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Antonio Conte praises ‘difference-maker’ Cristiano Ronaldo

Antonio Conte has lauded Cristiano Ronaldo’s professionalism but hopes the star striker ‘stays calm’ when Tottenham Hotspur visit Manchester United this week.

Spurs have made significant progress under Conte, who replaced Nuno Espírito Santo last season.

They are third in the Premier League with 23 points, level with Manchester City.

In the pre-match press conference, the Italian coach praised Ronaldo who bagged a hat-trick against Tottenham last season.

He said: “We are talking about an amazing player, a top player, in my opinion. We are talking about a player that continues to make a difference for the team that he is playing for. 

“Cristiano with (Lionel) Messi – they made the story of football in the last 10 years, in the last 15 years.

“I think every single word is not good enough to explain the greatness of these players. 

“I have great admiration for Cristiano, for his professionalism, but I hope tomorrow to stay calm, not like last season when he scored three goals. 

“We lost 3-2, but we lost against him, not against United last season. I remember very well because we played a very good game, and he solved the situation a lot.”

Cristiano Ronaldo’s position in the starting XI is not guaranteed

The 37-year-old scored his first Premier League goal of the season against Everton.

Erik ten Hag backed Ronaldo, starting him against Omonia and Newcastle United.

However, he failed to find the back of the net in both games. He was the only player substituted against the Magpies and was visibly upset with that call.

Marcus Rashford, if fully fit, is expected to lead the line with Jadon Sancho and Antony occupying the wings.

The English international has been the most prolific attacker for United this season, bagging five goals and three assists across competitions.

Ronaldo loves playing against Spurs, scoring six goals against them in the last three games. 

He has met the London side 20 times during his professional career, recording 14 wins, five draws and just a solitary defeat.

He will undoubtedly want to start on Wednesday and improve his goal tally.

The manager has a huge call to make, to start an in-form forward or rely on Ronaldo’s instincts in this highly relevant contest.