Antonio Conte suggested Tottenham will take UEFA to court over the governing body's "unfair" decision that consequently eliminated his side from the Europa Conference League.  

Spurs' final group match against Rennes on December 9 was called off late on following a coronavirus outbreak at the Premier League club that saw five staff members and eight players test positive.

With a new date unable to be set for their European encounter, UEFA ruled that Spurs had forfeited the game and awarded Rennes a 3-0 victory, therefore eliminating Conte's side from the competition.

However, Conte does not agree with UEFA's decision to award Rennes the win and claimed the outcome may even have been influenced by "personal interest".

"For sure this is an incredible decision," he said at a news conference previewing Wednesday's EFL Cup quarter-final with West Ham. "This decision is not fair. All the world knows we were facing a big problem like COVID. 

"We didn't play through our fault but because we had many, many players with COVID and the government decided to stop our training sessions and to [shut] our training centre.

"Honestly for me, the players, the club and our fans, it's incredible the decision UEFA wanted to take. 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 decision.

"I hope that in the future, in the next step, something can change because we deserve to play for qualification on the pitch, not in this way. It's not our fault.

"UEFA took this decision but then there's another step to confirm or not this incredible decision. But I repeat 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 [there was] some personal interest [behind the decision]."

UEFA rules state a team cannot call off a match if they have 13 players from their A list, including a goalkeeper, available to play.

Asked to clarify if the "next step" means taking the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, Conte added: "Yeah. UEFA took this decision but there's another step and we're confident that there's another step.

"I repeat, it was incredible what UEFA did. Also, in explanation about this defeat, I have read that Tottenham couldn't play [a rearranged] game because of COVID cases. I dispute this. But [UEFA] took this decision.

"We are very, very confident for the next step and I repeat we deserve to play for qualification on the pitch, not in the court. I can't accept this. We are very, very disappointed with UEFA for this."

Rennes finished top of Group G and are through to the last 16 of UEFA's third-tier European competition, while Vitesse – who finished three points ahead of Tottenham – are scheduled to face Rapid Vienna in the play-off round.

Matthijs de Ligt's agent Mina Raiola is ready to find the defender a new club.

The outspoken representative suggested he could join Barcelona, Real Madrid or Paris Saint-Germain.

He also indicated the Premier League was of interest to the Juventus centre-back.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA FRONTRUNNERS TO LAND DE LIGT

Chelsea are leading the race to sign Juventus defender De Ligt, claims The Sun.

Raiola has indicated the 22-year-old is ready to leave Juve, who are off the Serie A title pace this term.

Chelsea are expected to lose a host of defenders and eager to make a move for De Ligt.

 

ROUND-UP

- Cashed-up Newcastle United have an eye on Inter forward Edin Dzeko as well as a loan deal for Manchester United's Anthony Martial, reports The Sun.

Manchester United have been in touch with River Plate about 21-year-old Argentinean forward Julian Alvarez, claims Ole.

United are also set to win the race to sign Olympique Marseille midfielder Boubacar Kamara according to FourFourTwo.

- Gerard Romero claims that Tottenham will make another move for Barcelona defender Clement Lenglet after missing out on him last transfer window.

- Fabrizio Romano reports that Jonathan Ikone's move from Lille to Fiorentina is agreed with only the paperwork left to be signed on a five-year deal with a €15m fee.

Manchester City made history by putting Newcastle United to the sword and Arsenal also set a Premier League record in their thrashing of fragile Leeds United.

Rampant City ran riot at St James' Park on Sunday, hammering the relegation-threatened Magpies 4-0 to ensure they will be top of the table at Christmas.

Pep Guardiola's side took their tally of top-flight victories in 2021 to 34, bettering a record they had shared with Liverpool.

Depleted Leeds handed out far too many gifts in the season of goodwill, dishing out a 4-1 drubbing as Marcelo Bielsa's side were blown away in the first half at Elland Road on Saturday.

Second-placed Liverpool had to settle for a 2-2 draw at Tottenham in an eventful game for Andy Robertson on Sunday.

The fixture list was hard hit due to COVID-19 outbreaks, but there was no shortage of quirky Opta facts from the matches that went ahead.

