Four more games are POSTPONED due to Covid as pressure mounts on Premier League to pause the season

Premier League POSTPONES four more matches this weekend due to Covid as pressure mounts on the top flight to pause the season amid the surge in Omicron cases

  • Five of the 10 matches scheduled for the weekend have been postponed 
  • However Premier League is resisting calls for all matches to be called off 
  • Several Premier League clubs have reported Covid outbreaks this week 



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The Premier League were forced to call off half of this weekend’s fixtures on Thursday night due to multiple Covid outbreaks — but insist the rest of the matches will go ahead, along with the majority of next week’s festive programme.

Brighton’s lunchtime trip to Manchester United was postponed earlier in the day, with Southampton v Brentford, Watford v Crystal Palace, West Ham United v Norwich City and Everton v Leicester City later called off after further positive tests for players and staff.

As first reported by Sportsmail on Monday, several club executives fear a temporary shutdown may be the only way to break the current rapid transmission of the Omicron variant. Since then, eight top-flight games have been postponed.

Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers was unable to put together a 14-man squad for Everton clash

Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers was unable to put together a 14-man squad for Everton clash

Tottenham’s match at Leicester on Thursday was called off after Brentford and Burnley both suffered late postponements earlier in the week. And the sense of deepening crisis was heightened when half of this weekend’s programme was wiped out.

Brentford boss Thomas Frank called for a ‘circuit-breaker’ blanket postponement of this weekend’s matches.

‘The Covid cases are going through the roof at all Premier League clubs,’ he said. ‘To postpone this round and the Carabao Cup would give everyone a week to clean the training ground so everything is fine and we break the chain at every club.’

But the Premier League has insisted the show must go on and are confident emergency protocols introduced earlier this week — including daily testing for all players and staff — can stem the flow of the virus.

A statement read: ‘The League understands fans will be disappointed these matches have had to be postponed and apologises for the inconvenience and disruption caused.

Brentford boss Thomas Frank has demanded that all of this weekend's fixtures are called off

Brentford boss Thomas Frank has demanded that all of this weekend’s fixtures are called off

‘All other fixtures due to be played this weekend are currently scheduled to proceed.’ 

All of this weekend’s postponements were signed off at an emergency meeting of the Premier League Board.

Brentford and Watford were unable to train properly as their facilities have been closed, while Norwich, Leicester and Manchester United do not have the requisite 14 available players to fulfil their fixtures.

It is understood United only had seven players available and on Thursday shut down their first-team operations at Carrington for the second time this week to tackle the outbreak.

Sportsmail also understands a row is brewing among the jabbed and jabbed-nots in the top flight.

It is understood officials at many of the clubs with higher vaccination uptakes suspect that there is a link between some of the clubs worst affected by Covid and poor uptake levels.

And they harbour concerns that those who have managed to get games called off are securing an unfair advantage in the fight for European places and against the drop.

There are even suspicions among some that clubs with long injury lists are using positive cases to ensure potentially tricky matches are postponed.

Some on the other side of the argument point out Brentford have the second-highest vaccination rate in Premier League (over 90 per cent), but currently 13 positives, while Spurs are over 85 per cent but have had three games called off.

Many Premier League players have cancelled Christmas party plans for this weekend.

Sportsmail knows of at least one squad reporting positive Covid cases this week who had planned a day out in London on Sunday, but the players have now cancelled the trip.  

Leicester confirmed their Premier League clash at Everton on Sunday has been postponed just hours after Thursday’s meeting with Tottenham suffered the same fate. 

The Foxes are one of many top-flight clubs to suffer a Covid-19 outbreak within the squad, which left them unable to put together a 14-man squad – the League’s minimum requirement – to face Spurs.

Norwich were without a number of players in Tuesday’s defeat against Aston Villa

Norwich were without a number of players in Tuesday’s defeat against Aston Villa

Once Leicester announced they would be closing their training ground for 48 hours from Thursday, their chances of facing Rafael Benitez’s team at Goodison Park looked increasingly remote, as Mail Online reported on Thursday lunchtime.

A Leicester statement read: ‘Leicester City Football Club can confirm that Sunday’s Premier League visit to Everton has now been postponed after a meeting of the Premier League Board.

