COVID-19: Fans May Return To Premier League Games From May 17

Chelsea’s English striker Tammy Abraham (2L) misses a chance at goal during the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Chelsea at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on February 1, 2020. Adrian DENNIS / AFP

 

Fans could be in English stadiums for the final weekend of the Premier League season and there are hopes Wembley may be packed for the Euro 2020 final under plans to ease coronavirus restrictions unveiled on Monday.

The British government’s roadmap to easing a nationwide lockdown means elite sport will continue behind closed doors until at least May 17.

If there are no setbacks during the implementation of the four-stage plan, crowds of up to 10,000 or 25 percent of seated capacity, whichever is lower, will be allowed to return.

READ ALSOCOVID-19: Nigeria To Receive Four Million Doses Of AstraZeneca Vaccine Very Soon – FG

The Premier League season is due to finish on May 23. Other than a small number of matches played in front of 2,000 spectators late last year, the entire 2020/21 season has been played behind closed doors.

All further restrictions would then be lifted on June 21 in time for a series of major sports events in England.

The semi-finals and final of Euro 2020, which has been delayed by a year due to the pandemic, are scheduled to take place at Wembley from July 6 to 11.

Wimbledon, which was abandoned in 2020 for the first time since World War II, is due to start on June 28.

Golf’s British Open runs from July 15 to 18 at Royal St George’s in Kent.

Monday’s announcement is the first big step towards restoring normal life, nearly a year after Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed the first of three stay-at-home orders that have devastated the country and its economy.

Johnson told MPs that with a mass vaccination programme easing pressure on overstretched hospitals, “the end really is in sight”.

A Sunday Times report at the weekend said Britain could offer to host more Euro 2020 matches or the whole tournament due to the potential for crowds to return earlier than in other countries across Europe.

On top of the semi-finals and final, Wembley and Hampden Park in Glasgow are due to host four matches each in the group stages and last 16.

UEFA has so far publicly insisted it is sticking to the original plan of using 12 host cities across the continent despite the logistical challenges.

Dublin, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Saint Petersburg, Bilbao, Munich, Budapest, Baku, Rome and Bucharest are all due to host matches.

However, British health secretary Matt Hancock said on Sunday he was unaware of any offer to host the tournament.

Hancock told Sky News: “I haven’t seen anything on that, I understand that that’s not right.”

AFP

Arsenal Boss Arteta Hails Man City As ‘Best In Europe’

Arsenal’s Spanish manager Mikel Arteta applauds during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Leeds United at the Emirates Stadium in London on February 14, 2021.
PHOTO: Catherine Ivill / POOL / AFP

 

Mikel Arteta believes his Arsenal team will be facing the best side in Europe when they take on Premier League leaders Manchester City at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

City have won a club-record 17 successive games across all competitions and are 10 points ahead of local rivals Manchester United at the summit of the English top-flight heading into this weekend’s round of fixtures.

Arteta knows City well after working under manager Pep Guardiola in Manchester for three years before returning to manage Arsenal, having previously played for the Gunners.

“I think they are the best team in Europe at the moment,” Arteta said of City. “The way they are performing, the football they are playing and the consistency of the results, take all that it and it makes them the best team.

“So we have a big but, as well, a very exciting challenge ahead of us on Sunday.”

City made an uncertain start to the season but are now hot favourites to win a third Premier League title in four years

Arteta said he was impressed by how they had regained their form.

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“What they have done is react to a difficult moment,” the Spanish boss explained. “They reacted in a really convincing way, all united and doing what they do best — being very consistent and winning games very comfortably.”

The former Everton and Arsenal midfielder added: “They have weaknesses like every team but at the moment teams have struggled a lot to find any of that because I think first of all defensively they have been really, really strong.”

Arsenal head into the match after a 1-1 draw against Benfica in the first leg of their Europa League round of 32 clash in Rome on Thursday.

Next week’s second leg, being played in Athens because of coronavirus restrictions, is followed by a daunting run of fixtures that includes matches against Leicester, Tottenham, West Ham and Liverpool, all above Arsenal in the Premier League.

“We know the margin for error is minimal with the season that we have had in previous months, so we need to kick on,” he said.

