Antonio Conte has said that the escalating Covid crisis at Tottenham has left him “scared” as he revealed eight players and five coaches had tested positive for the virus.
The manager has seen his plans thrown into turmoil for Thursday night’s decisive Europa Conference League tie at home to Rennes, although Uefa indicated at 2.30pm GMT on Wednesday that, as things stood, the game would go ahead.
Conte said he had only 11 players available, which appeared to put the tie in jeopardy. Under Uefa rules, if a club has fewer than 13 senior players, a postponement can be sanctioned. And yet it could be that Spurs try to get through the tie with help from their under-23 squad because it would be difficult to rearrange it before the end of the month – which is Uefa’s cut-off date.
Spurs will consider whether to ask the Premier League to postpone their match at Brighton on Sunday, and next Thursday’s visit to Leicester is also set to be affected.
Conte’s biggest concern regarded the unknown and there was raw emotion from him at the pre-Rennes media conference, which was staged remotely.
“It’s eight players and five members of staff but the problem is that every day we are having people with Covid,” Conte said. “People that yesterday weren’t positive … today are positive and we continue to have contact with people we think are negative but the day after they become positive. I think this is a serious problem.”
Conte said that one player he had used in Wednesday’s training session and with whom he had planned to start against Rennes had then returned a positive test. So had a member of his coaching staff.
“It is very difficult to face at the end of the training session – one player positive, another member of staff positive,” Conte said. “Tomorrow, who? Me? Another player? Another member of staff? And we continue this way. The situation is serious.”
Conte was asked whether he had a message for Uefa and the Premier League. “I haven’t got to send a message to anyone because the situation is very clear. I repeat – every day we are having contact with people that are false negative and become positive and then everyone is a bit scared because we have family and [we ask]: ‘Why I have to take this risk? Why?’ This is my question.
“Today we had the training session. We prepared the game. Yesterday, two other positives; today, two other positives and tomorrow, who? Me? I don’t know. Maybe. Better me than a player for sure but I think that it is not right for everyone because we have family and contact with them when we come back home.
“Football is the most important thing but today to speak about football is impossible. There are situations that made me very upset, because it is serious and there is a big infection and now, for sure, we are a bit scared because tomorrow we don’t know what happens.”