Antonio Conte will return to Tottenham on Sunday ahead of the Champions League clash against Milan.

The Spurs head coach remained in Italy following the first-leg last month, a 1-0 defeat at San Siro, to recover from gallbladder surgery.

In his absence, Spurs secured back-to-back 2-0 victories in the Premier League against West Ham and Chelsea, resulting in Conte's nomination for the Manager of the Month award for February despite not being in the dugout.

However, Spurs also suffered a shock exit from the FA Cup at the hands of Sheffield United on Wednesday and require a turnaround in the second-leg against Milan at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium next week to qualify for the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

Conte will be back for that clash, as confirmed by his assistant Cristian Stellini in Friday's press conference ahead of the Premier League trip to Wolves.

"Antonio is fine, he cannot wait to come back. The medical department decided to leave Antonio's comeback until Sunday, after the match at Wolves," he told the club's website.

"Because that is one month after the surgery. That was the agreement from the doctor who did the surgery and our medical department."

Tottenham currently sit fourth in the top-flight, four points ahead of Newcastle United, though the Tyneside club have two games in hand.

Picking the right time to bring Son Heung-min off the bench allowed Tottenham to kill the game off against West Ham, according to stand-in boss Cristian Stellini.

Son was benched for Sunday's 2-0 victory, as Spurs battled through not having Antonio Conte on the touchline to see off their London rivals and move into the top four of the Premier League.

Richarlison was preferred to Son in the starting XI, but after Emerson Royal had given Spurs the lead, the South Korea international came off the bench to slot home a second and boost his side's top-four hopes.

Son has now scored four goals as a substitute in the Premier League this season, twice as many as any other player, despite only making two appearances off the bench.

Deputising for Conte, who is back in Italy recovering from emergency gallbladder surgery earlier this month, Stellini feels choosing the right time to introduce Son helped Spurs to put the game to bed as he punished the space the Hammers left while pursuing an equaliser.

"Son stayed on the bench, the moment was important," Stellini told Sky Sports. "And it was the moment for Son.

"With the space, Son is an amazing player and we try to use him in this way. It was a good idea.

"Son has a goal so we are happy for him. He has to stay calm and produce his best performance.

"At the moment he is not 100 per cent so we have to manage him."

While he was frustrated with starting on the bench, Son understood the decision and was delighted to come on and help his team, saying: "Nobody wants to sit on the bench but it's a decision you to have accept.

"The pass was really good and my first touch helped to make the goal.

"I tried my best to help the team. I got the chance and I was happy to score."

After Stellini took charge of the 1-0 victory over Manchester City, Conte returned from his surgery for the defeats at Leicester City and Milan. However, the former Chelsea boss returned to Italy to recover further having "underestimated the procedure."

Son praised the work Stellini and his fellow coaches had undertaken in Conte's absence, stating: "If he's [Conte] not here, it's really sad. Sometimes we forget football is not the most important thing. We hope that the gaffer is coming as soon as possible.

"The coaching staff did an amazing job and gave us really good confidence and tactics."

Conte still has an influence on proceedings even in his absence, with Stellini explaining: "Conte sent some texts to the bench and they transferred it to me.

"He is good, he is fine and can be involved in the game so that is fine. Sometimes I want to do things and I ask him and he allows me.

"[It is a] big responsibility but with the responsibility, you have to grow a bit.

"I'm happy because I have Ryan Mason with me to help me a lot and all the staff work hard and we push ourselves in another level to try and cover the gap."

Son Heung-min returned to scoring form to help Tottenham claim a 2-0 victory over West Ham, propelling them into the Premier League's top four.

With Antonio Conte back in Italy recovering from emergency gallbladder surgery earlier this month, stand-in head coach Cristian Stellini was again charged with leading Spurs at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Stellini made it two wins from two games in temporary charge as substitute Son sealed the points with his first league goal since January 4 after Emerson nosed Spurs ahead in the 56th minute.

West Ham's defeat leaves them in the bottom three while Spurs, who lost heavily to Leicester City last week then went down to Milan in the Champions League, leapfrogged Newcastle United into fourth place.

