Antonio Conte expressed his disappointment with UEFA and the Premier League as Tottenham await the verdict on their postponed Rennes clash.
Tottenham were due to meet Rennes in the Europa Conference League last Thursday, but the clash was called off after eight Spurs players and five members of staff returned positive COVID-19 tests.
Conte’s side have since had their top-flight meeting with Brighton and Hove Albion postponed after the outbreak, while UEFA is expected to make a decision by the end of the week on the outcome of the game against Rennes.
European football’s governing body indicated a new date for the game could not be agreed upon by the two clubs, after COVID-19 cases in the Spurs camp caused a call-off of the fixture.
It remains to be seen what UEFA rules, with Tottenham having needed a win from the Rennes game to reach the knockout stage. Rennes sit top of Group G, after three wins and two draws from their five games. All other group-stage games have been completed.
Spurs lodged a request with the Premier League to postpone their clash with Leicester City on Thursday to allow the Rennes fixture to be fulfilled, but the idea was rebuffed – much to Conte’s frustration.
“We want to play the [Rennes] game,” Conte told reporters at a news conference. “Tottenham deserves to play the game, to play the last game of this group.
“It’s a really strange situation because we didn’t play through no fault of our own but because of a big problem and because the government decided to close our training ground, to stop our training session for three days.
“For this reason we didn’t play, not for another reason. I think it’s not our fault for what happened. We deserve to play this game and to try to have a chance to go to the next round.”
Brendan Rodgers also confirmed Leicester, who have nine players absent through positive coronavirus tests and injuries combined, want Thursday’s clash rearranged, but the Premier League have refused to do so.
Manchester United’s trip to Brentford on Tuesday and Watford’s game at Burnley have already both been postponed, though Conte and Rodgers seem set to be forced to meet at the King Power Stadium.
However, Conte explained how he remains bemused by the decision to punish Spurs for a problem that he does not think they caused.
“We don’t find a good solution between UEFA and the Premier League, why does Tottenham has to pay for this?
“It’s not fair we have to pay for a situation that isn’t our fault. I understand if we did something wrong but in this way, for the club, the players, the staff, it’s very difficult to understand what is happening.”
Antonio provides an update on the fitness of our squad
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) December 15, 2021
Spurs head north three points ahead of Leicester, who have played two games more than Conte’s side after their respective cancellations against Burnley and Brighton.
But Conte revealed the situation within his squad has not changed too much as players continue to attempt to regain fitness following the outbreak.
“Yes, the situation has not changed so much,” he added. “The players are back in training and other players are continuing to be isolated, but also for the players back in training, they need time.
“They need a bit of time to be fit and find again a good physical condition. When you have COVID-19, it is not only 10 days.
“Many times the virus makes your body not so strong. For this reason, you have to go slowly, also because you risk having players injured after having it.
“I enjoyed the work we did with the players. It was good and I have seen a great availability, will and desire to improve.
“I have enjoyed this type of situation. It was a pity to have this problem, with nine players with COVID-19, because it has interrupted the work with the whole squad.”