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- Italian association football player and manager
Antonio Conte insists he does not need to remind his Tottenham players of the seriousness of the Premier League’s escalating Covid crisis, and says everyone is trying to avoid another shutdown or the return of matches behind closed doors.
The situation across the Premier League feels increasingly precarious, however, with Watford’s visit to Burnley on Wednesday called off just two-and-a-half hours before kick-off and Brentford vs Manchester United postponed on Tuesday.
Despite soaring cases, particularly across the capital, the Government is yet to impose any fresh restrictions on gatherings, although the Premier League has implemented a number of new measures to try to curb the spread of the virus – including daily testing.
Asked if he would talk to his squad about the need for extra caution, Conte said: "The players are very intelligent and understand the situation – that this virus is going on again and we have to pay attention because no-one wants to stop games and to stop the people going to the stadium.
"My players are intelligent enough to understand this. I don’t think that I need to inform them about this situation, [or tell them] to pay attention.
"We all have families and we don’t want to affect other people. For sure, we have to pay great attention because the situation is much worse, if you compare to the past."
Conte is set to welcome back three of the nine first-team players who tested positive for Covid against Leicester but has said they will start on the bench – as he warned that managing the after-effects of Covid cases could pose "a big problem" to all clubs.
The Italian has described the occasion as "big chance" for his fringe players to prove they belong at the club, and the likes of Dele Alli, Tanguy Ndombele and Joe Rodon are all pushing for a first League start under the Italian.
Leicester are also without nine senior players through illness or Covid-19 but the Premier League rejected requests from both clubs to postpone the match, with Spurs having hoped to use the date to play their Europa Conference League game against Rennes.
The London club even offered to travel to France to fulfil the fixture but the result is set to be decided by UEFA’s Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body – with a Spurs 3-0 forfeit the likeliest outcome.
"The situation is very, very clear," Conte said. "The government stopped our training sessions and shut our training centre [so] it was impossible to play the game. We deserve to play the last game of our group. It was not our fault but for the Covid situation and the government decided – in the right way – to stop our activities. Otherwise we would have risked all the people who worked here getting Covid."
Conte has said none of his Covid-hit players were seriously ill, while he is set to welcome back Giovani Lo Celso from a knee injury against Leicester. Cristian Romero remains their only long-term absentee with a hamstring strain.