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Antonio Conte has remained coy over his future but admitted he does not expect Tottenham to sack him before the end of the season.

The 53-year-old is expected to leave Spurs when his contract expires in the summer with no talks over extending his terms into a third season.

A poor start to March saw Tottenham exit the FA Cup and Champions League to increase the pressure on Conte, who joked after a goalless draw with AC Milan that he could be sacked.

But, speaking ahead of Saturday’s trip to Southampton, the Italian said: “This was a provocation, you understand? About my future.

“A provocation, a joke, ‘una battuta’. When you tell something, to joke.

“You asked me about the future and I said to you that you don’t know what happens, because maybe the club can sack me.

“But I repeat, I don’t think the club is thinking this. The club sees every day what me and my staff, we are doing for this club. It was only an answer about my future.

“I think there is not one club that can tell the manager you stay here until the end of the season. You know football is really strange.

“You don’t know what happens tomorrow, you understand? But I repeat, in my opinion we try in every moment to do everything, me and my staff, and I think the club appreciates this.

“Because if you continue to ask me if I sign a new contract, it means that maybe the club appreciates what we are doing, the work that we doing, in this one-year-and-a-half.”

Speculation continues over Conte’s potential successor, whether it be before the end of the season or in the summer, despite Spurs getting their Premier League campaign back on track with a 3-1 win over Nottingham Forest last weekend.

“I think we have to accept every type of situation,” the former Chelsea boss insisted on reports of his replacement.

“The most important thing to know is you’re working very hard every day to improve the club you’re working for.

“For a manager, this is important and to know you’re giving not 100 per cent but much more to improve the club that believe in yourself.”

Conte has recently trodden the path of another former Premier League title winner in Arsene Wenger, who once claimed finishing in the top four was the equivalent of a trophy for Arsenal during a tough period for the club.

The Spurs boss again stated the difficulty in qualifying for the Champions League.

“I think in every season to finish in the top four means you had a good season,” Conte added.

“For sure to finish in the top four I think is a really, really good achievement for every club in the Premier League.

“You can see the table, you can see there are important teams, teams that in the past won trophies, important trophies and now they’re struggling for a place in Champions League.

“I think this race will be really difficult this season.”