, but Conte insisted the results of others have no bearing on his team.

"We have to think about ourselves and earlier I was asked about Liverpool losing. We have to think about ourselves," he said.

"A top club has to look at themselves, not at other results. Think about getting the three points and then it doesn't matter what the other team does.

"We have to do the best we can until the end of the season and then see where we are."

Ruben Amorim intends to stay as Sporting CP head coach after being linked with a move to Tottenham.

It appears likely Antonio Conte will end his short tenure at Spurs at the end of the season, when his contract expires.

Conte will have spent less than two years at the helm of the north London side, leading them into the Champions League but proving unable to deliver a trophy.

Nottingham Forest's Steve Cooper and Brighton and Hove Albion boss Roberto De Zerbi have also played down links to Tottenham.

Amorim has attracted attention as one of Europe's brightest young coaches, impressing at Braga before joining Sporting in March 2020 and winning a Primeira Liga title in his first full season in charge.

Sporting were runners-up to Porto last season and are only fourth this term, but 38-year-old Amorim remains widely admired.

Asked about reports of Tottenham interest at a press conference on Saturday, Amorim said: "My objective is that I have a contract with Sporting for another three years and in my head is to be champion at least once more in those three years.

"If we win two championships in that time it's a step forward. I'm interested in showing results and not what is said abroad."

The coach, whose team play Boavista on Sunday, last week chalked up his 100th win in charge of Sporting as they beat Portimonense 1-0 on league duty.

Sporting allowed defender Pedro Porro to join Tottenham in January, but Amorim may be more difficult to prise away from Lisbon.

Amorim was quoted in Portuguese media on Saturday as saying: "I've always been treated well in Portugal, they follow my day to day; abroad they watch European games and titles, not the daily context.

"I've always felt recognised. When I'm good, I'm the greatest. My goal is to get back to being very good."

Antonio Conte believes Tottenham are willing to be patient with him but unrealistic Spurs fans are not.

Pressure is building on Conte following a poor run that ended Tottenham's hopes of winning silverware for another season.

Spurs exited the FA Cup to Sheffield United and the Champions League to Milan, while Liverpool and Newcastle United have games in hand in the Premier League top-four chase.

Conte remains in his post for now, but supporter sentiment appears to have turned – something the coach has noted.

"Here, the patience has finished for the fans," Conte said. "The fans want to win a trophy. Stop.

"And then you have to find the right solution to make the fans happy and to win a trophy. Because the patience of the fans has finished. And we feel this. I feel this. The players feel this. For sure, this [does] not help the situation.

"There are many players, also young players, that need to go step by step to grow. We are trying to build something important but if you don't have patience, it is not useful."

He added: "We are far from being competitive to fight to win. I say we need time, we need patience.

"I see that here the environment has no patience, or maybe the environment doesn't want to understand the reality.

"The club has the patience. But the problem is the club also has to make happy the fans, because the fans for many, many years are waiting to win something.

"I understand that it's not easy for the club, not easy to invest a lot of money, and you are [not] sure to win. Maybe your probability improves, but we know we have to fight against top, top teams.

"You have to create the right atmosphere, the right unity, the right spirit, to be solid, for everybody to have the same idea. Or you have to believe in a miracle, and there is a big, big job to do here.

"I can put it all on myself, but I don't want to kill myself. I have to take all the considerations, also for myself. If I have to put the stress and pressure only to myself, it is not right.

"It's difficult for me to realise this situation because I am putting everything, me and the staff. At the same time, I understand that maybe it's not enough.

"If I have to become [someone for] the people to take as a target? No. I am not this person."

Antonio Conte is ready to "die" for Tottenham until the end of the season but knows fans have run out of patience with him.

The pressure on Conte intensified after Spurs crashed out of the Champions League following a drab goalless draw with Milan on Wednesday.

Tottenham were beaten 1-0 in the first leg at San Siro and could not mount a fightback, bowing out at the round-of-16 stage to dash hopes of ending their 15-year trophy drought.

The London club have lost seven of their 15 games this year and although they occupy fourth place in the Premier League, Liverpool and Newcastle United are hot on their heels.

Conte, who was appointed as head coach in November 2021, is only under contract until the end of June and although it appears unlikely he will remain in the role, the Italian will continue to give his all.

He said on Friday: "You know my opinion and my desire. I've said to you a lot of times and during the press conference that the situation I have found - we are far [away from being able] to aspire to be competitive and try to win.

"For a long time I've said we need time, we need patience and I see that here the environment has no patience, or maybe the environment doesn't want to understand the reality.

"If no one wants to understand this and for sure I don't speak about my future because the club knows very well which is my situation, my thoughts. We can't do miracles. If I have become to people a target then no, I'm not this person. The reality is this.

"We need time and patience. I understood that here the patience finished for the fans, for the environment and then we'll see what happens in the future.

