LONDON (Reuters) – Tottenham Hotspur must shrug off consecutive Premier League defeats as they attempt to seal their place in the last 16 of the Champions League with a win against Sporting Lisbon in their penultimate Group D game on Wednesday.
Antonio Conte’s side have had a reality check after losing to Manchester United and Newcastle United but remain well-placed to progress in Europe as they top the group with seven points.
Tottenham will be wary after losing 2-0 in Lisbon last month when substitutes Paulinho and Arthur Gomes scored late on.
Victory will guarantee a place in the last-16 for Tottenham while Sporting, who have six points, would go through with a win if the match between Marseille and Eintracht Frankfurt is drawn.
Tottenham manager Antonio Conte said it was important his side wrapped up a top-two place before what could be a tough trip to Marseille in the last round of fixtures.
“Winning tomorrow is vital. You avoid waiting for the last games,” Conte told reporters.
Striker Richarlison and midfielder Dejan Kulusevski are both still out but Conte did not rule out a return for defender Cristian Romero and midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, both of whom missed the 2-1 defeat by Newcastle.
“Romero and Hojbjerg — tomorrow morning we will see if there is the possibility to try and recover them,” Conte said. “We will try everything, it is an important game for us, but we have many games to play until the World Cup (begins next month).”
He also said forward Lucas Moura could be in contention for a place, after the Brazilian came off the bench on Sunday.
“Lucas is recovering and improving from a long injury in his tendons, but we have to take some risks,” Conte said.
“I will check tomorrow morning on players with injuries and who is ready to play from the start.”
Tottenham’s credentials have come under the microscope after their last two Premier League performances, but Conte says Wednesday offers the chance to re-set.
“It is a moment we have to manage well, to cope with many injuries, to overcome a moment of difficulty. We lost the last two games,” the Italian said.
“Tomorrow is a different competition, we have a great opportunity to win and go to the next round. It would be a really good achievement for us.
“(When) a club like Tottenham (was) playing in the (UEFA) Conference League last season… we were in trouble.”
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)