Tottenham’s Europa Conference League game against Rennes on Thursday has been postponed following several positive Covid-19 cases at the club.
Spurs boss Antonio Conte revealed on Wednesday afternoon eight players and five members of staff had tested positive for coronavirus and said the outbreak has left everyone scared and worried for their families.
A club statement on Wednesday night said: “We can confirm that our UEFA Europa Conference League Group G home fixture against Stade Rennais will not take place tomorrow (Thursday December 9 at 8pm UK) after a number of positive Covid-19 cases at the club.
We can confirm that our UEFA Europa Conference League Group G home fixture against Stade Rennais will not take place tomorrow after a number of positive COVID-19 cases at the Club.
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— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) December 8, 2021
“Discussions are ongoing with UEFA and we shall provide a further update on this fixture in due course.
“Additionally, following discussions with the Health Security Agency [formerly Public Health England] and DCMS advisers, the club has been advised to close the first team area of its training centre at this time, in the interests of the health and safety of players and staff.
“All other areas of the training centre remain operational.”
Spurs had been expected to have to play their crunch European game against Rennes, with UEFA having strict regulations regarding the minimum number of players available which must be met if possible.
It remains unclear whether Spurs will ask for their Premier League match at Brighton on Sunday to be postponed, but a clearly emotional Conte admitted the situation was almost impossible.
“The problem is that every day we are having people with Covid,” Conte said at a press conference, which was held virtually rather than in person at the club’s Hotspur Way training centre.
“People that yesterday weren’t positive, today were positive and we continue to have contact with people we think are negative but the day after become positive. I think this is a serious problem.
“The worst is we don’t know and we continue to have contact with people that the day before were negative. For sure this is not a good situation.
“At the end of the training session today, again one player positive. Another member of staff is positive.
“Tomorrow, who [will it be]? Me? Another player? Another member of staff? And we continue in this way.”
Conte was supposed to be joined by Spurs’ Danish midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg at the pre-match press conference, but instead faced the media on his own.
The Italian was asked whether their upcoming games should be called off in the wake of the outbreak.
“I think that I haven’t [got] to send a message to anyone because the situation is very clear,” Conte said.
“Every day we are having contact with the people that are false negative and become positive and then everyone is a bit scared, I think, because we all have family and why I have to take this risk?”
The Spurs boss added: “I think that it is not right for everyone because we have family and we have contact with them when we come back home.
“The situation is serious and it is contagious and there is a big infection and now for sure we are a bit scared because tomorrow we don’t know what happens.
“I understand also the [worry for the] players and I understand everyone that works here.”
Conte was not able to confirm whether it was the Omicron variant at the centre of the outbreak, but revealed he had been vaccinated.
Referring to vaccination take-up within his squad, the Spurs boss said: “I think everyone takes [their own] best decision and it is a question for the medical department about people that whether they are vaccinated or not.”
The Rennes postponement presents UEFA with a major headache over the rescheduling of the game.
Rennes are top of Group G while Spurs are level on points with third-placed Dutch club Vitesse.
UEFA rules stipulate that a team needs to have fewer than 13 available players or no registered goalkeeper available for the fixture to be called off.
Conte had said: “Today we prepared the game against Rennes, we prepared with one player who we think we should play, then we finish training and this player was positive.
Spurs' fixture with Fulham, due to be played at 18:00 GMT this evening, has been postponed following a Premier League Board meeting
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— Premier League (@premierleague) December 30, 2020
“It is very difficult to speak about football because the situation is so strange and incredible. It is very impossible.”
Given the worsening situation, Tottenham could consider asking the Premier League to call off the Brighton game.
The league works on a case-by-case basis and if a club does request a game to be postponed, it would be a Premier League board decision.
Last season, Spurs saw matches against Aston Villa and Fulham called off due to Covid-19 outbreaks within the opposition camp.