Tottenham Hotspur head coach Antonio Conte said on Wednesday he is “scared” about the consequences of a COVID-19 outbreak that has affected eight players and five staff so far and raised major doubts about the club’s ability to fulfil its upcoming fixtures.
Spurs are due to host Rennes in the UEFA Conference League on Thursday, with European football’s governing body insisting the game will go ahead as things stand because Spurs still meet their minimum requirement of having 13 senior players available.
However, Conte was visibly disturbed by the situation at a pre-match news conference, during which he hinted the virus was effectively out of control at the club after one player and another member of staff tested positive after Wednesday’s training session.
The Italian, speaking over Zoom after the in-person element of his news conference was cancelled, said: “Eight players and five members of staff but the problem is that every day we are having people with COVID. People that yesterday wasn’t positive, today was positive and we continue to have contact with people that we think are negative but the day after become positive. This is a serious problem.
“It is a pity because I think that during the press conference, I am here to talk about football, about the next game and not about COVID but the situation is serious.
“Every day, we are having a positive [test]. Today, one player and one member of staff. I think the worst [thing] is we don’t know and we continue to have contact with people that the day before was negative. For sure, this is not a good situation.
“We had a training session, we prepare the game against Rennes but it is very difficult. At the end of the training session again, one player positive, another member of staff is positive. Tomorrow, who? Me? Another player? Another member of staff? And we continue this way.”
Sources have told ESPN that Tottenham will push the Premier League for a formal postponement of their game against Brighton & Hove Albion on Sunday regardless of whether they fulfil Thursday’s game against Rennes.
The British government’s advice dictates that players who test positive will be required to isolate for 10 days, and sources have said there is widespread alarm over how quickly the virus has spread at the Spurs Lodge, the club’s training ground.
It is understood that six players and two backroom staff members returned positive tests at the beginning of this week, and the entire squad underwent PCR testing on Tuesday. However, the situation has worsened since with Conte now fearing the repercussions.
“Everyone is a bit scared also because we have family,” he added. “I have to take this risk. Why? Why? This is my question.
“Yesterday, two other positives, today, another two positives. Tomorrow, who? Me? I don’t know. Maybe better me than a player for sure. But I think it is not right for everyone because we have family and we have contact with them when we come back home. I have to speak about a different situation and not football.
“Football is the most important thing in the press conference but today to speak about football today is impossible. The last situation made me very upset. I think the situation is serious. There is a big infection and now, for sure, we are a bit scared because tomorrow we don’t know what happens.”
Premier League guidelines are more flexible than those of UEFA, with six domestic matches postponed last season due to coronavirus outbreaks.