There were warning signs for Spurs when Jarrod Bowen blasted wide in the opening minute, though a refereeing decision was the main talking point from a sluggish first half.

Eight days on from Tomas Soucek getting away with a similar incident against Chelsea, team-mate Thilo Kehrer was perhaps fortunate not to concede a penalty when Richarlison's pass struck his outstretched arm.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Richarlison were denied by Lukasz Fabianski before Cristian Romero headed over, with Spurs keeping up the pressure after the restart when Harry Kane went close.

That pressure told before the hour – Emerson coolly slotting into the bottom left corner after combining with fellow wing-back Ben Davies.

Bowen almost found an immediate response for West Ham but Fraser Forster was equal to his snapshot.

And West Ham's hopes of a comeback were all but dashed when Son, who had lost his place in the starting XI to Richarlison, finished calmly after linking up with Kane.

Antonio Conte has acknowledged he underestimated the seriousness of "sudden and serious emergency" that he faced after the Tottenham boss decided to take a break until he has fully recovered.

Italian Conte underwent gallbladder surgery at the start of this month, having suffered severe abdominal pain.

The Spurs head coach was back on the touchline for a 4-1 Premier League defeat at Leicester City last weekend before overseeing a 1-0 defeat at Milan in the first leg of the Champions League round of 16 tie on Tuesday.

Tottenham on Thursday revealed the 53-year-old has remained in Italy at his family home to recuperate and Cristian Stellini will once again take charge of the first team in his absence.

Conte knows he returned too soon and knows he must take time out after a routine post-operation check in his homeland this week.

He wrote on an Instagram story: "My great sense of responsibility towards the club, the players the staff and the fans brought me to anticipate my comeback. Sadly I underestimated the procedure, which wasn't a routine operation but a sudden and serious emergency.

"My body has suffered [for] my impatience and now I am forced to stop until my entire recovery.

"Those who know me understand what a burden this is for me, but it is necessary. Come on you Spurs."

Tottenham said in a statement: "Following a routine post-operation check in Italy yesterday, Antonio Conte will remain at his family home to further and fully recover from his recent gallbladder surgery.

"Health is the most important consideration and everyone at the club wishes him well. Cristian Stellini will assume first-team responsibility."

Fifth-placed Tottenham will attempt to get back on track when they face West Ham at home in a London derby on Sunday.

Antonio Conte is taking a fresh break from his Tottenham duties to continue his recovery from gallbladder surgery.

The head coach had the organ removed at the start of the month after experiencing severe abdominal pain and took a short break from Spurs to begin his recovery.

Conte returned to duties on the training pitch last week before the 4-1 defeat to Leicester City in the Premier League on Saturday.

He then also took charge for the 1-0 loss to Milan in the Champions League on Tuesday.

However, Conte has since had his recovery progress checked out, and it has been decided he will need more time away from frontline work.

Tottenham said in a statement on Thursday: "Following a routine post-operation check in Italy yesterday, Antonio Conte will remain at his family home to further and fully recover from his recent gallbladder surgery.

"Health is the most important consideration and everyone at the club wishes him well. Cristian Stellini will assume first-team responsibility."

Stellini is Conte's assistant and led the team for their 1-0 win over Manchester City on February 5, while Conte was at home in Turin.

Tottenham have two Premier League home games coming up on successive Sundays, facing West Ham this weekend and Chelsea seven days later.

They then travel to Sheffield United in the FA Cup and to Wolves in the Premier League, before Milan head to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for the second leg of their last-16 European tie on March 8.

Conte's team sit fifth in the Premier League, two points behind a fourth-placed Newcastle United side who have a game in hand.

Antonio Conte insisted Tottenham could turn around their first-leg deficit after a 1-0 loss at Milan in the Champions League.

Brahim Diaz made an early breakthough, scoring in the seventh minute at San Siro when he nodded in from close range after Fraser Forster made saves from the Spaniard and Theo Hernandez.

Milan could have stretched their lead in the second half but spurned chances, giving Tottenham reasonable grounds for optimism ahead of the March 8 second leg in London.

Former Inter boss Conte wants the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to radiate the same type of atmosphere Spurs experienced at San Siro, believing that could help Spurs through to the quarter-finals.

