Despite a COVID-19 outbreak among squad and staff members that has already resulted in the cancellation of two fixtures, Tottenham Hotspur is looking towards Thursday’s Premier League match against Leicester City with optimism. That said, it still has not been determined whether Spurs will be in position to re-take the field.
The club returned to training on Monday at Hotspur Way Training Ground, a reason to be hopeful for the team’s chances to play on Thursday. Still, according to a report by Dan Kilpatrick of the Evening Standard, areas of the training ground remain closed, and the squad is depleted due to positive tests and close contact protocols forcing individuals into isolation.
While the restrictions are reason for caution, the report states that the club is preparing as if Thursday’s game is on.
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But COVID tests are being conducted daily, and the club is not out of the woods yet. According to The Telegraph’s Matt Law, at least one player tested positive on Monday, and there is also a separate “large outbreak” among the Under-23 squad.
Will Tottenham play on Thursday?
The Telegraph report states that a worst-case-scenario on Thursday could see Tottenham boss Antonio Conte with as few as 13 players available for selection. According to league guidelines cited by Sky Sports, the Premier League grants postponements “in exceptional circumstances”, but not in the case that 14 or more players are available.
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If Thursday’s match against Leicester City is postponed, that would leave Spurs with three Premier League games to make up, after a trip to Burnley was snowed out on Nov. 28. That’s presents an increasingly tall order for a Tottenham team that is still hoping to reach a top four spot. Spurs are currently just three points out of fourth place, which would grant the final automatic berth to the lucrative UEFA Champions League.
With still over half the season to go, there would be open dates for rescheduling matches down the road, especially against teams like Burnley and Brighton which are not competing in European competitions. However, if Sunday’s scheduled match against Liverpool is also called into question, that might prove more challenging given Liverpool’s involvement on multiple competitive fronts. Leicester City is scheduled to play in the Europa Conference League playoffs in February.
Tottenham’s Conference League match cancelled
Before the Premier League match against Brighton was postponed on Dec. 12, Tottenham’s COVID-19 outbreak had already resulted in the cancellation of its final group-stage match in the Europa Conference League on Dec. 9.
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That match was scheduled against Group G leaders Stade Rennais, and third-place Spurs were entering the group finale with the hope of a win that would allow them to leapfrog Dutch side Vitesse into second place and advance to the Conference League playoffs.
With a decision yet to be reached on whether that match will be replayed, UEFA still included Tottenham’s name in the Conference League playoffs draw alongside that of Vitesse. UEFA’s Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body is working on determining next steps, and it’s unclear if Spurs will be given the chance to advance or whether it will have to forfeit.
Tottenham was set to host that Conference League match in London, and after it was scratched the club took the food previously ordered and donated it to the needy. The same thing happened with the meals pre-ordered for the trip to face Brighton.