Antonio Conte accused UEFA of disrespect on Tuesday with Tottenham confident they can overturn the decision to throw them out of the Europa Conference League.
In an attack on European football’s governing body, Conte claimed ‘personal interests’ might have led to the club being forced to forfeit their final group game against Rennes.
The match, scheduled for December 9, was postponed due to a Covid outbreak at Tottenham and the automatic 3-0 loss handed to them by UEFA meant they were out of the competition.
Sportsmail revealed on Tuesday that the club were considering legal action. The next step would be to challenge the ruling at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and Conte suggested that they are set to file a claim against an ‘incredible’ decision.
‘The world knows we were facing a big problem like Covid,’ said Conte ahead of Wednesday's Carabao Cup quarter-final against West Ham.
‘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 centre.
‘UEFA took this decision and then there’s another step to confirm or not this incredible decision.
'I’m very disappointed with UEFA because everybody knows the problem. It means maybe someone doesn’t know the problem we were having and maybe some personal interests (were behind the decision).’
Asked about the Court of Arbitration for Sport, Conte continued: ‘We are all confident because I think you receive a punishment if you deserve it. But we prepared for the game against Rennes. We did everything to play the game.
‘But if someone else stops you for an important reason — a Covid reason — then I don’t understand why Tottenham have to pay for this situation.
‘This is unfair and for sure, we will fight against this decision because we want to play. We want to play the qualification on the pitch. If we don’t win (against Rennes), it’s right to go out of this competition. We deserve to play the qualification on the pitch.
‘The players ask me why. The players are very, very disappointed in this decision. Tottenham started to play in this competition from this summer and now it’s unfair for a decision that is not in our hands.
To tell Tottenham, “Thanks very much, you went here, here and here, but now you lose 3-0”. Why?
‘We honoured the competition to play and to go around Europe. But now UEFA is taking a decision that I don’t like.
It is lacking respect about our job. It’s not fair. We are confident that something can change in the future because the players, the fans, the club want to play the qualification on the pitch, not in the court.’
In better news, Conte confirmed Tottenham are now Covid-free after two weeks of chaos which saw three fixtures postponed — the game with Rennes and Premier League matches against Brighton and Leicester.
‘All the players are available,’ Conte said. ‘They have recovered from Covid and we have all the players now negative.’
Conte is, though, concerned about the effect of the players having had Covid, saying they are not fully fit after their isolation.
Wednesday's tie will be refereed by Chris Kavanagh, the VAR for Tottenham’s 2-2 draw with Liverpool on Sunday, who did not show Harry Kane a red card for his lunge on Andy Robertson.
Ahead of the game, West Ham boss David Moyes admitted the Premier League is his priority. The Hammers have not lifted major silverware since the 1980 FA Cup but are riding high in the table and Moyes is determined to build on last season’s sixth-placed finish.
He said: ‘I’d love to win a trophy with West Ham but I wouldn’t like to win the League Cup and find myself struggling at the bottom.
‘The cup competitions are hugely important but I still see league football as what your job is to do.’