Antonio Conte has given Tottenham fans his permission to dream as he prepares to blast full throttle through the first 14-week phase of this unprecedented Premier League season of two parts.
‘For sure, the fans are right to be excited,’ said Spurs boss Conte. ‘I am excited because I am happy and living this time with joy. We are going in the right way, on the right path and we can reach an important level.
‘I have to be realistic but I am a dreamer. We need to be dreamers because if you are dreamers then that, together with the work, can bring you something incredible.
‘At the same time you have to be realistic. But it is good for our fans to be excited if they see we are going in the right direction.’
After a hectic summer reinforcing his squad, Conte’s side will start on Saturday against Southampton, a team Spurs dropped five points against last season.
Then they cross London for a clash with Chelsea as the clubs cram 16 Premier League fixtures, plus European and Carabao Cup ties, into 99 days before top-flight club football takes a six-week break for the World Cup in November.
‘This will be the first time and we don’t know the best way to face the two parts of the season,’ said Conte. ‘I’ve asked my physical coach to prepare very well for these four months and be focused on these four months.
‘The most important thing is not to think for the future. Go step-by-step, game-by-game. Then you start the Champions League and you have to overcome your group.
‘A lot of strange things can happen. You don’t know how many injuries you will face or the stage your players will reach during the World Cup. We have a strategy and it is to arrive at the end of the first half in the peak of fitness.
‘Then we will give a bit of rest to these players and to restart. We’ll have to evaluate the way players come back. Some will need more rest, some will need to work.’
Managers have worked through the summer to insure against these unknown elements by strengthening their squads.
One team could well benefit from an opportunity served up by the random nature of the elements at play but only if they are prepared.
Optimism is high at Spurs, who signed six players early. ‘We didn’t wait until the end of the transfer market,’ said Conte. ‘The coach needs time to help players adapt.’
Richarlison is suspended for the opener and Yves Bissouma is a doubt. Oliver Skipp (heel) is out.