AFP

Premier League Launches Racism Action Plan

Photo Credit: Evening Express

 

The Premier League on Tuesday launched a racism action plan to build on existing moves taken to promote equality, diversity and inclusion.

The plan outlines a series of commitments aimed at creating greater access to opportunities and career progression for black, Asian and other minority ethnic groups in football, and actions to eradicate racial prejudice.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said: “Football is a diverse sport, which brings together communities and cultures from all backgrounds.

“This diversity has made the game stronger on the pitch and it is vital we ensure this is reflected across all areas of the game.”

Masters added: “The No Room For Racism Action Plan underpins the Premier League’s continued commitment to promoting equality and tackling discrimination.”

The Football Association this week called on the government to act quickly in the fight against racism after Manchester United defender Axel Tuanzebe and Lauren James, a forward for the club’s women’s team, were targeted on social media.

It follows a number of other incidents in which footballers, including United forward Marcus Rashford and Chelsea full-back Reece James — brother of Lauren — were targeted.

Last month Britain’s Prince William, president of the Football Association, described the racist abuse aimed at footballers as “despicable”.

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden described the abuse as “absolutely shocking” and warned a change in the law would see social media companies “more accountable for what happens on their platforms”.

Premier League Spending Slumps In January Transfer Window As COVID-19 Bites

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The Premier League was put on hold since mid-March due to COVID-19 outbreak. Photo: Twitter/Premier League.

 

Premier League spending slumped by more than two-thirds to a nine-year low of just £70 million ($96 million) in the January transfer window as the coronavirus crisis hit budgets.

The outlay was dramatically down on last year’s £230 million expenditure, which came just weeks before the Covid-19 pandemic shut down football across Europe.

And it is in sharp contrast to a bumper summer transfer window, when English top-flight clubs spent freely despite the lingering uncertainties to ensure total net expenditure for the 2020/21 season reached a new record level of £950 million.

Just £7 million was spent on deadline day as the Premier League comes to terms with the financial impact of the virus and new Brexit rules that make it tougher to recruit young players from Europe.

The figures, from financial experts Deloitte, showed there were a total of 24 Premier League transfers in the winter window — 48 percent fewer than the average for the previous three-year January transfer windows.

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Manchester United’s Amad Diallo, Aston Villa new boy Morgan Sanson and West Brom pair Mbaye Diagne and Robert Snodgrass were among the handful of high-profile permanent signings as teams made the decision to rely on their existing squads or opted for loans.

Just three £10-million-plus signings — West Ham’s Said Benrahma, Diallo and Sanson, accounted for more than 75 percent of Premier League expenditure.

Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal were the only “big six” Premier League clubs to spend even though the race has been one of the most open in years.

Champions Liverpool borrowed much-needed defensive cover in the form of Schalke’s Ozan Kabak, along with a low-cost permanent deal for Preston’s Ben Davies.

– Virus impact –

Dan Jones, a partner at Deloitte’s Sports Business Group, said the virus, which has emptied stadiums and has hit broadcast revenues, has had a major impact on clubs’ plans.

“Premier League clubs were understandably cautious in the January transfer window given the ongoing financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

“Despite this, Premier League clubs’ very busy summer window, at a time when the rest of European football was more restrained, saw total net expenditure for the 2020/21 season reach a new record level of £950 million.

“It remains to be seen if the relatively low activity in January will continue throughout 2021. We certainly do not expect to see another new record this summer.”

Jones said expenditure on players from non-English clubs fell to just £45 million from an average of £165 million in the previous two January transfer windows.

“While new post-Brexit rules on acquiring players from overseas may have contributed to this, the financial impact of the pandemic was, by far, a more important factor,” he said.

Deloitte said the impact of the pandemic was being felt across the other major European Leagues.

Gross expenditure in the January window plunged from a collective 660 million euros ($794 million) to 195 million euros across the Bundesliga, Ligue 1, La Liga and Serie A.

According to Deloitte, the top 20 revenue-generating clubs will miss out on more than 2 billion euros of revenue across the 2019/20 and 2020/21 seasons.

“This lost revenue may potentially act as the catalyst in creating a shift in how clubs approach the transfer market over the next few seasons,” Deloitte said in a statement.