 

No presents from Pep for struggling Howe

City can celebrate Christmas at the top of the tree for the first time since 2018, with Liverpool having been at the summit in the last three seasons.

It has been another memorable year for the champions, who not only set a record for number of top-flight wins but have also scored the most goals in a year by a Premier League team.

Not forgetting that football was indeed played before 1992, City's total of 106 goals in the top flight in 2021 sees them match a figure last set by Liverpool back in 1982. Aston Villa, however, hold the all-time top-flight record with a staggering 120 in 1930.

It has been a very different story for Newcastle, who conceded 79 times in the league this year, matching an unwanted record Ipswich Town set in 1994.

Eddie Howe will be glad to see the back of City, as the Newcastle head coach has lost all 11 matches against them – the worst 100 per cent losing record by any boss against one club in the history of the competition.

Ruthless Arsenal make Leeds suffer 

Leeds were thumped 7-0 by City in midweek and they gift-wrapped Arsenal three points with a naive display, even if injuries must be taken into account (all nine of Bielsa's substitutes were aged 21 or under, with 15-year-old Archie Gray among them).

The Gunners extended their winning run to three matches after dominating the first half, Gabriel Martinelli scoring twice and Bukayo Saka putting them 3-0 up at the break.

It could have been worse for the Whites, as Arsenal had 11 shots on target in the first half – the most on record (since 2003-04) by any side in the opening 45 minutes in a Premier League match.

With Emile Smith Rowe also on target, it was the first time Arsenal have had three players aged 21 or younger on the scoresheet in a Premier League game (excluding own goals).

Kalvin Phillips was once again sorely missed by Leeds. The Yorkshire club have lost 12 of their 15 Premier League games when the England midfielder has been absent.

Robertson turns from hero to villain

Liverpool are three points behind City after they were held by Spurs, having come from behind to lead 2-1 in the capital.

It was an eventful match for Robertson, who was unable to complete the 90 minutes after being shown a red card for a tackle on Emerson Royal.

The Scotland captain was given his marching orders eight minutes after putting the Reds in front and he also set up Diogo Jota's equaliser. Since Jota's Liverpool debut in 2020, only Christian Benteke (a former Red) has scored more headed Premier League goals than the Portugal forward (six).

Robertson became the first player to score, provide an assist and be sent off in a Premier League game since Aleksandar Mitrovic for Newcastle in May 2016, also against Spurs.

Harry Kane got the opener in an enthralling encounter, netting just his second league goal of the season and his first one at home since May.

That means Kane's last three home league goals for Spurs have all come under different managers – Jose Mourinho, Ryan Mason and Antonio Conte.

Tottenham are out of the Europa Conference League, with UEFA awarding Rennes a 3-0 victory after the Premier League club were unable to play their final group-stage game due to a number of COVID-19 cases.

Spurs were scheduled to host Rennes on December 9, but five staff members and eight players tested positive for COVID-19 and the game did not take place.

The outbreak in the Spurs camp also forced the postponement of their Premier League clash with Brighton and Hove Albion, while last week's scheduled meeting with Leicester City was then called off due to an outbreak in the Foxes' camp.

Antonio Conte's side returned to action on Sunday with a 2-2 draw against Liverpool.

With a new date unable to be set for their European encounter, UEFA ruled that Spurs had forfeited the game and the North London side are now out of the competition, having needed a win to progress.

A record of two wins, one draw and two defeats from their opening five games had left Spurs third, three points behind Vitesse Arnhem and four off group leaders Rennes.

With Spurs' European campaign coming to a premature end, Conte can now turn full focus to the league campaign and pursuit of qualification for a continental competition next season.

Spurs sit seventh on 26 points, but have only played 15 games so far, while each of the league's current top four have played 18 fixtures.

West Ham, fifth, and Manchester United, sixth, have also played more games than Conte's side, with 17 and 16, respectively.

Antonio Conte was impressed with Dele Alli's performance against Liverpool as the Tottenham head coach continues to develop an understanding of which players he can count on.

Spurs had not played since December 5 against Norwich City, missing three games due to a COVID-19 outbreak at the club but recorded a valiant 2-2 draw with Jurgen Klopp's side on Sunday.

