Antonio Conte accepts Chelsea will face an uphill battle to qualify for the Champions League if they fail to beat Tottenham.
Conte’s Premier League champions have been unable to mount a title defence this season and, with eight fixtures remaining, are fighting for a top-four finish alongside Spurs, Liverpool and Manchester United.
The Blues are five points adrift of their fourth-placed London rivals ahead of Sunday’s meeting at Stamford Bridge.
“For sure, this is an important game. An important game for us,” the head coach said.
If we win, we go very close to Tottenham. Otherwise, we continue to stay not so close and, with seven games to go, it will be difficult to take a place in the Champions League.Antonio Conte
“Our target for this final (stretch) of the season is to take a place in the Champions League and reach the final of the FA Cup and, this season, try and win it.
“If we win, we go very close to Tottenham. Otherwise, we continue to stay not so close and, with seven games to go, it will be difficult to take a place in the Champions League. (Although) nothing is impossible.
“We have to try to win every game, not to make a lot of mistakes, don’t drop points.
“It will be very important in this final (run) of the season.”
Although they currently trail Tottenham in the table, Chelsea hold a strong head-to-head record against their weekend opponents.
The Blues – the only team to have beaten Mauricio Pochettino’s men in a league game at Wembley this term – have not lost to Spurs at Stamford Bridge since February 1990.
Conte was a 20-year-old midfielder playing for Serie A side Lecce then, while Spurs striker Harry Kane, who is a major doubt for the game with ankle ligament damage, was not born.
“It’s a long time (ago),” the Italian said.
“For sure, I remember two years ago that Tottenham risked breaking that situation because they were winning 2-0 and then Chelsea were very good to come back and draw 2-2.
“We are talking about a really good team, a great team, a really good manager, many good players, many talented players in this team.
“I have great respect for Tottenham. In these years, they grew a lot.
“Now they’re one of the best teams in England.”