Deloitte’s Tim Bridge told Britain’s Press Association news agency that it was tough to guess the future direction of the market.

“I think the way transfer departments within clubs work now, it’s often quite scientific or quite analytical and now more than ever it’s very challenging to make sure you’ve got the data correct,” he said.

“It’s also challenging to make any sorts of estimates as to what the future of the market might look like. I think it depends on a number of factors.

“Getting fans back into the stadium is essential to the business model of football clubs, and then how the commercial model reacts.”

Liverpool Expected To Boost Defensive Options On Transfer Deadline Day

Liverpool’s German manager Jurgen Klopp celebrates their victory on the pitch after the UEFA Champions League round of sixteen first leg football match between FC Porto and Liverpool at the Dragao stadium in Porto, Portugal on February 14, 2018. Liverpool won the game 5-0.
Francisco LEONG / AFP

 

Liverpool are expected to sign Ben Davies from Championship side Preston to ease their defensive crisis before a quiet January transfer window closes late on Monday.

The Premier League’s leading clubs have been unusually restrained this month, with the coronavirus and new Brexit rules dampening the market after a big summer spend.

The January window, which closes at 2300 GMT, is typically regarded as a seller’s market and often a time for stopgap measures but Liverpool have been forced to act.

The champions are missing all of their senior central defenders, with Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip out of action. First-choice back-up Fabinho recently joined the injured list.

It us understood that Liverpool have agreed a fee with Preston for the 25-year-old Davies.

A medical was scheduled for Monday, with 19-year-old Dutchman Sepp van den Berg likely to head the other way on loan for the rest of the season.

READ ALSO: Liverpool Expected To Boost Defensive Options On Transfer Deadline Day

Liverpool are also reportedly interested in Marseille centre-back Duje Caleta-Car but the Ligue 1 side’s struggle to find a replacement at short notice could scupper any potential move.

Klopp, whose side are third in the Premier League table, admitted on Friday that no club would be prepared to sell him an “£80 million ($110 million) centre-back” in the final days of the transfer window.

“This calibre of player the teams would not sell them now,” he said. “We need to find the right player and one which suits our financial situation, that’s clear as well.”

– Alli to PSG? –

Uncertainty lingers over the future of Tottenham midfielder Dele Alli, who has been linked with a loan move to Paris Saint-Germain, now managed his former boss Mauricio Pochettino.

The England midfielder has been out of favour at Tottenham under Jose Mourinho, barely featuring in the Premier League this season.

Mourinho said last week he was not expecting Alli to depart but admitted “sometimes unexpected things can happen”.

Major moves involving “Big Six” Premier League clubs appear unlikely on Monday.

Among the few eye-catching deals that have taken place over the past month, Manchester United midfielder Jesse Lingard has joined West Ham on loan after slipping down the pecking order at Old Trafford.

Real Madrid midfielder Martin Odegaard has arrived at Arsenal, also on a loan deal, while Mesut Ozil made a much-anticipated exit from the club, joining Turkish giants Fenerbahce.

Aston Villa last week signed French midfielder Morgan Sanson from Marseille in a deal worth a reported £15.5 million.

Struggling West Brom have made three signings, including the loan capture of Galatasaray striker Mbaye Diagne.

And boss Sam Allardyce was quoted after Saturday’s 2-2 draw with fellow strugglers Fulham as expressing his desire to add to that before Monday’s deadline.

Tim Bridge of Deloitte’s Sports Business Group told the Press Association news agency that clubs were being cautious because of their straitened circumstances.

“I think this month more than ever feels as if clubs are taking a bit of a watching brief and are not currently willing to spend in the way they previously have done,” he said.

“That’s a reflection of the fact that all clubs have suffered a huge revenue loss, everybody’s aware of that, and I think clubs are slowly trying to understand what that means for their business models.

“So I think naturally there’s probably an element of consideration, of taking the time to understand exactly where the market’s at, and I would imagine people making the decisions at clubs at the minute are probably struggling to understand what represents true value.”

‘I Am Here To Challenge For Every Trophy’ – Chelsea’s Tuchel

Chelsea’s German head coach Thomas Tuchel (C) meets match officials before the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Stamford Bridge in London on January 27, 2021. (Photo by Richard Heathcote / POOL / AFP)

 

Thomas Tuchel accepts he will be judged on results after becoming the 13th Chelsea manager of owner Roman Abramovich’s 17-year reign in charge of the Premier League club.