"Until the end, I am ready to die for this club, but then we'll see because I'm not so stupid to continue to kill myself."

He added: "You know with the club we signed a contract, a strange contract one-year-and-a-half. Usually you sign for three years, but I think it was for the club and for myself to see the situation.

"For the club to understand my personality, my capacity as a coach and for me - from my side it was the same. To understand if we were on the same page.

"Now after one year and a half, the club knows me, I know the club and it is clear this situation. We have to finish the season and then we will see.

"The club knows very well my thoughts. I am ready to die for this club until the end of the season."

Tottenham will attempt to respond to their Champions League heartbreak by beating Nottingham Forest at home on Saturday.

Richarlison's assessment of his debut season at Tottenham was correct in the eyes of Antonio Conte.

The Brazilian forward caused a stir following Spurs' Champions League exit at the hands of AC Milan, describing the campaign as "s***".

Richarlison, who is yet to score for the north London side in the Premier League, was also perceived to have questioned Conte's management amid growing pressure on the Italian.

The Tottenham boss does not see it that way, however, believing the comments were not a direct criticism of him, while agreeing with Richarlison's views on his campaign.

However, he also feels the former Everton man made a mistake when referencing himself rather than the team as a collective.

"He didn't criticise me. He said his season was s***and he's right. His season has been not good," he told a press conference.

"He had injuries, played and scored in the Champions League and then went to the World Cup and then had a serious injury. He's scored no goals for us.

"I think he was really honest to say his season was not good. His season has not finished yet. If he deserves to play, I'll give him the opportunity.

"For the rest of the interview, I think he made a mistake. When you speak of 'I' and not 'us' you are being selfish. I say to my players if we want to build something important and win a trophy we have to speak with 'we' not with 'I', because otherwise you're thinking of yourself.

"He made a mistake and he apologised and it was good for me to clarify with the team again about this. In this aspect we have to improve. We have to be more of a team and show more spirit positive, especially in negative moments."

Roberto De Zerbi is content at Brighton and Hove Albion and is focused on helping the Seagulls make history this season, amid speculation linking him with Tottenham. 

De Zerbi has enjoyed a tremendous impact at Brighton since succeeding Graham Potter in September, leading the Seagulls into contention for European qualification. 

Brighton are seven points adrift of fourth-placed Spurs in the Premier League table with three games in hand, while their tally of 43 goals this season is already their best in the competition.

With De Zerbi's side flying, he – along with the likes of Mauricio Pochettino, Thomas Frank and Steve Cooper – has been touted as a possible successor to Antonio Conte, who appears destined to leave Spurs by the end of the campaign.

Asked about those links at a press conference ahead of Saturday's trip to Leeds United, De Zerbi said: "I have a long contract with Brighton and I'm happy to work here.

"I'm enjoying working with these players, I'm delighted with my players for their performance and I can't ask for more, it's a good moment in my life."

Ahead of the trip to Elland Road, Brighton are unbeaten in their last five Premier League away games (W3 D2), the joint-longest current run in the competition, alongside Brentford.

Brighton have also failed to score just once in 11 away league games this term (0-2 at Brentford in October) – no Premier League side have drawn a blank on fewer road trips (Arsenal also one).

With Brighton earning plaudits for their enterprising style and with the race for European qualification wide open, De Zerbi is aware of the potential their campaign holds.

"People are speaking about our quality of play, and for that I am proud. But we have to be focused only on the next games. We have a clear target," he said.

"We have a dream. We know we can write a new history for the club. This is a nice challenge. 

"It will be difficult. We know what we can expect, but now we are able to win. I think now we have a complete squad with many young players, we are stronger.

"We want to arrive in Europe but we have to push and take it game by game. Tomorrow starts a difficult period with three games in a week, but we are ready to fight for our targets."

Mauricio Pochettino would be making a mistake by going back to Tottenham as Jamie Carragher believes a second Spurs stint would be akin to Kevin Keegan's Newcastle United return.

Pressure is building on Tottenham coach Antonio Conte after a desperate run that has ended their hopes of winning silverware this season.

After back-to-back Premier League victories lifted Spurs into the top four, they crashed out of the FA Cup at Sheffield United, lost at Wolves in the league and then exited the Champions League following a dismal goalless draw against Milan.

With Conte's contract up at the end of the season, it appears likely the former Juventus, Chelsea and Inter boss will soon be departing Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Pochettino, who spent five years at the club, would be a popular appointment for many fans, and he remains out of work after leaving Paris Saint-Germain.

But Liverpool legend Carragher sees concerning parallels with Keegan's 2008 homecoming at Newcastle, where he soon left following a dispute with owner Mike Ashley.

"Never go back. That is what they say in football," Carragher wrote in The Telegraph.

"Mauricio Pochettino would be wise to remember that if he is tempted to return to Tottenham Hotspur.