Harry Kane opened the scoring with just his second Premier League goal of the campaign and his first at home in the competition since May, though strikes from Diogo Jota and Andy Robertson – who was later sent-off – put Liverpool into the ascendancy.

Son Heung-min then salvaged a deserved point for Spurs after an Alisson blunder, but Conte's side could have scored four or five, with the Liverpool goalkeeper's best save coming against Alli in the first half.

Indeed, Alli was making just his seventh league start of 2021-22 and managed 81 minutes before his removal, enjoying three touches in the opposition box – which he has only bettered twice this term against Watford and Wolves.

The England international also created one chance, the first opportunity he has provided in nine league outings this term, in what Conte found to be an encouraging showing from the midfielder.

Conte told Sky Sports: "He played a good game. With this formation with three midfielders, he can play as a midfielder and I think he's strong physically, he's good technically, good penetration. 

"If he was a bit [more] effective he could score but the performance was good. It's important to understand about the players I can count [on] now and for the future, also to find the right solution for a formation. 

"Previously we played 3-4-2-1, today we played 3-5-2. To have two possibilities is good for me, good for the team and it gives the possibility to many players to be involved."

Tottenham are yet to lose in the Premier League under Conte, winning three and sharing the points in the other two, as the former Inter head coach appears to have had an positive impact on his side.

Spurs dominated for large parts at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium against Liverpool and Conte acknowledged it was somewhat frustrating to leave with just a point.

"I think it was an exciting game and we created many chances to score and win the game," he added. "We have to be a bit disappointed for the draw. For sure we played against a really strong team.

"For the chances we created, we go home with the thought instead of one point it could be three points.

"We prepared a plan. It's not simple to defend against them. When we're in possession I said we could create problems for Liverpool. This happened today. The supporters have seen a good, exciting game.

"I don't want to speak about the decision of the referee [on Kane's challenge on Robertson]. I think the game was good for both teams. Harry played a good game. He scored a goal of vital importance. He had chances to score other goals. He's an important player for us."

Jurgen Klopp railed at Paul Tierney after accusing the referee of blundering by failing to send off Harry Kane and snubbing Diogo Jota's penalty appeal in Liverpool's dramatic draw at Tottenham.

The Liverpool manager said the game needed "an objective ref" – a comment that could land him in trouble – and questioned if there was anything personal to read into Tierney's decisions.

"I have really no idea what his problem is with me," said Klopp, who spoke to the referee at half-time and full-time.

Former Borussia Dortmund boss Klopp was convinced Kane should have been ordered off for a first-half lunge on Liverpool left-back Andy Robertson, who was himself dismissed late in the game for fouling Emerson Royal, as the game finished in a 2-2 draw.

And Klopp was dismayed when Tierney refused to award Liverpool a spot-kick after Jota went over as Emerson and Davinson Sanchez slid in.

Addressing the incidents that left him frustrated during the game, and booked for his behaviour on the touchline, Klopp told Sky Sports: "Some of these questions, it is probably best to ask Mr Tierney what he thinks."

Asked whether the wild challenge by Kane, which earned the Tottenham striker a yellow card, should have resulted in a heavier punishment, Klopp said: "Definitely.

"We can give Robbo a red card... that's not the smartest challenge of his life, that's how it is, but that's definitely a red card [for Kane], no doubt about that.

"People will say his leg was in the air, but that's pure coincidence. Harry cannot judge that and if Robbo's leg is on the ground then it's a broken leg.

 "We have VAR sitting there and he looks again at the Robertson situation, fine, that's what he's there for. What did he do in that [Kane] situation?

"And the penalty situation with Diogo Jota, Mr Tierney told me he thinks Diogo stops on purpose because he wants the foul.

"First and foremost, if you want to shoot you have to stop because you cannot run and shoot in the same moment. It would always be helpful if you play football yourself in the past.

"When you see the situation back and the VAR's there, where is he stopping? You have two challenges against one player and the player's down. I don't understand that."

Reflecting on a pulsating game, Klopp added: "The draw is okay, we are not that crazy that we think we cannot draw at Tottenham, that's fine, but these situations are crucial; they are decisive situations.

"I have really no idea what his problem is with me. Honestly, I have no idea."