He told BT Sport: "You have to play two games. It was a fantastic atmosphere. I know San Siro, and I know the difficulty to play in this atmosphere.

"For sure in the second game we have to play in our stadium and for sure all the fans will create the right atmosphere to push us to overcome the Milan obstacle."

His injury-hit team were crushed 4-1 at Leicester City in the Premier League on Saturday, and Conte was without Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg due to suspension for Tuesday's last-16 first leg in Italy.

Pape Sarr and Oliver Skipp paired up in central midfield, with Yves Bissouma and Rodrigo Bentancur sidelined due to long-term injuries, and Conte liked what he saw, to a point.

"I think it was better today – high intensity, and I think we played against a good team. Don't forget Milan last season won the league in Italy," Conte said.

"I think that to concede the first goal, we can do much better. We conceded a goal after maybe only five minutes.

"Then we tried to lead the game, we tried to create situations to score, but I think Milan defended very well. We had chances to score, but at the end we are talking about a defeat, a loss."

He said of Sarr and Skipp: "I'm really satisfied for both players. They played a really good game and showed the trust that we have in them, they repaid this.

"Don't forget we now have three midfielders and we have to continue maybe to the end of the season with these three midfielders, and to have this type of performance from Skippy and Pape Sarr makes me more relaxed because I know I can count on them 100 per cent.

"And then we have Pierre Hojbjerg who for us is a key player."

Skipp said of his first start in the competition: "It wasn't the result we wanted, but there's a second leg to come and we're still right in the game.

"There were things we could have done better, things we did well. It was nice to gain the manager's trust."

Antonio Conte urged Tottenham to find "stability" as his side search for a response to their Premier League hammering when they face Milan in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Spurs overcame second-placed champions Manchester City in the English top flight but were stunned 4-1 by strugglers Leicester City a week later on Saturday.

Tottenham's next challenge sees them go to out-of-form Milan in the Champions League last 16 and Conte called on Spurs to recover at San Siro.

"I think we will get this answer tomorrow; it will be much easier finding the right answer tomorrow," Conte said at his pre-match press conference when asked why Spurs have struggled.

"Trying to forecast the future today is impossible. I think we are lacking that stability, which is always crucial. You need stability, you need consistency, you can't have these ups and downs.

"I am trying to work on this and focusing on not having ups and downs. England is not like Italy, the Premier League is not like Serie A, we have different cultures in these two leagues.

"In England, it is much more difficult to be focused and stay focused for every game. In Italy, it is easier.

"This stability is lacking this year. I always talk about it with my players. It is tough to keep concentration, it is challenging to stay focused all the time.

"We are working on that. Playing under pressure all the time is good for some players and bad for others. Sometimes players feel motivated other times feel so much under pressure that they can't perform.

"Maybe for a period they have a good performance, and then they collapse all of a sudden if they feel too much pressure."

Head coach Conte said his side are "working on" dealing with the increased pressure, though injuries are another crucial factor to Tottenham's success.

"We want to make our players more resilient but there are also external factors like injuries for very important players for us," Conte said after losing Rodrigo Bentancur, Yves Bissouma and captain Hugo Lloris to injury.

"Those injuries influence the team, influence the growing evolution of the league.

"You can be prepared for everything, you can be a tactical man, good strategies, good line-ups, you can have high-quality players but then if those high-quality players get injured then you need to change things. Every manager wishes to have the best players available."

Milan ended a seven-game winless run across all competitions with a 1-0 league victory over Torino on Friday to somewhat ease the mounting pressure on coach Stefano Pioli.

However, an unfavourable result in Europe will only add to calls for the removal of Pioli, who ended Milan's 11-year wait for the Scudetto last season with triumph in Serie A.

Conte believes managing in England and Italy comes with many different challenges and pressures, given his home country consider football not only a sport but as "war".

"I sometimes think also in my previous experience with Chelsea, the pressure is different between Italy and England," he added. 

"In Italy, you speak about football from Monday and you finish on Sunday. You speak only football and then you have a lot of television that speaks football and puts a lot of pressure.

"You are born in this way and you grow in this way, with this pressure, and you are used to living with this type of situation.