"Don't do it, Poch. All parties need to move on. Comebacks are usually more romantic than logical.

"Pochettino may see Spurs as the best chance to return to the Premier League. Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy could curry favour with the supporters by re-appointing a popular ex-manager.

"They must know how rarely old magic is recreated in football."

While noting Carlo Ancelotti has enjoyed a successful second spell at Real Madrid and Jose Mourinho won the title after rejoining Chelsea, Carragher added: "Pochettino returning to Spurs would be like Kevin Keegan going back to Newcastle United.

"Like Keegan's Newcastle in the mid-90s, Pochettino's Tottenham charmed neutrals without winning trophies.

"Keegan's re-appointment in 2008 was greeted like the second coming, but he walked into different conditions and was gone eight months later."

Tottenham finished second under Pochettino in 2016-17, their best performance since the 1960s, and also came third twice.

He was unable to end their wait for silverware, however, losing in the Champions League final in 2019 and EFL Cup final in 2015.

Nottingham Forest manager Steve Cooper has dismissed links with Tottenham amid growing pressure on Antonio Conte.

Spurs' Champions League exit at the hands of AC Milan, along with poor Premier League form and bowing out of the FA Cup against Sheffield United, has led to speculation over Conte's future.

On Thursday, the Athletic reported chairman Daniel Levy has tasked director of football Fabio Paratici to produce a list of suitable replacements for the Italian.

Cooper has been linked with a potential vacancy, reportedly having admirers within the Spurs hierarchy, but he outlined his focus on Forest ahead of Saturday's trip to north London.

"The only thing that it is, is irrelevant. I said what I said last week, I don't want or need to say it again," he said at a press conference.

"The most important thing for me is the game, the guys I am working with every single day and I am trying to be at my best and do a good day's work and try and get them to do the same.

"Then we give ourselves a chance of trying to be a better team. We are embracing that challenge, we have had a lot of hurdles we have had to overcome this season, I am loving this journey with the players.

"It is a challenging one but one I am enjoying. But anything outside that bubble is irrelevant.

"The moment I am not thinking about Nottingham Forest or the players or the staff or how I can be at my best is the moment I am not getting it right, that's not what I want to be, I want to be all-in, that's what I am and I am not looking further than going to Tottenham on Saturday."

Cooper was not the only Premier League boss to dismiss questions about a move to Tottenham, with Brentford head coach Thomas Frank outlining his happiness with the Bees.

"First, they have a manager which is a manager I have studied for years and I admire massively. I think he has achieved some fantastic results so I hope he will do well and I hope Spurs do well," he said ahead of the game against Everton.

"Secondly, I am very, very happy here at Brentford."

Harry Kane says a top-four Premier League finish will not make Tottenham's season a success, admitting Spurs are "lacking something" as speculation over Antonio Conte's future grows. 

Spurs have seen their hopes of avoiding another trophyless season evaporate within the space of a week, following up an FA Cup loss at Sheffield United with a Champions League exit against Milan.

Tottenham suffered a dire Premier League defeat at Wolves between those two eliminations, and they have now failed to score in three successive games for the first time since a three-match losing run in April and May 2019.

With Spurs now facing a battle for a top-four berth, Kane says a 15th consecutive campaign without silverware is unacceptable.

"Where we're at as a club, we should be winning trophies," Kane told reporters. "The top four [being Spurs' only target] is a consequence of not playing as well as we want to play. 

"For sure, it's not enough for this club. I totally understand the fans' frustrations. Top four is not good enough for anyone at this club, especially the fans. They have the right to voice their opinion.

"The last week especially just hasn't been good enough. Before the Sheffield United game, the season could have been a whole lot different. 

"You go through there, you take that momentum into the league game and this game [against Milan]. 

"But I feel like that loss last week put a dagger in our hearts and as you can see, we haven't really recovered from that."

 

Spurs' expected goals over two legs in a 1-0 aggregate defeat to Milan was only 0.91, and they have failed to win any of their past five Champions League knockout games (D1 L4) since beating Ajax 3-2 at the semi-final stage in 2019.

It has been suggested their latest failure could spell the end of head coach Conte's tenure at the club, with the Italian accepting Spurs may sack him before his contract expires at the end of the season.

Asked for his thoughts on Conte's future, Kane said: "It's his decision, he's going to be the one that makes that choice. 

"All we can do as players is try to perform for him, work as hard as we can. That's what we're doing. You can't fault the effort of the players. We're just lacking something. 

"We've talked about mentality before and that ruthless hunger to be better, to be the best, to be one of the best teams in Europe. We just haven't quite found that yet."

Antonio Conte accepts he could be dismissed by Tottenham after his team's Champions League exit.

Spurs have lost seven of their 15 games in 2023 and their trophy hopes have been vanquished, with a top-four finish in the Premier League their last remaining target.

