Antonio Conte has claimed it was unfair that the Premier League agreed to postpone the north London derby in January
Antonio Conte has claimed it was unfair that the Premier League agreed to postpone the north London derby in January (Picture: Tottenham / Getty)

Tottenham have fanned the flames ahead of tonight’s pivotal north London derby by reminding Arsenal they were ‘ready’ to face their great rivals in January before the Premier League controversially postponed the fixture.

Spurs were angry that the Gunners appeared to take advantage of a loophole which saw the fixture called off in January when Arsenal had just one case of Covid in the squad.

At the time, several key players were unavailable through suspension and injury, while the likes of Thomas Partey, Mohamed Elneny and Nicolas Pepe were participating in the Africa Cup of Nations.

Tottenham released a pointed statement and complained that the game should have gone ahead, while Antonio Conte, speaking ahead of tonight’s rearranged game, reiterated that the decision was unfair.

He said: ‘To speak now about what happened in the past is not useful. For sure, it was very strange that our game was postponed for Covid and Arsenal didn’t have one player with Covid.

‘We lost a game 3-0 [to Rennes] because Premier League didn’t want to move our game when we had 9 or 10 players with Covid.

‘At that time, it was unfair what happened, but now this is the past and we have to be focused on the present and try to get the best result.

‘I think this could be a good chance for us to get three points against their whole team because if we played in January they were without many players because they were committed at the African Cup [of Nations] and injuries. I think football is wonderful.

Tottenham were 'ready to play Arsenal in January
Tottenham were ‘ready to play Arsenal in January (Picture: Tottenham)

‘Also this type of game it’s right to play with two teams and all the players available.’

With less than 12 hours to go before kick-off, meanwhile, Spurs released a rousing video on social media in which they pointedly reminded Arsenal they have been waiting for this fixture for almost five months.

The outcome of the game could have a decisive outcome on the race for a top four position given a victory for Arsenal would see them cement Champions League qualification and a re-entry to Europe’s elite club competition after a five-year absence.

‘There are so many things that happened throughout the season, that (makes it) very difficult to answer that question,’ said Mikel Arteta when asked if the postponement had given Arsenal an advantage.

‘What happened is a long time ago now, and this is the game that we have to play, and we haven’t decided in many other moments when we play games and when games were postponed, and we haven’t done for this occasion either.

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