Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante puts the grab on Tottenham’s Mousa Dembele during their Premier League match on Saturday.

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte warned his players against overconfidence after they returned to the Premier League summit with a gritty 2-1 victory over Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday.

Christian Eriksen put Spurs ahead at Stamford Bridge but Pedro Rodriguez – with a glorious curler – and Victor Moses scored either side of halftime to give Chelsea a seventh straight league win.

The victory moved Chelsea ahead of Liverpool and Manchester City, which welcomes Conte’s side to Etihad Stadium this week, but the Italian said it was far too early to think about the title.

“I think that today or in this period, if you talk about this, it is not right because we have to improve a lot and we have a long way in front of us,” Conte said.

“Above all, after this type of game we have to wait, to speak, to not write things (in the media). It’s important to stay humble, to continue to work, to trust in our work.

“Above all after this type of game, because we won against a really strong team.

“On Saturday we’ll have another strong team and we don’t forget that against Arsenal and Liverpool we lost.”

While Conte cited the back-to-back losses to Arsenal and Liverpool in September, he said his side is now “another team”.

Chelsea has been transformed since Conte switched to a 3-4-3 formation during the 3-0 loss at Arsenal, and Eriksen’s goal was the first it had conceded in 601 minutes of top-flight soccer.

Both managers agreed the difference between the teams was their efficiency in both penalty areas, with Chelsea weathering a first-half storm to take control of the match after the break.

Spurs’ high press caused Chelsea serious problems in the first half, but Conte said he will continue to ask his players to play the ball out from the back.

Pochettino ‘proud’

“We are working for only four months on some aspects. I want to play from the back and I ask this of my players,” Conte said.

“If someone thinks the fault is the players – no, the fault is mine, always. I want to do and see some situations that we work on during the training sessions. I want to see this.

“We can improve a lot, starting from the back, but it’s important to start.”

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino has seen his side knocked out of the Champions League by Monaco and lose its unbeaten league record to Chelsea in the space of just five days.

Tottenham’s loss at Stamford Bridge, where it has now gone 30 games without victory, left Spurs seven points below Chelsea in fifth place in the standings.

But despite his team having won just one of its past 10 matches in all competitions, Pochettino said he is not concerned about his squad’s form.

“No worry, no concern about anything,” he said.

“I think that after a game like that, you need to feel proud. The effort was brilliant. We came from Monaco. That was difficult, that was tough to be out of the Champions League.

“But the answer of the players was clear. They had the right mentality and a good performance. We were better, but we lost. I can understand that.

“If you want to analyze only the result, it’s 2-1 for Chelsea, congratulations. But if you analyze the 94 minutes, I think Tottenham did a lot of positive things.

“But in football you need to score and defend your goal well and if not, that’s what happens.”

Moussa Sissoko was left out of Tottenham’s 18-man match-day lineup, having publicly disagreed with Pochettino’s assessment that the club’s squad was not deep enough for a Champions League challenge.

When asked about the matter, Pochettino said the France midfielder’s absence had been purely “tactical”.

Guardiola bracing for showdown

Pep Guardiola had barely savored Manchester City’s 2-1 victory at Burnley on Saturday before he was considering preparations for a more sumptuous Premier League feast against pacesetter Chelsea.

The former Barcelona manager, still adapting to life in the English fast lane, will have a whole week to get ready for the clash at Etihad Stadium that will pit together two likely title contenders.

That will seem almost luxurious after eight days that encompassed demanding games at Crystal Palace and Burnley – both won – either side of a 1-1 Champions League draw at Borussia Moenchengladbach.

“We are going to be playing against the best team in the Premier League. They have been amazing over the past five or six weeks,” City manager Guardiola said after Saturday’s victory at Turf Moor.

“We will try to discover the secret of how we can beat them, and we have six or seven days to prepare. Most of the players are tired.”

While City has won six of its seven away games in the league this season, its home form has sputtered and the win at Burnley completed back-to-back league victories for the first time since September.

Guardiola had reason once more to be grateful to Sergio Aguero, the prolific City striker who he has criticized over his production and who has yet to sign a new contract that has been long in the offing.

The Argentina forward came up with the goals at Burnley that rescued three points for City after it had fallen behind to a rare strike from midfielder Dean Marney – his first top-flight goal in seven years.

Aguero raised his current remarkable strike rate to 33 goals in 34 Premier League appearances despite a foot injury that had made him a doubtful starter even on the morning of the game.

“He said, ‘I have pain, but I can play,'” Guardiola said afterwards.

Aguero’s predatory nature ensured that City go into its toughest month of the season with a win.

The clash with Chelsea on Saturday will be followed by matches against Arsenal and Liverpool, as well as a visit to defending champion Leicester City.

Aguero’s scrappy 37th-minute equalizer was plundered from close range after Burnley failed to clear a corner.

His second went in off his knee at the near post after Fernandinho produced a superb pull-back following a pinball sequence in the Burnley box.

“Beautiful goals,” joked Guardiola, whose side sits third in the standings.

China Daily

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