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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Covid: PFA chief defends 16% of unjabbed Premier League footballers

‘When others were at home they were told to go out and play’: PFA chief exec Maheta Molango DEFENDS the 16% of Premier League footballers refusing to be vaccinated, citing stars being told ‘you’ll be fine’ when they played without vaccines last year

  • Top flight revealed that 84 per cent of players are on the ‘vaccination journey’
  • PFA chief Maheta Molango insisted that the trade union supported vaccinations
  • He also pointed out that Premier League stars had to play last year without jabs
  • Premier League bosses are set to meet over easing their fixture list crisis today



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Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) chief executive Maheta Molango has backed the 16 per cent of unjabbed Premier League footballers by pointing out that they had to play without Covid vaccines last year.

The top flight revealed that 92 per cent of players and club staff have received one, two or three doses, with 84 per cent of players on the ‘vaccination journey’.

PFA chief Maheta Molango has defended unjabbed Premier League players

PFA chief Maheta Molango has defended unjabbed Premier League players

Molango has insisted that the PFA supported vaccinations but added it was ‘only one piece of the puzzle’.

‘We have to be careful with over-simplistic assessments of situations,’ Molango told the BBC.

‘(The players are) the same people that a few months ago, when I was at home and most people were at home, were told go out and play with no vaccines, that there were “no worries, you’re going to be fine”.’

Molango said some players may have ‘legitimate concerns’ in deciding not to take a coronavirus jab but the PFA is trying to help them make the ‘right choice’. 

‘We’re trying to help the players make the right choice based on science,’ he added.

‘They need to listen to the experts but at the same time, we have to acknowledge that certain people may have legitimate concerns.’

The Premier League stopped for three months between March and June 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic as all sport came to a halt but then resumed that summer with games played behind closed doors. 

The 2019-20 campaign was completed without fans in the stands as it was business as usual for the 20 clubs, while nearly the entire 2020-21 season was played with no crowds.

He pointed out that they had to play without Covid vaccines last year. Chelsea and Aston Villa pictured playing at Stamford Bridge behind closed doors last season

He pointed out that they had to play without Covid vaccines last year. Chelsea and Aston Villa pictured playing at Stamford Bridge behind closed doors last season

The English top flight said on Monday there were a record 90 new cases of Covid-19 among players and staff in the last week.

Sports minister Nigel Huddleston has urged footballers to ‘overcome their reluctance’ to get the Covid-19 vaccine because it is their social responsibility.  

Top-flight players and bosses are set to vent their frustrations to the Premier League later today over the decision to press ahead with the hectic winter schedule amid the surge in Covid cases.

Ten Premier League games have been postponed this month due to outbreaks but clubs have agreed to fulfil the busy festive fixture schedule. 

The English Football League said last week that 25 per cent of its players from 72 clubs did not intend to get vaccinated even as outbreaks forced fixtures to be postponed across divisions.

Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson insisted nobody at the Premier League ‘really takes player welfare seriously’ earlier this week as football pledged to continue despite rapidly rising Covid-19 cases.

Liverpool's Jordan Henderson is concerned player welfare is not being taken seriously enough

Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson is concerned player welfare is not being taken seriously enough

HOW OMICRON COVID OUTBREAKS HAVE THE PREMIER LEAGUE ON EDGE

Arsenal

Mikel Arteta revealed Arsenal had been forced to close their London Colney training ground after reporting a ‘few cases’ among players and staff following their 2-0 victory over West Ham United. Defender Pablo Mari and midfielder Albert Sambi Lokonga were among those to test positive and therefore missed the win at Leeds. 

Aston Villa 

Forced to postpone Premier League clash with Burnley on December 18 just two hours before kick-off after an increased amount of positive Covid-19 test results within their playing squad. 

Brentford

The Bees have 13 cases among players and staff – the club are now calling for a circuit-breaker szhutdown 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, and it has emerged that United would have had only seven available players for that game such is the impact of the outbreak. Their training complex is closed until Tuesday at least, in order to reduce the risk of transmission.

Brighton

Had a request for Wednesday’s game with Wolves to be 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, which they lost 1-0. Saturday’s game with Manchester United has now been postponed.

Norwich

Manager Dean Smith was facing an anxious wait to discover the full extent of the outbreak at the club. Josh Sargent, Lukas Rupp and Pierre Lees-Melou were absent from the squad that faced Aston Villa in midweek for ‘Covid-related’ reasons, but while Christos Tzolis is the only confirmed player to test positive, more positive test results have been returned. 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 their midweek game with Burnley postponed just hours before kick-off. With their training ground closed, their home match with Crystal Palace has now been confirmed as postponed too. Case numbers are currently unknown but they do not sufficient players to fulfil the Palace match.

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 was postponed despite initial demands to have the game called off were rejected, but Sunday’s clash with Liverpool is due to go ahead.

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 four more first-team players had tested positive. Mateo Kovacic was the first Chelsea player to get the virus in the outbreak this week, with Romelu Lukaku, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Timo Werner and Ben Chilwell following. Neverthless, their game with Everton went ahead and was drawn. Despite recording seven positive Covid cases, the Blues saw a request for their trip to Wolves rejected and Tuchel fumed at the decision to allow the game – which ended 0-0 – to go ahead on Sunday.

Liverpool

It was confirmed just an hour before kick-off against Newcastle on Thursday night that Fabinho, Curtis Jones and Virgil van Dijk were all out having tested positive for Covid. Midfielder Thiago also tested positive for Covid before Sunday’s trip to Spurs and Jurgen Klopp said it is ‘not possible’ for the Reds to continue playing if more players fall ill. 

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