Football: Manager of virus-hit Spurs warns it poses a ‘big problem’ to all teams

LONDON (AFP, REUTERS) – Antonio Conte on Wednesday (Dec 15) spoke of the “big problem” managers will face in future after confirming Tottenham Hotspur’s Premier League clash at Leicester City today will go ahead as scheduled, following two postponed matches due to a Covid-19 outbreak in his camp.

Spurs’ Europa Conference League game against Rennes last week was called off, before the league match at Brighton & Hove Albion over the weekend suffered the same fate.

Only 16 senior players trained on Wednesday after eight first-team players and five of the club’s coaching staff had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Tottenham boss Conte believes that players hit by the virus will have to be carefully managed as they gradually recover.

“The players who are back in training, they need time to find the right physical condition,” said the Italian, without mentioning names.

“The Covid is not only 10 days and many times it makes your body not so strong. For this reason you have players injured after Covid.

“We have… positives, for sure tomorrow they can’t play. Today two players are back in training for the first time. Yesterday another player, but as you know, they need to be fit to play.

“This is the big problem that we must be good to face in the future, not just the 10 days. To bring these players affected by Covid to be fit and avoid injuries.

“After 10 days, you have players available but then you have to pay attention to the way to train, whether the body is ready to work.

“You have to pay attention, moderate the training to avoid injuries. This is the big problem, not only for Tottenham but for other clubs with Covid-hit players.”

Spurs were not the only side who have had their Premier League match postponed, as Manchester United’s clash at Brentford on Tuesday was also called off.

There were a record 42 cases among players and staff at all clubs over the past week.

A depleted Tottenham side will nevertheless aim to get back on track in the league today after falling two games behind, including a postponed match with Burnley last month due to heavy snow.

Their 3-0 victory over Norwich City on Dec 5 was their third home league win in a row under Conte, but they have won just one of their last five away league games.

Leicester beat Newcastle United 4-0 over the weekend, but they too had their issues with Covid-19, with at least seven players ruled out.

“We have been taking all the precautions – wearing masks, reinforcing hygiene issues, safe distancing,” said Foxes boss Brendan Rodgers.

“It’s just really unfortunate we’ve seen a number of cases. Hopefully, we can get some of these players back.”

Leicester’s match went ahead despite their situation and Norwich manager Dean Smith is seeking clarity from the league on a “magic number” of Covid-19 cases in a team for a fixture to be called off.

“Our sporting director spoke to the Premier League on guidance when we have symptomatic players around us,” Smith said.

“We played Tottenham, they had an outbreak. We played United, they had an outbreak. We wanted guidance over would it be fair on Villa if we had symptomatic players around us? I’m not saying our players have Covid… but we probably need a magic number telling us how many is enough.”

As part of new measures, Premier League players and staff must take a lateral flow test every time they enter their club’s training ground. Twice-weekly polymerase chain reaction testing is also reported to be in place.

The increased testing will sit alongside the other recently introduced measures, including face coverings, limiting time in the treatment room and observing social distancing.


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