Klopp was without his first-choice three-man midfield due to COVID-19 and illness, along with powerhouse defender Virgil van Dijk, meaning Liverpool were majorly depleted for the clash in north London.

"You cannot expect us to play our best football game of the season. You have to fight through it and that's what the boys did and I'm really happy with that," Klopp said.

"Just we need an objective ref who sees the situation and judges them and not, like, opinions. He told me he thinks [Jota] stops on purpose. He had the best spot on the pitch, he was eight yards away and doesn't give it to him.

"I said, 'Boys, how is that? You have to ask him: what's his problem with me?'."

Harry Kane has no doubts his tackle on Andrew Robertson during Sunday's clash between Tottenham and Liverpool was not worthy of a red card.

Kane opened the scoring 13 minutes into an enthralling encounter at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, with the points ultimately shared in a 2-2 draw.

Diogo Jota and Robertson turned things around in Liverpool's favour, before Alisson's mistake gifted Son Heung-min an equaliser.

Robertson was then sent off for swiping out on Emerson Royal, as Liverpool held on for a draw that at least kept them within a win of leaders Manchester City heading into Christmas.

However, matters might have been different had Kane seen red for a lunge on Robertson midway through the first half.

The England captain missed the ball and caught Robertson's leg, but referee Paul Tierney deemed the challenge worthy of only a booking, while VAR did not intervene.

Asked if he felt he got lucky, Kane told Sky Sports: "No. Definitely not. It was a strong tackle but I thought I won the ball.

"Obviously I haven't seen it back. When you are playing against top sides and fighting for points sometimes there will be strong tackles. They checked it and we move on.

"It didn't feel like it and Andy [Robertson] on the pitch said, 'you just caught my foot'.

"When you slow things down it makes it look a little worse than it is. That's what VAR is there for."

Kane's strike was only his second in the league this season and his first at home since May. Indeed, his last three home top-flight goals have come under different managers: Jose Mourinho, Ryan Mason and Antonio Conte.

The match saw 28 attempts in total – 10 for Tottenham and 18 for Liverpool – with Spurs squandering several golden chances, while the Reds may feel aggrieved by some of the decisions.

"It was a great game to be involved in and am sure it was a great game to watch as well," Kane added.

"There were plenty of chances at both ends. We had some clear chances that we had to do better with to be honest. Overall it was a tough battle against a very good side. We move forward to the next one now.

"When we were 1-0 up we had two clear-cut chances. Sonny tried to take on the keeper and he made a great save from Dele's [Alli]. If we score both of those the game is clear.

"You're playing against a top side and you have to take your chances, and we had more than enough to win the game. Overall I thought it was a great performance.

"It was nice to score, it's been a few games since I scored especially here at home in the Premier League but on another day there's a couple more I could have taken."

Son Heung-min capitalised on Alisson's mistake to salvage a point for Tottenham in an enthralling 2-2 Premier League draw with Liverpool.

Spurs went ahead on Sunday through Harry Kane, who ended a run of 788 minutes without a league goal at home, but Diogo Jota levelled before half-time.

Andy Robertson nodded Liverpool ahead after Spurs had wasted good chances for a second, but when Alisson came off his line and failed to clear the ball, Son was gifted an easy equaliser.

Robertson saw red for a swipe on Emerson Royal, but Jurgen Klopp's men held out for a share of the spoils.

Spurs moved ahead 13 minutes in thanks to Kane's second league goal of the season, the England captain slotting first time past Alisson from Tanguy Ndombele's throughball.

Kane was arguably fortunate not to receive stronger punishment than a booking for a late lunge on Robertson shortly after setting up a chance for Son.

Hugo Lloris denied Trent Alexander-Arnold before Dele Alli missed a golden chance, Alisson getting a fingertip to his effort after Son teed him up in front of goal.

Liverpool levelled five minutes later – Robertson pouncing on a loose ball and clipping a cross to Jota, who headed powerfully past Lloris.

Spurs started the second half strongly and twice missed clear chances through Kane, while Alli wanted a penalty after going to ground under pressure from Alexander-Arnold.

It was the Liverpool right-back's volleyed cross that was headed in by Robertson moments later to give the Reds the lead, despite Spurs protests over a possible Mohamed Salah handball.