"In England, I think that there is an atmosphere that brings to enjoy football without a lot of pressure, because football is a sport and in Italy sometimes football is not only a sport, it is a war between the teams and the fans."

Stefano Pioli is relishing Tuesday's meeting with old foe Antonio Conte as Milan prepare to host Tottenham in their first outing in the Champions League knockout stages since 2014.

Milan finished second to Chelsea in Group E to progress to the last 16 for the first time since the 2013-14 season, when they were hammered 5-1 on aggregate by Atletico Madrid.

Conte's Tottenham stand between Milan and a spot in the last eight, with the former Juventus and Inter boss one of five Italian coaches still present in the competition.

Conte has won eight of his last nine games against Milan (L1) in a run dating back to 2013, and he joins Pioli, Inter's Simone Inzaghi, Napoli's Luciano Spalletti and Real Madrid's Champions League specialist Carlo Ancelotti on an impressive list of Italian bosses to escape the group stage.

Asked who was the strongest of those coaches at Monday's pre-match press conference, Pioli said: "Ancelotti is a symbol but so are Conte and Spalletti. 

"There are lots of good coaches, we have a good school and important characteristics. 

"Conte is a great coach and one of the few colleagues who called to congratulate me on the Scudetto last season.

"It will be a difficult challenge, inevitably it will be like this for a quarter-final place. A week ago they beat Manchester City. It will be a great game that we will have to play well."

Despite Milan's absence from the latter stages of the competition in recent years, only Real Madrid (14) can better the Rossoneri's tally of seven European Cup/Champions League titles.

Asked whether Milan's illustrious history in the competition could present a psychological barrier for Spurs, Pioli said: "I can't know what our opponents are experiencing, I know what we feel. 

"We are highly motivated and it's normal. We only think up to Tottenham. Winning the Champions League is a dream today but it's useless to think about it now."

With Milan 18 points adrift of Serie A leaders Napoli and suffering defeats in the Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana last month, their Champions League tie against Spurs will go a long way to dictating whether their season is deemed a success.  

Speaking to Sky Sport ahead of his press conference, Pioli described the tie as the most crucial occasion of his career.

"They will be the two most important matches of my career, having never played in a Champions League round of 16. We have prepared ourselves in the best possible way," he said.

"Our aim is to play with more pace and intensity, you can't ignore that in these competitions. We have prepared ourselves to be up to it."

The last 16 of the Champions League gets underway on Tuesday with two potentially fascinating encounters.

Milan host Tottenham in the Rossoneri's first Champions League knockout game since the 2013-14 season, while two of the favourites in this year's competition, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich, face off in the French capital.

Neither Milan nor Spurs come into their first leg in the best form, with Stefano Pioli's side getting their first win in eight games on Friday against Torino, while their English opponents were thrashed 4-1 by Leicester City.

PSG are also faltering, having lost 3-1 at Monaco at the weekend, leading to fan protests and Presnel Kimpembe having to calm them down through a megaphone.

Bayern will hope to add to the problems of Christophe Galtier's men, who seem likely to be without Kylian Mbappe, but Julian Nagelsmann admitted his own players are "not in the flow" in spite of their 3-0 win against Bochum on Saturday.

Stats Perform has taken a look at some Opta numbers ahead of the first pair of Champions League knockout games.

Milan v Tottenham

This will be the fifth competitive meeting between Milan and Tottenham, with the Premier League side unbeaten across each of the previous four (W2 D2).

They last played each other in the 2010-11 campaign at the same stage of the Champions League. Spurs won 1-0 on aggregate, with Peter Crouch scoring the only goal of the tie.

Spurs boss Antonio Conte has won eight of his last nine games as a head coach against Milan (L1), between 2013 and 2021. Indeed, he has seen his side win and keep a clean sheet in each of his last three trips to face the Rossoneri away from home (2-0 in 2014, 2-0 in 2019 and 3-0 in 2021 – all in Serie A).

Conte will be looking to win consecutive away games in the Champions League for just the second time in his managerial career, having last done so in the 2012-13 campaign when he was at Juventus (1-0 v Shakhtar Donetsk and 3-0 v Celtic).

