Conte 'close' to Spurs return but not in time for Chelsea: Stellini

Tottenham assistant manager Cristian Stellini said on Friday that boss Antonio Conte is "very close" to fully returning to work, but is not expected to be at this weekend's match against his former club Chelsea.

Conte is recovering from gallbladder surgery in Italy after doctors told him to rest again and is unlikely to be present for Sunday's game.

The 53-year-old returned to oversee Tottenham's defeats at Leicester and AC Milan before deciding he had come back to the bench too soon.

Stellini led the team for last week's win over West Ham and has been in regular contact with Conte.

"I don't think so (for Chelsea)," Stellini told reporters when questioned about the manager's return.

"It is not the moment, but he is very close because I feel also his energy. We have a call three times a day, also in the evenings, so absolutely I feel Antonio like he is here.

"We speak a lot and, if we compare when Antonio had the surgery three weeks ago to now, it is completely different.

"He is completely involved. We transfer to him our feeling, this sensation we have on the players."

Tottenham lost all four meetings with Chelsea last season, including a two-legged League Cup semi-final.

But they could move 14 points ahead of their struggling London rivals with victory at home.

"We are happy because if we compare our team to last January, now we are better, but we have to continue to work and improve," said Stellini.

"Last season we struggle too much against Chelsea and we hope this season that can change."

Stellini has now won three games while deputising for Conte, after achieving the same number of victories when he stood in for his boss at Inter Milan.

The former manager of Italian side Alessandria said: "I enjoy a lot to be a coach in charge, but when you take a decision you have to do your best.

"Sometimes I think about being a coach, like a dream. But I'm an assistant and that's the reality. I enjoy being an assistant. I feel I'm good in this job enough to continue."