‘The decision, which follows the postponement of Thursday evening’s fixture against Tottenham Hotspur, was again taken with guidance from medical advisors in light of further positive tests for COVID-19 within Leicester City’s First Team Squad over the last 24 hours.

‘First Team operations at Seagrave remain closed for a period of 48 hours to reduce the risk of further infection.

‘The Club regrets all inconvenience caused to both Leicester City and Everton supporters by the postponement, with a new date to be confirmed in due course.’

On Wednesday manager Brendan Rodgers expressed fears that the League were prioritising their lucrative television contracts over the health of players and staff.

He said: ‘I’m pretty sure that’s the case, yeah. In terms of players, managers and coaches, we all want to play the games. But ultimately the health of a player is the priority.

‘If you have players available, you get a better product. Whatever team you put out, supporters will demand you win the game, and for some squads – ourselves included – that’s a real challenge at the moment.’  

HOW OMICRON HAS THE PREMIER LEAGUE ON EDGE

Brentford

The Bees have 13 cases among players and staff – the club are now calling for a circuit-breaker shutdown to help clubs recover. Their training ground has been closed and as a result their trip to Southampton on Saturday has been postponed. 

Leicester

Would have been without several players for Tottenham’s visit on Thursday due to Covid before the game was postponed – despite initial calls being rejected – hours before kick-off.  Their training ground was closed on Thursday morning to contain the outbreak but given they have an insufficient number of players available, their weekend trip to Everton is also off.

Manchester United

Case numbers are currently unknown but a large outbreak saw their game with Brentford postponed. Calls to have Saturday’s game with Brighton to be postponed were accepted on Thursday due to the outbreak at the club.

Brighton

Had request to have Wednesday’s game with Wolves postponed rejected by the Premier League following an outbreak at the club. Graham Potter confirmed there were ‘three to four’ positive cases before the game. Game with Manchester United has now been postponed.

Norwich

Dean Smith was facing an anxious wait to discover the full extent of the outbreak at the club. The Canaries had discussions with the Premier League over Saturday’s clash with West Ham and it was agreed to postpone as they have an insufficient number of players available.

Watford

Saw the game with Burnley postponed just hours before kick-off. Case numbers currently unknown. With their training ground closed, their home match with Crystal Palace has now been confirmed as postponed.

Tottenham

Spurs were the first Premier League club to be hit by the Omicron variant last week and saw games against Brighton and Rennes postponed after cases reached double digits among players and staff. Those who tested positive for the virus are expected to return in the next couple of days after completing their 10-day self-isolation period. Spurs’ clash with Leicester on Thursday is postponed despite initial demands to have the game called off were rejected.

Chelsea

After Brentford, the Blues became the latest club to be hit by a Covid outbreak, after it was confirmed ahead of their game with Everton that three more first-team players had tested positive for Covid, with Mateo Kovacic the first Chelsea player to get the virus this week.

Liverpool

It was confirmed just an hour before kick-off against Newcastle on Thursday night that Fabinho, Curtis Jones and Virgil van Dijk are all out having tested positive for Covid.  

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SPORTS AGENDA: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer surprises Man United staff with Christmas gift

SPORTS AGENDA: Sacked boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer surprises Man United staff with Christmas gifts – bringing emotional scenes… as EFL clubs agree to don away kits at home in Boxing Day gesture for homeless charity

  • Sacked Man United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sent his old staff a present 
  • Amanda Staveley criticises chairman’s charter vote and drops out 
  • The Autosport editor sent an open letter to Max Verstappen before title finale
  • Chelsea handed out spare booster shot to journalists at Leeds match 
  • Nineteen EFL clubs have committed to a homeless charity gesture 



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Surprise at Manchester United’s training ground when a bundle of luxury Christmas hampers turned up. 

It turned out they had been sent to key staff by former manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Despite his departure, Solskjaer is still held in great esteem among workers at United and his act of generosity made for some emotional scenes.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sent his former staff at Manchester United a gift for Christmas

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sent his former staff at Manchester United a gift for Christmas 

Conte eyes an Arsenal purchase 

Tottenham manager Antonio Conte made the most of a day off when his side’s clash with Rennes was called off due to Covid cases. 

