Antonio Conte says Tottenham have 13 positive Covid-19 cases among players and staff

Antonio Conte has confirmed eight players of Tottenham’s first-team squad and five staff members have tested positive for coronavirus.

Spurs host Rennes in the Europa Conference League on Thursday, with UEFA regulations meaning the match cannot be postponed unless a club has fewer than 13 players or no registered goalkeeper available.

A victory against their French opposition, who are already assured to finish top of the group, is required to stand a chance of qualifying for the last 32, but Conte expects more confirmed cases.

“The situation makes me very upset because the situation is serious,” Conte said.

“It’s contagious and there is a big infection. Now we are a bit scared because tomorrow we don’t know what will happen.”

All European group stage matches must be completed by the end of 2021, with the club already facing a busy festive schedule leaving no obvious window to rearrange the fixture.

Antonio Conte says he is scared by the developing nature of the outbreak at Tottenham

Conte said he now has 11 players available after one first-team member tested positive following training on Wednesday along with a member of staff, describing the situation as “so strange and incredible”.

Those cases followed two similar results on Tuesday after the initial outbreak.

Conte did not reveal whether the club will contact the Premier League about Sunday’s game at Brighton over a possible postponement.

The Italian added: “Tomorrow, who? Me? I don’t know. Better me than a player for sure. It is not right for everyone because we have contact with our family when we come back home.”

Could Spurs’ PL game against Brighton be postponed?

In the Premier League, the 2021-22 handbook states permission will not be granted to postpone a league match if a club has 14 or more players on its squad list available.

However, postponing league games is taken on a case-by-case basis and the decision would be made by the Premier League board if a request is received from a club.

Postponing league games is taken on a case-by-case basis and the decision would be made by the Premier League board if a request is received from a club.

Pierre-Emile Højbjerg was also due to attend the pre-match press conference, but Conte addressed the media on his own.

“This for sure makes me upset because I am here to talk about football, about my players and the atmosphere that I want to see tomorrow,” Conte said.

“Instead we are talking about the people that have Covid.”

Conte was not able to confirm whether it was the Omicron variant at the centre of the outbreak but revealed he had been vaccinated.

On vaccination take-up within the squad, the Spurs boss added: “I think everyone takes [their own] best decision and is a question for the medical department about people whether they are vaccinated or not.”

Tottenham have won 10 points from Conte’s opening four Premier League games in charge but they were humbled by NS Mura in their previous Europa Conference League match.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Tottenham’s win against Norwich in the Premier League

‘No request to postpone Brighton game… yet’

Sky Sports News’ Paul Gilmour:

“This is an ongoing and developing situation. That was as animated and emotional as we’ve seen Antonio Conte since his return to Premier League football.

“He used words like ‘scared’ and ‘serious’, and he asked the question why do he and the players continue to be in this position where they are training, they are preparing for a match with such a situation, a fluid situation it has to be said, developing right down to the fact a player and a staff member tested positive after they had been through a training session today.

“Let’s try and answer the why in this. They have two games this week. They are preparing for those games. They are under two different jurisdictions, one UEFA which is the Rennes game tomorrow night. The other is in the Premier League against Brighton this weekend.

“As for the Rennes games, UEFA rules state that unless a team has fewer than 13 outfield players or no registered goalkeeper, that match must go ahead. As of Wednesday evening, UEFA says the game is going ahead because Tottenham, we understand, have just about a number available to fulfill that fixture.

“Then there is the Premier League game. It’s a very different set of rules as that is decided on a case-by-case basis, and that requires a club to make a request to the Premier League to postpone the game.

“As of lunchtime on Wednesday, we understand Spurs have not made that request to Premier League. We wait to see whether they do indeed make it. If they do make the request, a Premier League panel will decide. They will take into account medical advice and whether or not the virus has been contained or not.

“So, we don’t know the detail around that. But, all those factors will go into any decision the Premier League make.