The Blues sacked club legend Frank Lampard, who is Chelsea’s all-time top goalscorer, on Monday after a run of five defeats in eight Premier League games.

Tuchel got off to an underwhelming start with a 0-0 draw at home to Wolves on Wednesday, just 24 hours after he was appointed.

The German said a title challenge was not realistic this season with Chelsea 11 points adrift of leaders Manchester City, but wants to challenge for silverware in the FA Cup and Champions League.

“If you are signing for Chelsea you are signing for the hunger of titles,” Tuchel said at his unveiling to the media on Thursday. “You are signing for being competitive in every competition you play. I’m totally aware of that.

“I am here to challenge for every trophy we play for. Realistically this year it is the Champions League and the FA Cup, to speak now about the Premier League title is not realistic.

“The club makes this very clear in the end — at Chelsea it is about results.

READ ALSO: One Third Of Africa Will Be Vaccinated This Year – WHO

“It is about results for us as managers. We always try to bring in performance, to improve players, increase their value but I’m very realistic, I’m in a club whose DNA it is to win and go for trophies.”

Despite the upheaval of coaching changes, no English club have won more trophies than Chelsea during the Abramovich era.

The Russian billionaire bankrolled a £220 million ($300 million) investment in new players during the summer transfer window but Lampard failed to get the best from them.

Tuchel will be expected to get compatriots Timo Werner and Kai Havertz back to the level that lured Chelsea into spending more than £120 million on two of the Bundesliga’s biggest talents.

Despite winning Ligue 1 twice in his two full seasons in charge and leading Paris Saint-Germain to their first-ever Champions League final last season, Tuchel was sacked by the French champions late last year.

The 47-year-old had less than a month out of the game and admitted he faces a very different challenge in the Premier League compared with PSG’s dominance of French football.

But Tuchel is looking forward to doing battle with big names such as Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola and Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp.

“It was the opportunity at one of the biggest clubs in the world, in the most competitive league in the world,” he added.

“It felt like we should absolutely not miss the chance to be part of the Chelsea family and to compete for titles with the best managers and the best teams. It was a pretty easy choice.”

Lampard ‘Disappointed’ With Chelsea Exit 

File photo: Chelsea’s English head coach Frank Lampard reacts during the English FA Cup final football match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium in London, on August 1, 2020. – Arsenal won the match 2-1. (Photo by Adam Davy / POOL / AFP) /

 

Frank Lampard expressed his disappointment at not being given time to succeed after being sacked by Chelsea on Monday, with former Paris Saint-Germain boss Thomas Tuchel set to take over at Stamford Bridge.

Lampard led Chelsea to a fourth-placed Premier League finish and the FA Cup final in his first season in charge.

However, he failed to match much greater expectations this season after the club spent a reported £220 million ($300 million) on new players in the summer transfer window.

A run of five defeats in their last eight Premier League matches has seen Chelsea slip to ninth, 11 points behind leaders Manchester United.

 

 

 

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A post shared by Frank Lampard (@franklampard)

Sunday’s 3-1 FA Cup fourth-round win against Championship side Luton was not enough to save the former England midfielder.

READ ALSO: Hurt And Heartbroken McGregor Ponders Future After Knockout Shock

“It has been a huge privilege and an honour to manage Chelsea, a club that has been a big part of my life for so long,” Lampard said in a statement posted on his Instagram account.

“I am disappointed not to have had the time this season to take the club forward and bring it to the next level.”

The club said it had been a “very difficult decision” to part ways with their all-time record goalscorer, who won three league titles and the Champions League during his 13-year career as a player at Stamford Bridge.

“Recent results and performances have not met the club’s expectations, leaving the club mid-table without any clear path to sustained improvement,” Chelsea said.

In a rare public statement, the club’s Russian owner Roman Abramovich said: “This was a very difficult decision for the club, not least because I have an excellent personal relationship with Frank and I have the utmost respect for him.

“He is a man of great integrity and has the highest of work ethics. However, under current circumstances we believe it is best to change managers.”

