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Antonio Conte urges key Tottenham stars Harry Kane, Heung-min Son and Hugo Lloris to step up in top-four hunt

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The Gunners returned to fourth place and moved six points clear of their rivals, having played a game fewer, after beating Leicester 2-0 at the weekend, while Conte’s Spurs continued their inconsistent form with a 3-2 defeat to Manchester United.

The north London sides are still to play for a second time this season, with the postponed match from January yet to be rearranged.

Conte has challenged his players to finish fourth and said it would be like their “Premier League or Champions League title”.

When asked if Kane’s future could hinge on returning to the Champions League after a two-year absence, Conte dodged the question but said he needed Kane, Son and Lloris to lead their push to keep the pressure on Arsenal and Co.

“Harry is a really, really important player for us,” Conte said ahead of Wednesday’s match at Brighton. “If you want to have a hope to fight until the end for this type of target, this is the moment I have to ask a lot to the big players. To Harry, Hugo and Sonny. These players have to lead the situation to keep us until the end there.

“At the moment, experience is very important. We don’t have a lot of experience in this team and it’s right to ask the players with experience and big talent to give everything.

“I think they’re giving everything but 100 per cent is not enough. We need to ask 120, 130 per cent to have this type of target. It will be very important to have people with great talent to lead us until the end and to try to be very close to reach this target.

“In this moment, Arsenal seems favourite for fourth place and United, but don’t forget there’s also West Ham and don’t forget Wolverhampton – they’re having a fantastic season and they’re in the same position,” Conte added.

“In England it’s not easy, it’s not simple. When you start the season normally you think it’s four top clubs that at the end, these four teams go to the Champions League, United, City, Chelsea, Liverpool.

“But last season Liverpool struggled to reach their place in the Champions League. This season it’s happening to United. This league is very difficult.

“For sure we have to be in the group of teams who stay, at this moment, behind. You have to stay close in the table because there are 11 games to the end of the season and everything can happen. For sure you have to win. If you don’t get three points, you are talking about nothing.”

AFP via Getty Images

Asked if the still-to-be-arranged north London derby at the Emirates could be pivotal in deciding fourth place, Conte added: “Every game is difficult in England. We’re talking about one game and before playing the north London derby there are lot of games before.

“It’s important to get three points and to win and arrive at this game as close as possible. In England the games are always open, every game. If you play with a team that is leading the league or you play against a team at the bottom, every game is very difficult. There are 11 games for us, for others 10 or 12. We have to try to win as many games as possible and stay close. These games count for the table and not only for the rivalry.”

Conte will remain without Oliver Skipp (groin), Ryan Sessegnon (hamstring) and Japhet Tanganga (knee) against the Seagulls and said he is no closer to discovering when the former will return.

“Skipp’s situation is the first time this situation with a player happened in my management,” the Spurs head coach said. “I don’t know [when he will be fit], I don’t know!

“For sure we need him but at the moment no-one has tried to tell me the moment when he’s ready. Also for the player because at the moment he’s really frustrated. He’s really young, he’s a really good guy. To be injured, I’m especially disappointed and frustrated for him for this situation.”

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