Olivier Giroud has been directly involved in six goals for Milan in the Champions League (four goals and two assists) – the last player with more in a single campaign in the competition for the club was Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the 2011-12 season (nine – five goals and four assists).

Ivan Perisic has three assists in five appearances for Spurs in the Champions League, already his joint-most for a club among the four he has played for in the competition: three in 10 games for Bayern, one in 20 for Inter and none in 11 for Borussia Dortmund.

The three players to have recovered possession most often in the middle third of the pitch in the Champions League this season all play for either Milan or Spurs: Rodrigo Bentancur (34), Ismael Bennacer (32) and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (31), though Bentancur will be missing after suffering a season-ending knee injury at the weekend.

Paris Saint-Germain v Bayern Munich

PSG have faced Bayern on 11 previous occasions, with all of them coming in the Champions League. The teams are separated by just one victory (six for PSG and five for Bayern), while they have scored the same number of goals (15 each).

Among teams who have faced Bayern on 10+ occasions in the Champions League, PSG are the team with the highest win percentage against them (55).

Bayern won all six of their group games this season, scoring 18 goals and only conceding twice. The only previous occasion in which they won their first seven matches of a Champions League campaign was in the 2019-20 campaign, when they had a 100 per cent record (11/11) in the competition.

PSG have only failed to score in one of their last 32 home games in the Champions League (averaging 2.6 goals per game), though the exception was in a 1-0 defeat against Bayern in the 2020-21 quarter-final second leg.

Joshua Kimmich has won 76 per cent of his matches for Bayern in the Champions League (50/66). Among all players to make 50+ appearances in the competition, he is the only player to have featured on the winning side in more than three quarters of his games.

Since the start of the 2017-18 season – his first at PSG – Mbappe has been directly involved in 57 goals in 50 appearances in the Champions League (34 goals and 23 assists). Indeed, he is the only player with both 20+ goals and 20+ assists during this period. He will be a big miss should he not recover from injury in time, though he did train on Monday.

In the last two Champions League campaigns, only Robert Lewandowski (21), Mbappe (20) and Mohamed Salah (18) have been directly involved in more goals than Leroy Sane (17 – 10 goals, seven assists).

Lionel Messi has generated more shots following a carry (moving five or more metres with the ball) than any other player in the Champions League this season (14 – six shots and eight chances created).

Cristian Stellini has questioned the mentality of Tottenham's players and accepts "something has to change" after a 4-1 loss at Leicester City.

Spurs failed to build on last weekend's 1-0 win over Manchester City as their hopes of finishing in the Premier League top four suffered another setback.

Rodrigo Bentancur gave Tottenham the lead, but Leicester responded with goals from Nampalys Mendy, James Maddison and Kelechi Iheanacho before half-time.

Harvey Barnes added a late fourth at the King Power Stadium to inflict a fourth league defeat on Spurs in seven matches since the turn of the year.

Tottenham assistant Stellini, who took press duties despite Antonio Conte returning to the dugout following gallbladder surgery, was not pleased with what he saw on Saturday.

"To be consistent is a long process; it's a mental process," he said. "You have to be better mentally and better with the approach. After we scored the goal, something changed.

"We struggled a lot and we are disappointed for that. There's not an explanation because if you know what happened you can change this. 

"It happened last season, after we beat Manchester City we lost to Burnley. We are a team, and in the team something has to change, not individually. It's about the desire.

"It's about recovering the mental energy. After a game against City, maybe we used all the energy we had. To recover that is like a battle. You have to recreate the same energy."

Conte returned to Tottenham's training ground on Thursday, eight days on from undergoing surgery, but Stellini explained the head coach is still recovering.

"It's good for the club, the team and everyone to have Antonio back," he said. "He has to take it easy a bit. 

"He cannot use his energy 100 per cent and we have to give something more to cover the gap. We know we have to be more responsible."

Tottenham are two points behind fourth-place Newcastle United, who played out a 1-1 draw with Bournemouth later on Saturday and have a game in hand.

Conte's side host London rivals West Ham and Chelsea in their next two league games, but first is a Champions League last-16 first-leg tie away at Milan on Tuesday.

