Tottenham boss Antonio Conte says he ‘can’t accept’ the way in which his team has been dumped out of the Europa Conference League.
The north London side were due to face Rennes on December 9 but had to call the match off due to a Covid outbreak. UEFA said the tie could not be rescheduled and Tottenham were forced to forfeit.
Rennes were given a 3-0 win, qualifying them for the next round as group winners. The result saw Vitesse finish second and Tottenham place third.
The decision is a major blow for Conte and Spurs as they were one of the favourites to win the competition. That would have seen them end their long wait for a trophy, which stretches back to 2007-08.
Spurs will now turn their attention to the EFL Cup, as they play West Ham in the quarter-final on Wednesday night.
At the pre-match press conference, Conte was asked about UEFA’s decision. “Honestly for me, the club and our fans, it’s incredible the decision UEFA wanted to take,” he said. “It’s unfair for sure. We deserve to play for qualification on the pitch, not in this way. I’m very disappointed for UEFA’s decisions.”
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The manager added: “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.”
Conte was then quizzed on whether his team might appeal the forfeit. “There’s another grade. It’s not definitive… UEFA took this decision and then there’s another step to confirm or not this incredible decision.”
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Conte was in a better mood when speaking about the club’s Covid cases.”All the players are available. They recovered from Covid and we have all the players now negative. It’s good news for us.
“The good news is we have all the players available. A little of bad news that Ryan Sessegnon had a problem at the end of the game against Liverpool. He’s the only player, with [Cristian] Romero, is injured.”
On Sessegnon’s potential return date, Conte added: “Ten days to two weeks. He had a muscular problem at the end of the game against Liverpool.
“For sure, we have to find a good solution with Sess because I have seen in the past he has suffered a bit from this type of injury.”