Chelsea are aiming to have Tuchel, who was abruptly fired by French champions PSG in December, on the bench in time for the visit of Wolves on Wednesday.

– No return on investment –
After serving a transfer ban in Lampard’s first summer window, Chelsea splashed out on Kai Havertz, Ben Chilwell, Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner and Edouard Mendy, but that outlay has failed to translate into improved results.

Lampard’s Premier League points-per-game average of 1.67 is the lowest for any Chelsea manager since Abramovich arrived at Stamford Bridge in 2003.

His departure marks the 14th managerial change since Abramovich’s takeover, which transformed the London club into English and European heavyweights.

A number of younger players handed their breakthrough in the Chelsea first team by Lampard, such as Mason Mount, Billy Gilmour, Tammy Abraham and Reece James, posted messages of thanks to their former manager on social media.

“As a Chelsea fan growing up I’ve always looked up to you, idolised you. I can’t explain what it’s been like to play under you, the whole journey has been surreal,” said James on Instagram. “I cannot thank you enough for putting your trust into me and giving me the opportunity to play for my boyhood club!”

Lampard’s first managerial posting was at second-tier Derby. In his one season in charge in 2018/19, they reached the Championship play-off final, where they lost to Aston Villa.

“I don’t worry for Frank. I’m sure he’ll go on to have a great managerial career as I feel he handled himself fantastically well in that job,” said Lampard’s former England teammate Gary Neville, who predicted Tuchel will also suffer from Abramovich’s hire and fire culture.

“Tuchel will be exposed to exactly the same rules as Frank. We’ll be talking about him being let go in the next 18 months to two years, I’m pretty sure of that.”

Tuchel Says PSG Need New Faces For Champions League
File photo of ex-Paris Saint-Germain’s German coach Thomas Tuchel during the UEFA Champions League Group C football match between Paris Saint-Germain and SSC Napoli at the Parc des Princes stadium, in Paris, on October 24, 2018. Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP

 

 

The German only became available a month ago when he left PSG, less than five months after taking them to the Champions League final, which they lost to Bayern Munich.

The 47-year-old won back-to-back league titles with PSG, but that was not enough to satisfy the club’s Qatari owners, who replaced him with former Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino.

Prior to PSG, Tuchel impressed at Borussia Dortmund, having started his managerial career with Augsburg and then Mainz.

AFP

Premier League COVID-19 Cases Drop By 50 Percent

premier-league-fixtures-today
The Premier League was put on hold since mid-March due to COVID-19 outbreak. Photo: Twitter/Premier League.

 

The Premier League announced a signficant drop in positive coronavirus tests within its ranks when English football’s top division announcing its latest weekly results on Monday.

There were just eight positive findings from 2,518 Premier League players and club staff over two rounds of testing conducted last week.

This represented a 50-percent drop on the previous week, when 16 positive cases were recorded.

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All individuals who tested positive must now self-isolate for a period of 10 days, the league said.

The latest test figures are bound to encourage Premier League chiefs, who have imposed stricter Covid-19 protocols in a bid to prevent the league from being suspended.

COVID-19 Protocols: EPL Chief Warns Premier League Clubs

premier-league-fixtures-today
Photo: Twitter/Premier League.

 

Premier League clubs must set an example in adhering to coronavirus protocols or risk sanctions, the league’s chief executive has warned.

The EPL sent out new directives last week including demands that players tone down celebrations such as hugging after goals are scored and avoid handshakes and swapping shirts.

EPL chief executive Richard Masters followed that up with a letter to clubs on Tuesday, writing: “We are fortunate to be able to continue to play and bring our competition to fans at home and around the world.

“This brings justified additional scrutiny and the Premier League must take the lead in setting the right example to follow.”

Manchester United players clearly had not received the message as they joyously celebrated Paul Pogba’s goal in the 1-0 win over Burnley on Tuesday which sent them three points clear at the top of the table.

United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said afterwards: “We’ll do our best to keep with the guidelines because we all want football to carry on safely.”

Similar instructions have also been issued by the English Football League (EFL) and their chief executive Trevor Birch warned clubs on Tuesday the season could be halted if the government sees any further flouting of the rules.