But the previously brilliant Alisson gifted Spurs their equaliser: he made a mess of intercepting Ben Davies' pass, presenting Son with an open goal.

Robertson's lunge on Emerson being deemed worthy of a straight red after a VAR check then proved the final twist in an exhilarating contest.

Thiago Alcantara missed Liverpool's game against Tottenham due to a suspected positive coronavirus test result, as Jurgen Klopp was left without a raft of key players.

The midfielder, who contracted the virus in 2020, has been placed into isolation after returning the suspect result during the pre-match round of tests.

Jordan Henderson also withdrew from the Reds' squad for Sunday's meeting with Antonio Conte's team after feeling unwell. However, the Liverpool captain has tested negative for the virus.

It meant manager Klopp was without his first-choice midfield for the match at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, given Fabinho and Curtis Jones were also sidelined.

They, along with star defender Virgil van Dijk, had been absent from Thursday's win over Newcastle United at Anfield after returning suspected positive results.

Tyler Morton was handed a first Premier League start in midfield for the Spurs game, and he featured alongside James Milner and Naby Keita.

Liverpool's game was one of only four Premier League fixtures allowed to go ahead this weekend, with the other six matches all postponed due to coronavirus cases among teams involved.

Spurs, meanwhile, were back in action for the first time since beating Norwich City on December 5, after a COVID-19 outbreak in their camp.

Barcelona are struggling financially but Xavi is desperate to reinforce his attack following Sergio Aguero's retirement.

Ferran Torres and Edinson Cavani are believed to top Barca's transfer list heading into the January window.

It could be a busy month ahead for the LaLiga outfit.

 

TOP STORY – TORRES, CAVANI TO BARCA?

Manchester City's Ferran Torres and Manchester United forward Edinson Cavani are priority objectives for Barcelona, according to Marca.

Barca continue to be linked with Spain international Torres as Xavi attempts to bolster the embattled LaLiga giants.

Cavani has also emerged as a top target after Sergio Aguero retired from football and the duo could reportedly arrive in January.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Daily Mail claims Arsenal are open to selling Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang next month, but the Gunners are more likely to move on from the former skipper at the end of the season. Aubameyang has been stripped of the captaincy and linked with Barca and Juventus.

Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen and Eintracht Frankfurt are eyeing Yusuf Demir as Diario Sport reports Barca have decided to cut short the 18-year-old's loan spell from Rapid Vienna.

Rafael Leao is poised to sign a contract extension with Milan until 2026, per Nicolo Schira.

- Calciomercato says Arsenal have not given up on signing Juve attacker Dejan Kulusevski. The Sweden international has also been linked to London rivals Tottenham.

Barca are monitoring United sensation Mason Greenwood, reports El Nacional. England international Greenwood is highly rated at Old Trafford.

- Jeunes Footeux says Liverpool have joined the race to sign Lille star Jonathan David. The Canada international is reportedly wanted by Arsenal, Inter and Paris Saint-Germain.

Tottenham head coach Antonio Conte labelled Harry Kane a "world-class striker", adding the Spurs star is one of the best players he has worked with despite his goalscoring woes.

Kane is the reigning Premier League Golden Boot winner, but the Tottenham talisman has struggled this season, scoring just once in 14 appearances.

It comes after Kane eyed a Spurs exit before the start of the 2021-22 campaign, however, a proposed move to champions Manchester City did not materialise.

Despite looking a shadow of his usual self, Conte – who has managed the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Carlos Tevez and Diego Costa – hailed England captain Kane.

"Harry is a world-class striker," Conte said ahead of Sunday's showdown with Liverpool. "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 [Klopp] likes to have Mo Salah. But I like to have Harry in my team.

"He's an important player for us and my expectation was very high and to play an important game against Liverpool."

On Kane's lack of goals, Conte added: "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.

"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."

Tottenham have won just one of their past 17 Premier League games against Liverpool (D4 L12), losing each of the last six in a row.

Conte's four Premier League meetings with Liverpool have seen him win once, draw twice and lose once. The Italian's first ever defeat in the competition was in a home game against Liverpool, with his Chelsea side losing 2-1 at Stamford Bridge in September 2016.