Tottenham missed the chance to climb into the Premier League’s top four as Leicester City humbled Antonio Conte's team 4-1 at the King Power Stadium.

Head coach Conte was back in the Spurs dugout having missed last week’s 1-0 win over Manchester City after undergoing gallbladder removal surgery.

But the Italian’s presence failed to inspire the visitors. Despite Rodrigo Bentancur's early strike putting Tottenham ahead, Nampalys Mendy equalised with his first Leicester goal, while James Maddison and Kelechi Iheanacho put the hosts 3-1 to the good at half-time.

Harvey Barnes completed a thumping victory, firing home with nine minutes remaining to move Brendan Rodgers' side six points clear of the relegation zone.

Tottenham broke through in the 14th minute when Ivan Perisic’s corner ricocheted kindly for Bentancur, who slotted into an open net from four yards. But Leicester turned the contest on its head with two goals in three minutes.

Mendy opened his account in emphatic fashion with a thumping 20-yard drive into the roof of the net after Spurs only half-cleared a corner.

The midfielder's strong challenge on the halfway line then released Iheanacho, who unselfishly laid the ball off for Maddison to slide home.

Iheanacho made it 3-1 in first-half stoppage time when he neatly bent a 20-yard shot into the far corner.

Spurs looked to respond after the break when Bentancur, who later limped off injured, tested Danny Ward from distance.

However, Leicester put the result beyond doubt nine minutes from time. Having been denied by VAR in the 70th minute, this time Barnes received the ball from Maddison before calmly threading past Fraser Forster into the bottom-right corner from 20 yards.

Antonio Conte has returned to work with Tottenham after undergoing surgery last week to remove his gallbladder.

Spurs announced last Wednesday the Italian coach had to go under the knife after complaining of "severe abdominal pain" linked with cholecystitis.

Conte missed Tottenham's 1-0 Premier League win over Manchester City last weekend, with assistant Cristian Stellini filling in.

The 53-year-old flew back from Italy to England earlier this week and oversaw training on Thursday ahead of this weekend's trip to Leicester City.

However, it has not yet been confirmed by Tottenham whether Conte will be in the dugout at the King Power Stadium on Saturday.

According to the United Kingdom's National Health Service (NHS), the procedure Conte underwent can take roughly a month to "return to your normal activities".

Tottenham, who are fifth in the Premier League, follow up their game against Leicester with a trip to Milan for the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Tuesday.

Harry Kane was lauded as the greatest of all time after his record-breaking strike against Manchester City.

The England captain moved past Jimmy Greaves' Tottenham scoring record with his 267th goal for the London club on Sunday.

His calm 15th-minute finish proved the difference in a 1-0 win over City as Kane joined Alan Shearer and Wayne Rooney as the only men to score 200 Premier League goals.

Spurs talisman Kane achieved the feat in two games fewer than Shearer (306), while Rooney needed 462 to hit a double century, and coach Cristian Stellini believes no player compares to the 29-year-old.

"Harry Kane, in his DNA, he has football. He understands football in every moment," Stellini, standing in for Antonio Conte after the Tottenham head coach underwent gallbladder surgery, told Sky Sports.

"He can play in any position. He is the GOAT [greatest of all time] in this league, in this sport. He is a great example."

A narrow victory, in which Cristian Romero saw a late red card for two cautions, moved Spurs within one point of fourth-placed Newcastle United, having played a game more.

Videos emerged after the game of Conte congratulating the record-setting Kane, as Stellini hailed a battling performance in the absence of the Italian.

He added: "It was a tough week and we have to give a great compliment to all the players and the staff.

"It was a tough week because we lost Antonio, hopefully he'll be back next week. He'll be back happy now. I spoke to him on the phone just now and he said congratulations to the team and especially Harry.

"The key was the capacity to suffer when City has the ball. We know when we play against this team we have to suffer because they have the ball a lot, but we moved well in the defensive situation and defended the goal in a brilliant way.

"We knew very well that in that game [the 4-2 defeat to City last month] we lost our key – our capacity to suffer. We lost that last time, we spoke about that situation and that we had to be angry, motivated.

"To reach our target, we have to suffer more, to fight. When you are winning against City, they can play with great pace. You have to be strong and we controlled the space very well."