The Italian was spotted shopping in the West End and took a passing interest in French designer store Les 100 Ciels, which is owned by an Arsenal supporter. 

Meanwhile, Spurs fans have launched a petition calling on the club to bring back veteran match day compere Paul Coyte, who was replaced this season after 16 years. Spurs say Coyte continues to work on ‘particular matchdays’.  

Verstappen plea backfires 

A bizarre open letter to Max Verstappen by Autosport chief editor Kevin Turner in which he pleaded with the driver to keep things clean in Sunday’s title decider quickly backfired.

Unsurprisingly, Verstappen’s Red Bull media team failed to appreciate the message and an interview the magazine had lined up with reserve driver Alex Albon had to be cancelled, with the Thai-British racer promptly called to another meeting. 

Max Verstappen paid little attention to an Autosport open letter to him over clean racing

Max Verstappen paid little attention to an Autosport open letter to him over clean racing 

Hogs off the menu for tight MCC 

Four years ago the miserly MCC told Hampshire Hogs they were no longer prepared to pay match fees for their annual fixture at Warnford in Hampshire. 

The outraged Hogs told MCC the fixture would not take place if they didn’t stump up before John Stephenson, then MCC’s cricket secretary, relented. 

Stephenson has since left to run Essex and MCC will bring a match ball and umpire but are once again refusing to pay a sum to cover tea and the groundsman’s costs (about £20 per player). Hogs are now appealing to MCC’s treasurer, Tony Elgood, saying the match will not go ahead next summer if this remains MCC’s stance.  

Sussex Martlets at Arundel are taking the same firm line as Hogs which means MCC could lose two long-standing fixtures on two of the loveliest grounds in the country. 

The stingy move comes as sit-down tea (always an emotive subject in club and village cricket) was reinstated after being cancelled for two years owing to Covid. 

Staveley ducks chairman vote 

Eyebrows were raised at a recent Premier League summit when new Newcastle United director Amanda Staveley said she could not participate in the upcoming vote on the proposed chairman’s charter. 

She said she did not feel the issue had been considered sufficiently and that there had not been enough information to make an informed decision.

More seasoned veterans noted that by the time Staveley was called to vote, 13 of the 20 clubs would have already given their response (the vote is taken in alphabetical order) and that she — as is the way with most others — could simply have swum with the tide.

Amanda Staveley has criticised the proposed chairman's charter and ducked out of a vote

Amanda Staveley has criticised the proposed chairman’s charter and ducked out of a vote 

Sky cull continues 

The redundancies at Sky Sports News continue to come thick and fast. After the summer cull, which saw a host of familiar faces shown the door, comes the departure of four directors, three of whom are women — Jane Ireland, Clare Boulton and Steph Evans.

Day editor Laurie Tucker and planning editor Haydn Mackenzie are also going and, in a message to staff confirming the latest departures, station director Mark Alford surprised some when he signed off his email ‘Alfie’.

Sky say the latest redundancies are part of the same process, point out that the remaining four directors are all women and say that ‘Alfie’ is how everyone refers to Alford.

Sky Sports are undergoing a massive turnover of staff after a summer cull this year

Sky Sports are undergoing a massive turnover of staff after a summer cull this year 

Tumbleweed at Raducanu jibe

Awkward laughter at the recent Sports Journalists’ Association’s British Sports Awards when Annabel Croft was invited on stage to say a few words after Emma Raducanu was named best newcomer.

When asked by presenter Jim Rosenthal what advice she would give Raducanu, Croft told a room of hacks: ‘She should never read what is written about her.’  

Blues hand out jabs 

A boost for reporters covering the Chelsea versus Leeds match on Saturday, when the home side’s much-needed victory was not the only shot in the arm.

About an hour after the final whistle club medics came into the press room and announced that they had four booster jabs that were going to waste. 

Four hands quickly went up and, after forms were filled in, the Pfizer shots were administered.

EFL commit to homeless gesture  

Nineteen EFL clubs have so far pledged to wear their away shirts for Boxing Day home matches to support homeless charity Shelter.