Antonio Conte labelled Mohamed Salah "one of the best players in the world" ahead of the clash between Tottenham and Liverpool on Sunday.

Liverpool are just a point away from Premier League leaders Manchester City, with Salah's fine form leading the way for Jurgen Klopp's side once again.

The Egypt international was on target in Thursday's 3-1 win over Newcastle United, equalling Jamie Vardy's Premier League record for scoring or assisting in 15 consecutive games.

Salah has 24 direct goal involvements in the league this season (15 goals, nine assists), only former Newcastle striker Alan Shearer in 1994-95 has ever tallied more before Christmas in the competition (25 – 16 goals, nine assists).

Conte, who crossed paths with Salah when the forward was playing for Roma, said he is expecting a tough task against Liverpool as he heaped praise on the quality of the 29-year-old.

"I think he's one of the best players in the world," Conte told reporters when asked about Salah. "During the game, we have seen he scores or makes assists. He's a very decisive player. 

"Every time he has the ball he's a danger. He has improved a lot, I remember him when he played in Italy. 

"Now he's improved in an incredible way. Now I think he's one of the best players in the world and in every game he's very decisive."

Spurs have not played since a 3-0 win over Norwich City on December 5, with fixtures against Rennes, Brighton and Hove Albion and Leicester City all cancelled due to a COVID-19 outbreak at the club.

However, Conte's side remain within touching distance of the Champions League spots, while boasting three games in hand on most of the teams around them.

But the former Inter head coach explained keeping morale up has been a difficult challenge amid a testing period with new club Spurs.

"The morale was very, very down, also because we prepared and had training sessions to play games," he added. 

"We prepared for all these games and in two weeks, three times we didn't play.

"For sure, the morale is down when this type of situation happens. For example yesterday [on Thursday], we were ready to play against Leicester.

"We were there and then before lunch, they told us the game was postponed. Then lunch, another travel, when we arrived [back at Hotspur Way] another training session. It's not easy.

"It's also not easy to explain to the players and find the right energy when you're prepared to play and the game is postponed. To come back, have another training session and today to prepare for another game versus Liverpool and you don't know if you are able to play.

"It's not simple, surely. If the morale is down, I think I can justify [that in] my players and the whole environment. 

"But at the same time, we're ready to play on Sunday an important game against a really good, amazing team. With the difficulty we're facing, we're ready to play this game."

Edinson Cavani re-signed with Manchester United at the start of the season but Cristiano Ronaldo's return to Old Trafford has hampered the Uruguayan.

And following Sergio Aguero's shock retirement, the door has opened for Cavani at Camp Nou.

Cavani is believed to be on the verge of swapping Manchester for Barcelona.

 

TOP STORY – CAVANI TO CAMP NOU

Edinson Cavani will join embattled LaLiga giants Barcelona in January to replace Sergio Aguero, according to TyC Sports.

Aguero announced his retirement from football this week due to a heart problem and Barca are on the lookout for a replacement.

Manchester United forward Cavani has emerged as a target, with the Uruguay international reportedly rejecting an offer from Boca Juniors to move to Camp Nou.

 

ROUND-UP

- The front page of Friday's Gazzetta dello Sport claims Antony Martial is eager to leave United for Serie A giants Juventus. He has also been linked with Atletico MadridCavani, Paris Saint-Germain's Mauro Icardi and former Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are believed to be among Juve's targets.

- Barca have held talks regarding a move for Juve winger Federico Bernardeschi, claims Sport. The Italy international is out of contract at the end of the season.

- Neither United nor PSG have opened talks with Barca midfielder Frenkie de Jong, reports Fabrizio Romano. Bayern Munich and Liverpool are also believed to be interested.

Newcastle United have offered £88million (€100m) for Fiorentina star Dusan Vlahovic, according to Calciomercato. Vlahovic is wanted by Manchester United, Manchester City, Bayern, Tottenham, Arsenal, Inter, Juve and Atletico.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin is urging footballers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible.

In recent months, it has become increasingly clear that vaccine take-up is not as high among elite footballers as within the rest of society.

A story in British tabloid The Sun last week said Premier League clubs feared the government would ban unvaccinated players, suggesting there remains a reasonable proportion holding out.