Britain is battling a new, more transmissible strain of the virus that is spreading rapidly. Schools and non-essential shops are closed and people are being urged to work from home.

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Last week saw the worst daily case numbers and death tolls since the start of the outbreak, prompting calls for even tougher rules, including increasing social distancing.

The Premier League has so far been forced to postpone far fewer matches than the EFL due to coronavirus infections. Only a handful of games have been called compared to over 50 outside the top flight.

However, there are doubts surrounding Aston Villa’s game with Everton this weekend which has already been moved to Sunday from the original Saturday slot.

Villa have been unable to fulfil Wednesday’s league clash with Tottenham Hotspur because several of their players and staff tested positive for coronavirus last week, forcing their training ground to be closed.

Villa had to field a team of teenagers in the FA Cup defeat against Liverpool.

Masters admits more postponements may be on the cards.

“It is already clear that we must do all we can to efficiently utilise all available calendar slots,” he said.

“Given there have been three significant Covid-19 outbreaks at clubs to date and we should therefore realistically plan for the fact that there may be more.”

He also warned that clubs’ requests for postponements will often be “at short notice”.

Manchester City Group Announces Tie-Up With Club Bolivar

Manchester City’s Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus (C) celebrates after scoring their second goal of the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Everton at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on January 1, 2020.
Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Manchester City’s umbrella ownership organisation City Football Group has set up a partnership with Bolivian outfit Club Bolivar, the Premier League club announced on Tuesday.

The agreement will enable Bolivia’s most successful club to tap into the City Football Group’s (CFG’s) expertise including in the areas of scouting and coaching.

“We are very pleased to grow our global presence through this important collaboration with Club Bolivar, City Football Group’s first partner club,” said CFG chief executive Ferran Sorriano.

He said the link would strengthen CFG’s knowledge of, and network in, South American football.

Bolivar president Marcelo Claure said “a dream becomes reality” for the La Paz-based club, which boasts 29 league titles.

READ ALSO: UN Seeks $35 Million In Emergency Aid For Madagascar

“We will utilise the expertise and advice that CFG brings to continue in our goal to place Bolivar as a top club in Latin America,” he said.

CFG also owns 10 clubs across the world, including Manchester City, New York City, Yokohama F. Marinos in Japan, and Sichuan Jiuniu in China.

The stated aims of the group, established in 2013, include boosting participation in football and unearthing and developing the best football talent.

Aston Villa Suffer COVID-19 Outbreak As Concerns Grow For Premier League Season

Aston Villa’s Argentine goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez throws the ball during the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Sheffield Utd at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on September 21, 2020. Tim Goode / POOL / AFP

 

Aston Villa became the fourth Premier League club to suffer a coronavirus outbreak on Thursday, adding to growing concerns over whether English football’s top-flight can complete the season on schedule.

Villa were forced to cancel training and close their training ground after two rounds of testing returned multiple positive cases of Covid-19 among players and staff.

Britain is battling a highly infectious strain of the virus which has forced a new nationwide lockdown after cases soared in recent days.

“A large number of first-team players and staff returned positive tests after being routinely tested on Monday and immediately went into isolation,” Villa said in a statement.

“A second round of testing was carried out immediately and produced more positive results today.”

The Birmingham-based club’s FA Cup third-round tie against Liverpool on Friday is now at risk of being postponed.

“First-team training ahead of tomorrow’s FA Cup match with Liverpool was cancelled,” Villa’s statement added.

“Discussions are ongoing between medical representatives of the club, the Football Association and the Premier League.”

Premier League Southampton’s FA Cup home match against Shrewsbury has already been postponed because there have been a number of positive cases at the League One club.

Wayne Rooney’s Derby will fulfil their fixture at minnows Chorley with a youth team after nine positive tests among first-team players and staff.

– Fixture pile-up –

On Tuesday, a record high of 40 positive tests were detected among Premier League players and staff in the week between December 28 and January 3.

Three Premier League matches were postponed last week due to outbreaks at Manchester City and Fulham.

Due to the late end to last season, the league is less than halfway through the 2020/21 campaign.

The packed fixture schedule, with domestic leagues, cup and European competitions having to be finished before the delayed Euro 2020 starting on June 11, leaves little room for manoeuvre.

