There’s no rest for the weary as Tottenham Hotspur are set to host West Ham tomorrow in the quarterfinals of the League Cup. But there’s good news — in his pre-match press conference, Antonio Conte confirmed that all of his players that were hit with positive COVID-19 tests over the past two weeks are now back (or will be tomorrow)!
That means Spurs are now fully healthy... except for Ryan Sessegnon, who apparently picked up a knock against Liverpool and will miss the match.
“About Covid situation, all the players – one player tomorrow – but all the players are available. They recovered from Covid and we have all the players now negative. It’s good news for us. But as you know well, for sure with Covid you bring this virus with you for a bit of time. For sure many players at the moment are not so fit because they have to face this situation.
“The good news is we have all the players available. A little bad news that Ryan Sessegnon had a problem at the end of the game against Liverpool. He’s the only player, with Romero, is injured.”
That’s fantastic news! It means that none of the positive players had anything close to a severe case of COVID, and hopefully it means that none of them will have any long-lasting repercussions. The situation with Sessegnon is a little worse, though with Conte confirming he could miss some not-insignificant time.
“Ten days to two weeks. He had a muscular problem at the end of the game against Liverpool. For sure, we have to find a good solution with Sess because I have seen in the past he has suffered a bit from this type of injury. So we have to find the right solution with the medical department. And also with the player.”
What does that mean for tomorrow’s lineup? Your guess is as good as mine. Conte rotated pretty moderately (mostly out of necessity) against Liverpool, so perhaps we could see players like Sergio Reguilon and Oliver Skipp, both late match substitutes on Sunday, in line for starts. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Japhet Tanganga, and Gio Lo Celso could also be featured? Maybe? Unclear. But with Spurs hosting Crystal Palace on Sunday, Conte will need to carefully manage his squad to make sure nobody’s legs fall off. Even Harry Kane’s.
Elsewhere, Conte was extremely critical of UEFA’s decision to hand Spurs a forfeit against Rennes for postponing their Conference League match, which knocked them out of the competition in the group stages. Conte called UEFA’s move “unfair” and suggested there might be some “personal interests” at play.
“For sure this is an incredible decision. This decision is not fair. All the world knows we were facing a big problem like Covid. We didn’t play not through our fault but because we had many, many players with Covid and the Government decided to stop our training sessions and to stop our training center. Honestly for me, the players, the club and our fans, it’s incredible the decision UEFA wanted to take. It’s unfair for sure.
“We deserve to play for qualification on the pitch, not in this way. I’m very disappointed for UEFA’s decisions. I don’t want to understand but I hope that in the future, in the next step, something can change because we deserve to play for qualification on the pitch, not in this way. It’s not our fault.
“There’s another grade. It’s not definitive… UEFA took this decision but then there’s another step to confirm or not this incredible decision. But I repeat I’m very disappointed with UEFA because everybody knows the problem. It means maybe someone doesn’t know the problem we were having and maybe some personal interests [behind the decision].”
Now, maybe this is still public-facing kayfabe, with Tottenham trying to railroad UEFA into reducing or even eliminating the financial penalties associated with having this match forfeited. But maybe not. Conte did seem pretty upset about not being given a chance to play the match, even though there are very clear and obvious advantages to being knocked out of the third most prestigious UEFA international competition, basically on a technicality.
Maybe it’s worth going through the motions if they can get UEFA to back down on the fines or future penalties. But as I said earlier, I’m not at all upset to see Spurs go out.
Conte also talked about Dele’s performance on Sunday and rightfully praised Dele for the shift he put in against the Reds. However, Conte also seemed to imply that the job is not done — Dele needs to continue to work hard to reintegrate himself into the side.
“I think Dele played a good game and I think he could have scored. He had chances to score but he played a good game. He was with his head on the pitch from the start to the end. I want to see this type of player. I know with the formation we played vs Liverpool, I helped him. Because he’s a midfielder and a No.8. A midfield with three players, I think this is his proper role.
“He has to continue to show desire to stay here and to want to continue to deserve, especially, to stay here. The game against Liverpool I think has to be only a starting point. You can play well one game but I need to see continuity of performance. And I’d be the first person to be happy if we do with him this type of improvement.”