Conte reveals some Spurs players are yet to return and why they’ve been training with mannequins



Antonio Conte has been detailing the numbers of Tottenham players back and still to return from their Covid isolation and has put his faith firmly in Harry Kane.

Spurs have had nine first team players, seven members of the coaching staff and many U23 players test positive for Covid in the past fortnight, with three matches being called off since their victory against Norwich earlier this month.

Ahead of Sunday’s match against Liverpool, Conte has been explaining the situation with those still to come back and some of those now out of isolation returning to training in phases.

“Today another player [returned to training], but at the start of the week, two players were back also,” he said.

“Now we have only two players that are not able and they are positive but we hope in two, three days to solve totally the situation and have the whole squad available.”

“Now the situation is good for us because we had 50 per cent of the squad with Covid, and the staff totally. Now we are going out of this situation.

“We have to pay great attention and to continue to have a good behaviour, to be safe and also to make safe our families and all the people who stay with us.”

Spurs face one of the league’s most in-form teams in Liverpool and while Jurgen Klopp’s side have had three Covid cases of their own, the north London side will welcome them without a normal period of training behind them, due to a closed down training ground and travelling for the Leicester match that did not take place.

Conte even admitted that with numbers low he resorted to using mannequins for a period to stand in for the opposition.

“In these two weeks, for three days we didn’t have a training session and then we had a training session with only 10, 12 players, also because with the U23 players there was Covid,” said the Italian.

“Now for two, three days I have a squad without two, three players. Now we are having full training session but for sure, it wasn’t easy to face this situation and to train the players.

“To have 12 players is very difficult. To try something under a tactical aspect, usually if you want to try to play a formation you need 20 players and it’s not simple to do this. You have to train with mannequins and I stopped. It’s not easy. It’s not the same thing.”

He added: “Liverpool is one of the best teams in Europe and also in the world for what they are doing and for what Jurgen created in these years.

“They work very well. They really work hard. A strong team. It’s very good to watch. It’s nice to watch Liverpool games. They play the way that they play, the enthusiasm and the passion they put into every game.

“We must be ready and we know that the game is not simple. We’ll face difficulty but we have to know that during the game there are moments we must be ready to suffer. At the same time we have prepared the game to try, when we have the ball, to create problems for Liverpool.”

Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah has been a star again this season with 22 goals in 23 matches, including 15 in 17 games in the Premier League.

However, the man who beat him to the Premier League’s Golden Boot last season, Harry Kane – who also won the Playmaker award for the most assists – has just one league goal to his name this time around.

“It’s very strange, no? It’s very strange. If you compare what he did in the past, this is very strange, but also in the past, in my experience, before as a player and then as a coach, it happens,” explained Conte.

“I played with important strikers who, for a long period, didn’t score, but my judgement about them didn’t change. I wanted to have them in my team also if they don’t score, because if you have Harry Kane in your team, you feel stronger, for sure.”

He added: “These important games bring excitement about the players, about the whole environment. We know very well the difficulty that we can face to play against Liverpool in this moment but at the same time the players will be excited to play against a strong team.

“Harry is a world-class striker. Every day that I train him I understand very well that he’s a world-class striker. He’s one of the best I’ve had the pleasure to train.

“He’s amazing. I like to have him in my team. For sure Jurgen likes to have Mo Salah, but I like to have Harry in my team. He’s an important player for us and my expectation is very high and to play an important game against Liverpool.”

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The topic of vaccinations in football has been on the agenda, particularly with the news that while in Spain 97 per cent of players are vaccinated, the EFL revealed that 25 per cent of Football League players in England have no intention of being vaccinated.

While Conte and his family have all been vaccinated, he does not believe it’s something that should be forced upon people.

“It’s a difficult question. I think [at Spurs] we have a high number of players with the staff vaccinated, yes,” he said.

“To treat someone in a different way is not good in general. The rules that we have are good to keep safe the other players.

“For example, every day we are doing a double test, rapid test, molecular test for us. This could be a good solution to know the situation, the real situation, every day. Both for the players that have been vaccinated and for the players who don’t have the vaccine.”





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