Tottenham Hotspur boss Antonio Conte said on Friday he must carefully manage the workload of his players as they return to training following a COVID-19 outbreak at the club that led to the postponement of their last two Premier League games.
Spurs have not played since beating Norwich City on Dec. 5, with games at Brighton & Hove Albion and Leicester City called off due to positive cases at the London club and the Foxes.
“When the players are back from COVID, for sure you have to pay great attention. You can’t give them the same charge of work as other players. If you want everything very soon, you risk injuries,” Conte said before Sunday’s home game with Liverpool.
“Before picking the starting XI you have to take into consideration all this. For instance, to start with one player and after 60 or 70 minutes change him with one player who had COVID. In this situation, it’s important to have patience and take the right risk.”
Spurs had 13 cases among players and staff but Conte said they are now down to two positive cases in the squad and they will be available again in “two or three days”.
“It’s good news because almost all the players are back in training,” he said. “In the next one… we’ll have the squad totally negative, also the staff, and this is very important.”
The Italian said his team were prepared to follow the rules and play every game despite the postponement of five fixtures this weekend.
“We’re ready to do and follow what the Premier League decides. In the past, I have seen that for example in this situation against Rennes (in the Europa Conference League), I’ve seen it was a big problem for us because we had many players with COVID.”
Conte added that he was in favour of others getting vaccinated but it was a personal decision for his players, saying the situation was different for every individual.
“It’s a moment that we are facing another pandemic … but it’s very difficult to go into a situation or get in the head of another person.”
Midfielder Giovani Lo Celso is also back after injury and fullback Sergio Reguilon may feature following a thigh problem.
Spurs are seventh with 25 points from 14 games, 15 points adrift of second-placed Liverpool with three games in hand.