Preston, Barnsley and Coventry are among those who will back the No Home Kit campaign.

The po-faced Premier League have told their clubs they cannot follow suit, but Tottenham, Everton, Watford and Brighton are supporting the cause via other initiatives.

Coventry are among 19 clubs in the EFL who have agreed to wear their away kit on Boxing Day

Coventry are among 19 clubs in the EFL who have agreed to wear their away kit on Boxing Day 

BT boast 

Alongside sharing an article from The Telegraph concerning Discovery’s apparent interest in purchasing BT’s sports operation, BT head of sport Simon Green boldly claimed in an email to staff that the channel has produced better live football and rugby than ever seen on any Discovery network. 

Green also stated that BT recently aired a better boxing show than DAZN has ever created. DAZN are still regarded as the front-runners to take BT Sport off the BT Group’s hands.

Hunt hauled in front of BBC bosses  

John Hunt was spoken to by BBC bosses after his participation in a series of short videos discussing tips at Aintree.

The BBC commentator also appeared in a promotional tweet for the track wearing a jacket with the BBC logo. A punter complained, questioning whether this was appropriate in light of his work for the corporation.

The broadcaster’s executive complaints unit found no conflict of interest or anything in Hunt’s work for Aintree that would affect the BBC’s impartiality, but said that the tweet had ‘the potential to suggest BBC endorsement of a commercial product’. 

No action was taken as the tweet had been removed and BBC Sport management had already called in Hunt for a chat.


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Raphael Varane set to return to full training in huge boost for Ralf Rangnick and Man United

Ralf Rangnick is handed a major boost ahead of Manchester United’s game at Norwich with Raphael Varane set to return to full-contact training… and he could make the bench this weekend after recovering from groin injury

  • Raphael Varane is ready to return to full-contact training with Man United
  • The news comes as a huge boost for Ralf Rangnick ahead of the trip to Norwich
  • Varane could even make the bench for the match on Saturday afternoon
  • Against Young Boys, Rangnick moved Nemanja Matic back from midfield 



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Manchester United and their new boss Ralf Rangnick have been handed a major fitness boost with the news that Raphael Varane will return to full training on Friday.

Varane has been involved in non-contact training with his team-mates this week, but it has now been reported that the France international is ready to re-join full-contact sessions on Friday, ahead of the trip to Norwich on Saturday.

The Sun report that the 28-year-old has been given the green light, and he could even make the bench for Rangnick’s first away game in charge of the team.

Raphael Varane, pictured on Tuesday, is set to return to full-contact training on Friday morning

Raphael Varane, pictured on Tuesday, is set to return to full-contact training on Friday morning

The former Real Madrid centre back's return will be a huge boost for Manchester United

The former Real Madrid centre back’s return will be a huge boost for Manchester United

United travel to relegation-threatened Norwich, who are much-improved following the arrival of Dean Smith as manager and have recently moved off the bottom of the Premier League table.

Rangnick has so far had to cope without his best centre back, with Varane having not played a game since the first week of November.

He returned from international duty with France in October with a groin issue, but is now back to full fitness and ready to return to the team.

Ralf Rangnick is preparing for his first away game in charge of United, at Norwich on Saturday

Ralf Rangnick is preparing for his first away game in charge of United, at Norwich on Saturday

Nemanja Matic played as a makeshift centre back against Young Boys earlier this week

Nemanja Matic played as a makeshift centre back against Young Boys earlier this week

The news will come as a huge boost for Rangnick with the matches coming thick and fast, and a trip to Brentford just three days after the Norwich game.

The German had to cope with a makeshift defence against Young Boys on Tuesday, moving Nemanja Matic back from his usual midfield berth to a centre back role alongside Eric Bailly.

Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof were both rested for the dead-rubber game, and with Varane soon to return Rangnick will be blessed with more defensive options.


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Fellaini explains Man Utd team huddle was for Mourinho &amp; claims players are behind him

Sports Blog soccer views & news. Goal.com made available our next post. I normally enjoy viewing 1 of their blog posts as they are incredibly good. I hope you get something out of it. Marouane Fellaini says every Manchester United player remains behind under-pressure manager Jose Mourinho following a fourth straight game without a win … Read more

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