Conte ‘confident’ on Spurs UECL exit appeal


Antonio Conte has said Tottenham are “very, very confident” of overturning what he describes as UEFA’s “incredible” decision to kick them out of the Conference League.

Spurs exited the competition after European football’s governing body determined that the club had technically “forfeited” their final Group G match against Stade Rennais as a result of a COVID-19 outbreak in their squad.

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Tottenham were unable to field a team and after exhaustive talks to find an alternate date before UEFA’s Dec. 31 deadline ended in failure — one solution to move their game against Leicester City was rejected by Premier League officials — the game was deemed a 3-0 defeat, condemning Spurs to a third-place finish behind Vitesse.

The club initially released a statement in response claiming they had accepted the decision but sources have told ESPN that Tottenham are considering an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

No formal appeal has been made yet, although Conte was bullish about their chances of success when speaking at a news conference on Tuesday afternoon ahead of the club’s EFL Cup quarterfinal against West Ham United.

“For sure, this is an incredible decision,” Conte said. “This decision is not fair. All the world knows we were facing a big problem like COVID. We didn’t play not through our fault but because we had many players with COVID and the government decided to stop our training sessions and close our [training] centre.

“UEFA took this decision but there is another step and we’re confident that there is another step. I repeat: it was incredible what UEFA did. Also, in explanation about this defeat, I have read that Tottenham couldn’t play the game for COVID cases.

“I dispute this. But they took this decision. We are very, very confident for the next step and I repeat we deserve to play the qualification on the pitch, not in the court. I can’t accept this. We are very, very disappointed with UEFA for this reason.

“It means maybe someone doesn’t know the problem we were having and maybe some personal interests [were behind the decision].”

Conte confirmed that the raft of Spurs players who contracted COVID-19 earlier in the month are now back in training, although Ryan Sessegnon will be missing after picking up a muscular problem in Sunday’s 2-2 draw against Liverpool.

“All the players — one player tomorrow — but all the players are available,” he added. “They recovered from COVID and we have all the players now negative. It’s good news for us. But as you know well, for sure with COVID you bring this virus with you for a bit of time.

“For sure many players at the moment are not so fit because they have to face this situation. The good news is we have all the players available.”

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