The idea of tomorrow afternoon’s Premier League match between Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur taking place seemed extremely doubtful just a couple of days ago, but barring any significant updates, it looks like it’s going to go ahead. According to Antonio Conte in his pre-match press conference, the Premier League rejected requests from both Tottenham and Leicester to postpone tomorrow’s match, and it’s almost certainly going to go ahead as scheduled.
“The Premier League did not want to postpone the game against Leicester. Maybe because we have to play Burnley and Brighton and had postponed two games before.
“Last week was terrible because the government decides, in the right way, to close the training ground and stop our training session. I had the press conference where it’s very difficult to speak about football. Then we had Thursday, Friday and Saturday without any sessions. Sunday we started again to work with not many players, because we also had problems with U23s.
We started with 13/14 players [on Sunday] and today we had training with 16 players and more young players.”
— Antonio Conte
Meanwhile, Brendan Rodgers said Leicester ALSO requested the match be postponed due to a similar COVID outbreak within their camp.
Brendan Rodgers says he has 9 players unavailable through illness and COVID. Asked Premier League to look at postponing Spurs game and they refused. Evans not as bad after scan, but will be missing. Soyuncu injured, hamstring, Amartey not fit enough to start. No fit CBs for #LCFC— Rob Tanner (@RobTannerLCFC) December 15, 2021
The league’s response seems, quite honestly, insane. I get that the league probably doesn’t want to have to be put into a situation where they potentially can’t make up the matches before matchweek 38, but being hardasses over match postponements while in the middle of a global pandemic that has already caused one shutdown and nearly a full season of matches behind closed doors is unfathomable.
Hotspur Way, Tottenham’s training ground, was closed for three days after nine first team players, five staff members, and an undisclosed number of U23 players returned positive COVID tests last week, prompting the postponement of Tottenham’s Europa Conference League match against Rennes and last weekend’s Premier League trip to Brighton & Hove Albion. Since then, COVID outbreaks have also emerged at other Premier League clubs, including Leicester, Aston Villa, and Manchester United, and prompting the Premier League to tighten up testing coronavirus testing protocols that had been recently loosened.
Dan Kilpatrick writes in the Evening Standard that a couple of players that had tested positive early on have now returned to training, but Antonio Conte is still working with a “depleted squad” ahead of Thursday’s match and it’s not clear whether the players who have just come back will be fit to play. There were some unconfirmed reports that suggested that Conte had been working with a midfield pivot pairing of Harry Winks and Tanguy Ndombele during training on Tuesday.
Spurs already have two games in hand — the Brighton fixture and the trip to Burnley which was cancelled due to heavy snow. The fixture calendar is not getting any easier heading into January, especially with Spurs potentially still participating in the Conference League (pending UEFA’s Ethics Board decision on the now-cancelled Rennes match) and the resumption of the League and FA Cups. That said, health and safety must come first, and with Omicron now plowing through England and both Spurs and Leicester basically with skeleton crews, this seems incredibly dumb from the Premier League.
It means that the lineup is going to be a complete mystery, especially since Spurs have not confirmed — and likely will not — the players who have been out sick. That’s going to make for a fun day of speculation!
Who's back for Leicester? "We have player positives, and some players tomorrow can play. Two players are back in training today, and yesterday another player. But the need to be fit to play, and surely tomorrow I'll bring these players on bench. I think they have 15-20 mins."— Charlie Eccleshare (@CDEccleshare) December 15, 2021
Update: Kilpatrick just tweeted some important clarification on the requested postponements. Apparently, Spurs requested the match be postponed because they are desperate to reschedule the Rennes match and wanted to play it tomorrow instead. Leicester asked for it to be postponed due to the number of players they have out due to COVID and illness.
#thfc Understand Spurs requested to postpone the Leicester game so they could play Rennes tomorrow night, not because of their Covid outbreak. PL said no & also rejected Leicester's pleas to postpone.— Dan Kilpatrick (@Dan_KP) December 15, 2021
Spurs also would have had a very strong argument for asking for a COVID-level postponement, but that doesn’t seem to be their rationale here. Either way, this is an insane decision by the league and I can’t fathom it.