They hold down fourth place for now, but Liverpool and Newcastle United are in close pursuit.

The European campaign ended with a 1-0 loss on aggregate to Milan at the last-16 stage, after a bleak 0-0 draw at home on Wednesday in which Tottenham barely threatened their visitors, managing just two shots on target.

Conte was appointed in November 2021 on a contract that runs through to the end of this season.

The former Juventus, Inter and Italy boss might well depart once the campaign ends, but Tottenham could pull the plug before then if they consider Conte is not maximising the team's potential.

Sacking the highly respected Conte might be a move chairman Daniel Levy considers as he weighs up the future prospects of on-field success.

Conte told Italian broadcaster Prime: "I respect the contract and at the end of the season I'll make the right assessments with the club.

"Let's see, maybe they can send me away even earlier. For a coach, what matters is raising the bar, and we struggled this year."

Tottenham host Nottingham Forest in the Premier League on Saturday.

Antonio Conte believes Tottenham have taken "a step forward" this season, despite their final chance of silverware being ended by Milan on Wednesday.

Spurs were unable to overturn a 1-0 deficit from last month's Champions League last-16 first leg as they played out a 0-0 draw in the return fixture at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Despite knowing they needed a goal to stay in the tie, Spurs failed to muster a single attempt on target in the first half and only seriously troubled Mike Maignan once all game.

The Milan goalkeeper produced a fine save to keep out Harry Kane's late header, which came after Cristian Romero was sent off for two bookable offences.

It means Tottenham's wait for a trophy of any sort will stretch into a 16th year, with a top-four battle in the Premier League all they have to fight for this campaign.

But after failing to qualify for the Champions League in the past two seasons, and struggling in the Europa Conference League last year, Conte is focusing on the positives.

"If I have to see a positive situation, it's that we had a step forward," he told BT Sport. "We played in the Conference League last year and weren't able to get out of the group. 

"Now we took a step forward but it is not enough and if we want to be competitive, we have to fight."

Spurs, eliminated from the FA Cup by second-tier Sheffield United last week, have failed to net in three straight games for the first time since between April and May 2019.

They finished with an expected goals (xG) value of 0.45 in their second leg against Milan, compared to 1.4 for their opponents.

"That is the third game in a row that we were not able to score," Conte said. "I think the game was in the balance. I think we can do much better offensively. 

"I speak about the whole team, not only those who play in the front half of the field. We can do much better.

"I can't tell anything negative about the commitment of the players. They gave everything from the start to the end."

Wednesday marked the first time Tottenham have been held to a goalless draw at home in any competition since doing so against Swansea City in September 2017, a run spanning 147 games.

Tottenham, bar Kane's late header, failed to offer any sort of attacking threat and were booed off both at half-time and full-time by their supporters.

"In our mind we wanted to put pressure on them with intensity, but in the first half we found it difficult offensively," Conte said of Spurs' tentative approach.

"We found space to receive the ball and create one-v-ones, but we struggled. We felt a bit of pressure. I think they need to play regularly this type of game to try to improve.

"I think everybody wants to go to the next round. In the first game we lost a good chance. Milan were without important players then, like us.

"We have to continue to work. We have another game that we have to recover for. We have to try to reach the best possible position at the end of the season."

Spurs return to action on Saturday with a home match against Forest in the Premier League, before travelling to Southampton in their final game before the international break.

Stefano Pioli warned his Milan players they cannot just sit back and defend their 1-0 first-leg lead at Tottenham in the Champions League last 16 on Wednesday.

Pioli's men take a narrow advantage to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for the second leg after Brahim Diaz's first goal since October put them ahead at San Siro.

Milan will return to the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time since the 2011-12 season if they avoid defeat, though Pioli cautioned his players not to sit back and just focus on defending on Wednesday.

"Tomorrow is the match of personalities," Pioli told reporters at his pre-match news conference. "Our opponents are formidable from an offensive point of view, they will play with great intensity.

"We must be prepared to control the game more. We have a very small advantage but we cannot think of managing it. We must attack and play with intensity."

Pioli is expecting a great atmosphere in north London, though is confident his team can focus on the task ahead of them, saying: "We expect a loud stadium, just like San Siro was.

"But the crowd doesn't score goals. We arrive with confidence, enthusiasm and determination."

Spurs have been boosted ahead of the game by the return of head coach Antonio Conte, who had been recovering in Italy after undergoing gallbladder surgery.

Pioli acknowledged the importance of Conte being on the sidelines for Spurs, and feels his team will have to match the Premier League side's intensity to secure their progression.

"Antonio Conte's presence on the bench will be an added value for Tottenham," Pioli added. "But beyond Conte, we will find a highly prepared and motivated opponent.

"Both teams want to go through this round. Tottenham will probably try to attack more than at San Siro. We have to watch out for particular moments."

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