LONDON (AP) — Eight Tottenham players and five members of staff have tested positive for the coronavirus, manager Antonio Conte said Wednesday, prompting an announcement by the English team that its Europa Conference League match against Rennes has been called off.
Tottenham said discussions were being held with UEFA about rearranging the game that was scheduled to take place on Thursday in London. It needs to be played by Dec. 31, according to UEFA regulations, which could be problematic given Tottenham has a game every three or four days until the start of February.
Rennes said the decision to call off the game had been taken unilaterally by Tottenham and that it wanted to play the game on Thursday as scheduled.
With Tottenham also closing the first-team area of its training center “in the interests of the health and safety of players and staff,” its Premier League game against Brighton on Sunday could also be in doubt.
Conte was emotional talking about the outbreak in his squad, saying “everyone is a bit scared” at the club because people are coming into contact with others who have tested negative but who later test positive.
“At the end of the training session today, again one player is positive, another member of staff is positive,” he said. “Tomorrow, who? Me? Another player? Anther member of staff? We continue in this way but the situation is serious.”
Conte said he is concerned players and staff members at Tottenham might be passing on the virus to their loved ones.
“We have families, we have contact with our families when we come back home,” a visibly emotional Conte said. “It is a situation that makes me upset.
“Now for sure we are bit scared, because tomorrow we don’t know what happens.”
Tottenham is in second place in its group in the Conference League — the third-tier European competition — and is tied on points with third-place Vitesse. Rennes has already won the group with one game left to play.
The runner-up qualifies for a playoff for the last 16 against a team that will drop down from the Europa League.
Conte said at the news conference that he had 11 players available for the game.
UEFA rules state a game must go ahead as long as a club has at least 13 senior players available, including at least one goalkeeper.
Rennes pointed to those rules when releasing a statement late Wednesday, saying a Tottenham representative had declined to announce exactly how many players had been affected by COVID when speaking in a video conference with Rennes and UEFA.
It was a “unilateral decision which has not been confirmed by UEFA,” Rennes said
“With the match not officially canceled by UEFA, Rennais maintained their decision to play," the French team added, saying it reserves the right to appeal to UEFA.
Six Premier League matches were postponed last season because of virus outbreaks at clubs.
Tottenham has already seen one of its league games, an away match at Burnley last month, called off because of snow.
The Rennes match getting postponed adds to a fixture logjam which could worsen if the trip to Brighton is postponed, too.
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The Associated Press