A victory to unite north London. Harry Kane's record 267th goal for Tottenham sank Manchester City and pushed Arsenal a step closer to the Premier League title.

But if the Arsenal aspect is a bitter pill for Spurs to swallow, then surely everything else about this day would have pepped up the recuperating Antonio Conte, absent after midweek gallbladder surgery.

As for Pep Guardiola, another big-match masterplan has to be called into question.

If every match at this stage of the season is a final, as managers are wont to suggest, then how is it justifiable to make Kevin De Bruyne, the Premier League's most creative player, a substitute?

The Belgian's benching was the pre-match bombshell from the City camp, and by the time he came on, just before the hour mark, City were not only trailing but they were ragged.

Erling Haaland was seeing nothing of the ball – he did not have a shot all game long, or even a touch in the Spurs penalty area – and City's possessional dominance was getting them nowhere.

Arsenal, beaten by Everton on Saturday, would have been fearing their lead at the summit being trimmed to two points, but the longer this game went on, the more Mikel Arteta would have been perked up.

So too Conte, who was said by captain Hugo Lloris to be at home in Turin. It was decided on Saturday that Conte should skip this game, and assistant Cristian Stellini saw Tottenham show battling qualities that have not always shone through this season.

So what of the De Bruyne gamble? Was it up there with Guardiola's 2021 Champions League final punt on starting without a natural holding midfielder, giddily capitalised on by Chelsea?

De Bruyne plays the sort of high-tariff passes and crosses that bring chances and goals, but they also often result in a turnover of possession. Guardiola would have looked at the likes of Son Heung-min and Dejan Kulusevski, and decided City did not need that pair sprinting away on the counter-attack.

Before this game, De Bruyne had lost possession on over 200 more occasions this season than the four players Guardiola selected in Sunday's midfield. De Bruyne had lost possession 469 times, compared with Rodri's 258, Bernardo Silva's 248, Riyad Mahrez's 237 and Jack Grealish's 219.

On average per 90 minutes, De Bruyne had lost possession 19.91 times, and among Sunday's quartet the worst offender during the season had been Mahrez (13.36 per 90).

Nobody in City's ranks has come close to De Bruyne's 16 assists, however, with five from Rodri and Bernardo Silva the next most from a City midfielder.

So this was unmistakably a gamble, Guardiola trusting his midfield to be robust and fend off the risk of Tottenham bursts, but also sufficiently creative to unlock the home defence.

And when you pick a team to keep the ball, it helps if they avoid doing silly things on the edge of their own penalty area.

Rodri was back-tracking and almost off-balance in the 15th minute when he looked to play out through the centre of the pitch, spotting team-mate Rico Lewis but not the lurking Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.

Spurs' Danish midfielder stole in to snatch the pass intended for Lewis and burst a telling five yards forward before flicking the ball into Kane's path.

What followed was not the cleanest strike of Kane's career, but the bobbling shot beat Ederson and found the left corner. The late Jimmy Greaves, Spurs' record scorer for so long, didn't mind how they found the net, and nor does Kane. Elation spread across his face. It was just his second touch of the game.

City had 78.7 per cent of possession over those opening 15 minutes, but Spurs had the lead and Kane had his 200th goal in the Premier League.

Later, Kane would tell Sky it was "a moment I'll never forget", but he put it to the back of his mind for the rest of the game.

Riyad Mahrez rattled the Spurs crossbar just before half-time, and that was as close as City came.

Ben Davies flashed a header a foot over the City bar from a corner in the 57th minute, just as De Bruyne was stripping for action at pitchside.

Off went Mahrez. De Bruyne fired wide from a half-chance, and then Spurs went close to a second goal in the 66th minute, Son skipping away on the counter and Ivan Perisic's skidding cross from the left just too heavy for Kane to reach.

Haaland was bristling at the lack of service, this season's Premier League 25-goal leading scorer shaking his head in frustration, imploring team-mates to do better.

City were becoming desperate. Julian Alvarez tried his luck from 20 yards and flashed the ball just wide of the top-left corner, then Kane bundled his way through Kyle Walker at the other end and only had Ederson to beat, with the goalkeeper this time winning that duel.