Despite the rising case numbers and calls from some within the game for a circuit breaker to buy time and bring infection rates down, the Premier League has so far been adamant that the season will proceed.

“With low numbers of positive tests across the overwhelming majority of clubs, the league continues to have confidence in its Covid-19 protocols, fully backed by the government, to enable fixtures to be played as scheduled,” the league said on Tuesday.

However, a number of embarrassing incidents have come to light in which prominent players have flouted coronavirus restrictions, doing little to aid English football’s case to keep going while movements in the rest of the country are highly restricted.

Pictures of Tottenham trio Erik Lamela, Sergio Reguilon and Giovani Lo Celso and West Ham’s Manuel Lanzini attending a Christmas party with family and friends emerged over the weekend, prompting Spurs to promise internal disciplinary proceedings.

Manchester City have also launched an investigation after left-back Benjamin Mendy admitted to breaching Covid protocols by hosting a New Year’s Eve party.

Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic and Crystal Palace captain Luka Milivojevic also broke the rules to attend a New Year’s Eve party.

Aston Villa chief executive Christian Purslow has been among those calling for tougher sanctions for players who break the regulations and put the season at risk.

Villa captain Jack Grealish was fined two weeks’ wages by the club for a breach of the rules last year.

“There are moments when young people will stray from the rules and, whether you’re a parent or the chief executive of a football club, that’s a time when you have to be very strict and remind people of their responsibilities,” Purslow said earlier this week.

Despite the new national lockdown that came into force in England on Wednesday, the British government has said elite sport can continue despite the tighter restrictions.

AFP

40 Premier League Players, Staff Test Positive To Coronavirus

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The Premier League was put on hold since mid-March due to COVID-19 outbreak. Photo: Twitter/Premier League.

 

The Premier League confirmed on Tuesday that 40 players and staff have tested positive for coronavirus in the last two rounds of testing over the past week, but insisted the season will continue as planned.

That figure is more than double the previous record of 18 positive cases and comes as England enters a nationwide lockdown to halt soaring infection rates.

Three matches were postponed last week due to outbreaks of Covid-19 at Manchester City and Fulham.

However, the British government has given the go-ahead for elite sport to continue despite the tighter restrictions.

Twice-weekly testing, used during the Project Restart plan to complete last season, has resumed in the Premier League after being scaled down to once-a-week at the start of the season.

In the first round of testing last week, 28 positive cases were detected from 1,311 tests, with a further 12 positives from 984 tests in the second round of testing.

Despite the postponements, rising case numbers, and calls from some within the game for a circuit breaker to buy time and bring infection rates down, the Premier League said it remained confident the season could proceed as planned.

“With low numbers of positive tests across the overwhelming majority of clubs, the league continues to have confidence in its Covid-19 protocols, fully backed by the government, to enable fixtures to be played as scheduled,” the league said in a statement on Tuesday.

The packed fixture schedule, with domestic leagues, cup, and European competitions having to be finished before the delayed Euro 2020 starting on June 11, leaves little room for manoeuvre in the calendar.

A number of embarrassing incidents have come to light in which prominent players have flouted coronavirus restrictions.

Pictures of Tottenham trio Erik Lamela, Sergio Reguilon and Giovani Lo Celso, and West Ham’s Manuel Lanzini attending a Christmas party with family and friends emerged over the weekend, prompting Spurs to promise internal disciplinary proceedings.

City have also launched an investigation after left-back Benjamin Mendy admitted to breaching Covid protocols by hosting a New Year’s Eve party.

Reguilon and Mendy were included on the bench for Tottenham and City over the weekend, leading to calls for stricter sanctions against players who put the future of the season at risk by breaking the rules.

Despite City’s issues with the virus, which left them without four first-team regulars for Sunday’s 3-1 victory at Chelsea, manager Pep Guardiola called for more understanding for players.

“It would be better if, before we judge others, we judge ourselves,” said Guardiola. “I’m not justifying that, he broke the rules. But don’t give too many lessons to others.

“I don’t think footballers are more important than doctors, architects or teachers for my kids. So, they only have the same responsibility as everyone else in the world.

“Mendy knows he made a big mistake, but it finishes here.”

AFP