Antonio Conte calls for Tottenham’s Carabao Cup clash vs Chelsea to be reduced to one leg amid Covid-19 spike

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  • Chelsea
    Chelsea
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  • Antonio Conte
    Antonio Conte
    Italian association football player and manager
 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

Antonio Conte has called for Tottenham’s Carabao Cup semi-final against Chelsea to be reduced to one-leg next month.

Spurs set up a meeting with Conte’s former club with a hard-fought 2-1 win over West Ham on Wednesday.

The rivals will play home and away in the weeks commencing January 3 and 10, but last week Premier League clubs discussed reducing the tie to one-leg to ease the pressure on Covid-hit squads.

The Football Association has already agreed to scrap FA Cup third and fourth-round replays as a one-off measure, given the threat of a fixture pile-up following a raft of suspensions and increased concerns from clubs over the risk of Covid or injuries in their stretched squad.

“Honestly, if I have to decide maybe it'd be to play one game and not two games,” Conte said. “Especially for the situation we are living. But we have to respect the views.

“In the second-half [against West Ham], we started to pay a bit for the Covid situations. Many players who played had Covid and at one point the intensity dropped. I made substitutions. It was good to make the semi-final but I know we have to manage this situation.

“For sure it’d be nice and good to play against Chelsea for me,” Conte added. “I spent two amazing seasons with Chelsea and I enjoyed a lot everything there.

“Now I’m the manager of Tottenham and ready to give everything for this club. When you reach the semi-final, for sure in England to lift a trophy is very, very difficult. Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham [are in the semi-final], and West Ham eliminated Manchester United and Manchester City. In England the level is very, very high. We’ll see. It’s a good game.”

Steven Bergwijn took his chance against the Hammers, scoring and setting up the winner for Lucas Moura on his first start under Conte.

The Dutchman’s fine display followed eye-catching performances from Dele Alli and Harry Winks in Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Liverpool.

 (Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty I)
(Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty I)

Spurs lost nine first-team players to Covid earlier this month and did not play for two weeks after three consecutive matches were postponed.

Conte revealed that he used the decimation of his squad to get to know his fringe players, which helped to spark Bergwijn and others into life.

“These two weeks [without a game] when we had many players with Covid helped me and helped Steven Bergwijn to understand what I want from him and the other 11 players we had in training,” Cote explained.

“For many days we trained with only 11 or 12 players. On one hand, it was very difficult. On the other, we exploited this situation.

“We prepared to play games with these players. For sure, Steven should have played against Leicester or Brighton, the games that were postponed. We tried to exploit the period when we were only 11 or 12 players to improve these players.

“Now Steven is totally involved in what I want, what I ask from my players. Don’t forget, I like to have a plan and give options to my players. Every single player has to know what I give during the game offensively and defensively.”

“I always said that I found a group of players that showed me from the first day great commitment, good behaviour and a good desire to show me that we can build something important together,” Conte added.

“I think I’m very happy to have this type of answer tonight. [Matt] Doherty and Steven Bergwijn played a really good game. It means they’re working well. They’re involved in what we want to do.”

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