Tottenham had won five of their previous seven Premier League games when leading at half-time this season, but the exception came only a fortnight ago and it came at City, when a 2-0 interval lead swung around to a 4-2 defeat.

This time Spurs were sturdy, and they are back to just one point behind fourth-placed Newcastle United now, albeit having played one more game than the Magpies.

In the end it hardly mattered that World Cup winner Cristian Romero was sent off in the 87th minute.

The Argentinian's clumsy challenge gave away a free-kick 25 yards from goal in a central spot: De Bruyne territory. Up stepped the Belgian, and his shot smacked into Kane in the wall, ricocheting into Hojbjerg, who went down as though hit by a sniper.

Hojbjerg was excellent, winning possession a team-high eight times across the piece, and Tottenham have now beaten City four times in a row at home in the Premier League, without conceding in any of those games.

Only twice before had City lost four in a row to a specific opponent without scoring – against Chelsea between 2006 and 2009, and Sunderland between 2010 and 2013 – so there's another touch of history.

This is a bogey ground for City and Guardiola, make no mistake. They have lost on all five of their visits without scoring, when you throw in the Champions League quarter-final loss four years ago.

Kane, the man they wanted 18 months ago, a player praised to the hilt by Guardiola before this game, a man with history in his sights, was the last man they needed to run into.

The last thing City should have done was sit down their main man for the first hour.

Harry Kane broke the all-time scoring record for Tottenham as a 1-0 home win over Manchester City handed Arsenal a huge boost in the Premier League title race.

Leaders Arsenal's 1-0 defeat at strugglers Everton on Saturday offered City the chance to cut the gap to just two points, but Spurs did their north London rivals a favour a day later. 

Kane's cool 15th-minute finish, which also marked his 200th Premier League strike, took him past Jimmy Greaves onto 267 goals for the hosts, who defended resolutely to see out victory despite a late red card for Cristian Romero.

Spurs, without head coach Antonio Conte after gallbladder surgery, moved within a point of the top four, while City trail Arsenal by five having played a game more.

Manuel Akanji could only head straight at Hugo Lloris after five minutes with a presentable chance as City – who opted to start without Kevin De Bruyne – enjoyed a dominant opening.

But Spurs struck first against the run of play as Pierre Emile-Hojbjerg nipped in front of Rico Lewis before offloading to Kane, who finished into the bottom-left corner for a historic goal.

Jack Grealish curled narrowly wide and Riyad Mahrez's fizzing close-range effort was denied by the crossbar as City searched for a response before the interval.

Pep Guardiola sent on De Bruyne for Mahrez before the hour and his short free-kick teed up Julian Alvarez, whose arrowing drive was thwarted by Eric Dier's goal-line block.

Alvarez whistled another thumping effort narrowly wide soon after and, although Romero was dismissed after picking up a second booking for a foul on Grealish, City were ultimately frustrated as their title tilt hit a stumbling block. 

What does it mean? Advantage Arsenal after Spurs right previous City wrongs

Spurs and Conte were left to a rue a missed chance after squandering a two-goal lead to lose 4-2 at City last month.

However, Tottenham – managed by assistant Cristian Stellini in Conte's absence – exacted revenge to win their fourth straight home league game against City.

Guardiola's men did not score in any of those fixtures, marking just the third time City have lost four straight Premier League away games against an opponent without netting, as Arsenal were handed the advantage in the title race.

Monumental day for Kane

Not only did Kane surpass the late Greaves to etch his name in Tottenham history, the England striker also joined an illustrious Premier League club with his calm first-half strike.

Kane is just the third player to hit the double century of goals in the competition, achieving the feat in 304 games – Alan Shearer needed 306, while Wayne Rooney required 462.

Guardiola's Tottenham woe continues

While City staged an impressive second-half comeback in the first league meeting between these two sides this season, Guardiola may be wondering what he must do to win at Spurs.

The City head coach has lost all five of his visits to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in all competitions – Spurs' home soil representing the away ground Guardiola has managed most at in his career without winning.

What's next?

City will look to bounce back at home to Aston Villa on February 12, while Tottenham visit Leicester City the day before.

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