“We can also say, that at the training ground, Tottenham are following strict protocols. There a reduced numbers on site, essential staff only as they take measures to try and contain this virus outbreak.”

‘Precedent has been set; This could develop quickly’

More from Sky Sports News’ Paul Gilmour:

“There has been precedent.

“Spurs themselves have been involved before. They had their game against Fulham postponed. They also had a game against Leyton Orient in the League Cup postponed.

“Also in the Premier League, Man City had to close their training ground and they also had their match against Everton called off. Aston Villa had games against Everton and Newcastle called off.

“Arsenal against Brentford did go ahead. At the time, Mikel Arteta expressed his surprise that the game did go ahead because Arsenal had around four positive cases, but we also know Arsenal didn’t make a specific request to the Premier League to have that game postponed.

“So, different circumstances and different precedents set but also across different jurisdictions as well, but this week, involving UEFA and the Premier League, we’ll just have to wait and see what the next 24 hours will bring because it can develop very quickly.”

Tottenham fixtures: What’s coming up?

December 9: Tottenham vs Rennes – Europa League, kick-off 8pm

December 12: Brighton vs Tottenham – Premier League, kick-off 2pm

December 16: Leicester vs Tottenham – Premier League, kick-off 7.30pm

December 19: Tottenham vs Liverpool – Premier League, kick-off 4.30pm, live on Sky Sports

December 22: Tottenham vs West Ham – Carabao Cup, kick-off 7.45pm, live on Sky Sports

December 26: Tottenham vs Crystal Palace – Premier League, kick-off 3pm

Mixed messages in football: When is a match postponed due to Covid?

Kieran Tierney shows his frustration at the Brentford Community Stadium
Kieran Tierney shows his frustration at the Brentford Community Stadium

In the Premier League, the 2021-22 handbook states permission will not be granted to postpone a league match if a club has 14 or more players on its squad list available.

However, postponing league games is taken on a case-by-case basis and the decision would be made by the Premier League board if a request is received from a club.

Last season, the Premier League postponed six matches because of Covid-19 cases at clubs, including Spurs’ game against Fulham, which was called off on the day of the game.

However, on the opening day of this season, Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta was left surprised his side’s Premier League opener against Brentford was not postponed after a severe Covid-19 outbreak at the club.

Arsenal's starting line-up against Brentford on the opening day
Arsenal’s starting line-up against Brentford on the opening day

The Gunners were without Alexandre Lacazette, Alex Runarsson, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Willian the 2-0 defeat after confirming all four had contracted Covid-19.

“Yes, I was surprised, but the regulators decided that the best thing to do was to play the game,” Arteta said.

But while the Premier League season-opener went ahead in England even when multiple first-team players were ruled out, in Scotland the story has been very different.

In November, Hibernian’s Premiership games against Ross County and Livingston were postponed after two Hibs players tested positive.

What about across Europe?

In Portugal, the show must go on, it seems, or at least until just after half-time.

Last month, Benfica’s clash with Belenenses was abandoned amid extraordinary scenes after the Covid-hit Primeira Liga strugglers were forced to name a team of just nine players – including two goalkeepers.

The visitors cashed in to rack up seven goals by half-time, before Belenenses returned with just seven players.

Belenenses started with just nine plyaers against Benfica (Getty)
Belenenses started with just nine players against Benfica (Getty)

The match was then called off a minute into the second half as goalkeeper Joao Monteiro dropped to the floor, forcing the referee to abandon the game due to the minimum number of players not being on the field.

Following a positive test in the squad earlier in the week, a total of 17 cases were reported to have been recorded among players and staff. Despite the squad being decimated, the match went ahead with just nine players selected and goalkeeper Monteiro playing in midfield.

Manchester City and Portugal midfielder Bernardo Silva watched on and tweeted in disbelief: “What is this? Am I the only one who doesn’t understand why the game hasn’t been postponed?”

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