The Premier League last released vaccination data in mid-October, at which point it was said only 68 per cent of players were fully vaccinated – in terms of wider society, over 80 per cent of adults aged 16 or older in England reported having been double-jabbed as early as July.

Vaccination has become an especially hot topic in the United Kingdom over the past few weeks amid the increase in football match postponements due to COVID-19 outbreaks, and UEFA is beginning a drive to promote the vaccine over the coming months.

"We've just launched a video promoting vaccination, it will go out tomorrow, I think," Ceferin told a news conference on Thursday.

"We should promote the vaccine and we will. We don't have the power to force anyone to be vaccinated, but the promotion starts today and in my humble opinion the video is good because only doctors talk in it.

"They explain why the vaccine is so important. They are experts saying the vaccine is good because of this, this and this, and that side effects are very rare. We will start promoting the vaccine now."

Bayern Munich were reported to have taken a particularly strong stance against unvaccinated players, with claims they would dock wages of anyone forced to into quarantine if they had not been jabbed.

As many as five Bayern players – including Joshua Kimmich – were said to have delayed getting the vaccine, while it emerged in October that several members of the England squad were still unvaccinated.

However, Ceferin remains hopeful that such situations will soon be a rarity.

"For me, I believe in science," he said. "I got vaccinated, and I think [the players] should get vaccinated] as soon as possible, but I still believe for now it's a personal choice.

"People aren't stupid. If you explain in a nice way, not judging them, explain why it's good.

"All figures show vaccinated people are less likely to get infected and all vaccinated people are less likely to have strong effects of COVID if they are infected.

"Sooner or later, if not all, the vast majority will understand it."

Ceferin was also asked to address the challenges of matches not being able to go ahead because of outbreaks, with particular focus on Tottenham.

Their Europa Conference League match with Rennes was unable to go ahead last week and UEFA ruled it could not find a "viable solution in order to reschedule the match".

Spurs are reportedly still attempting to find a workaround, including the possibility of playing the game in France rather than London, but they remain in a tricky situation after their clash with Leicester City was also postponed.

UEFA referred the case to their disciplinary arm and as such Spurs may have to forfeit the game with a 3-0 defeat – Ceferin accepts it may feel unjust but insisted these regulations ensure football's integrity.

"We have our regulations that are clear," he said. "Maybe they're sometimes hard to understand, but without them I don't think we could finish last season without stopping it.

"I know it sometimes looks unfair that a team has to play a certain match in a certain timeframe or the result is 3-0 for the other team, but if we didn't have clear rules then we wouldn't be able to finish the season.

"I sincerely hope we won't need those regulations soon."

Leicester City's Premier League clash against Tottenham has become the latest Premier League fixture to be postponed due to coronavirus outbreaks.

Spurs had already seen their past two matches against Rennes in the Conference League, and Brighton and Hove Albion in the top flight curtailed due to not having enough players available due to the number of positive COVID-19 tests in their squad.

However, the Foxes have also been affected by a spate of infections in their camp, with a further number of positive tests on Thursday leading to the match being called off and Leicester closing first-team operations for 48 hours.

A club statement read: "Leicester City can confirm that the Premier League Board has decided to postpone Thursday night’s fixture against Tottenham Hotspur.

"The decision was taken with guidance from medical advisors after the club resubmitted its application for postponement after confirmation this morning (Thursday) of further positive tests for COVID-19 within the first team squad. As a result, the club has an insufficient number of First Team players available to fulfil the match.

"Given the increase in positive tests among first team personnel, first team operations at Seagrave will now be closed for 48 hours, serving as a circuit breaker to help reduce the risk of further infection. First team players and staff will undergo a subsequent round of testing on Saturday.

"The club regrets the inconvenience caused to Tottenham Hotspur and both sets of supporters by Thursday night’s postponement."

Manchester United's clash at Brentford, and Burnley's home fixture with Watford this week were already postponed for coronavirus-related reasons.

It is proving particularly problematic for Spurs, who also saw a match against Burnley bite the dust at late notice due to poor weather earlier this month and now have three Premier League matches to catch up.

Antonio Conte's side are seventh in the table having played 14 games, while Leicester are ninth having played 16.

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