Monday, June 5, 2023

Tottenham Hotspur COVID outbreak: Spurs face fixture list pile-up as Brighton Premier League game postponed

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Tottenham Hotspur are facing a significant headache on their fixture list in the coming weeks after the Premier League board sanctioned their request to postpone Sunday’s game against Brighton in the hours after UEFA took similar steps to delay a Europa Conference League tie with Rennes.

Tottenham have been hit by a raft of COVID-19 cases in their first team — Antonio Conte put the number at eight first team players and five members of staff in a press conference yesterday — and have closed their Hotspur Way training ground to avoid any further cases. With players and their head coach “scared” to go into work the Premier League board backed Spurs’ request to delay the fixture at a meeting on Thursday afternoon.

A statement from the league said: “The Premier League board has taken the decision to postpone the game following guidance from medical advisers, with the health of players and staff the priority.” It added: “The postponed fixture will be rescheduled in due course and the Premier League wishes a quick recovery to those with COVID-19.”

Though news of the postponement will doubtless be welcomed by Conte and his players they will face a sizeable tranche of extra fixtures to make up in the coming weeks. There is even the possibility of that list expanding with Thursday’s Premier League game away to Leicester City — who had to leave seven players behind for their Europa League match against Napoli due to their own COVID-19 outbreak — now up in the air. Any players from both sides who were sent home from training on Tuesday or later would be unable to return to work with U.K. guidelines requiring they isolate for 10 days.

Earlier in the day, UEFA had confirmed that the Europa Conference League game against Rennes would not go ahead to the disappointment of both the visiting side — who released a strongly worded statement on Wednesday complaining that Tottenham had not given them sufficient information about the outbreak before they travelled to London — and fellow Group G side Vitesse. They are neck and neck with Spurs on points and expressed concern that they would be at a “significant disadvantage” having already completed their group stage campaign at home to NS Mura on Thursday.

Competition regulations state that the rescheduled match between Rennes and Spurs must take place before Dec. 31 though there is no clear space in Tottenham’s fixture list for that game to be placed. After Thursday’s scheduled trip to Leicester, Conte’s side face Liverpool, West Ham, Crystal Palace and Southampton before travelling to Watford on Jan. 1. If and when that match is made up, viewers will be able to stream on Paramount+.

Tottenham already had one game to make up after their Premier League match against Burnley last week was rescheduled due to heavy snowfall in Lancashire. Beating West Ham in the EFL Cup quarterfinal in 13 days time and qualifying for the Conference League knockout stages would leave Conte having to manage a sizeable fixture list in the new year with at least two top flight matches to make up.

In their statement, Spurs thanked Brighton and Rennes for their understanding. “As with our other affected fixture, against Stade Rennais in the Europa Conference League, we shall update supporters with more information as soon as it is available,” they said. “We should like to apologize to everyone at Stade Rennais and Brighton & Hove Albion and to both their supporters and ours for any inconvenience caused. We should also like to thank both clubs for their understanding during these challenging times.”

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