Premier League loses another game to a COVID outbreak


The English Premier League lost another match to a COVID-19 outbreak in a squad when Aston Villa’s home game against Burnley was postponed around two hours before kickoff on Saturday.

Villa said it did not have enough players to field a team following more positive tests in its squad that were reported early Saturday. The league approved Villa’s request to postpone the match ”based on the number of COVID-19 cases, injuries and illness.”

Five matches scheduled for this weekend had already been called off because of coronavirus outbreaks in squads amid a worsening health emergency in Britain as the omicron variant spreads.

The league said the remaining four games – Leeds-Arsenal on Saturday and Newcastle-Manchester City, Wolverhampton-Chelsea and Tottenham-Liverpool on Sunday – ”are currently scheduled to proceed as planned.”

The total number of Premier League games to have been postponed over the past week stands at 10. Only six games were called off in the whole of last season because of the coronavirus.

Burnley has now had two games postponed on the day of the fixture in the last four days. Its home match against Watford was also called off a few hours before kickoff on Wednesday.

Many Burnley fans would have been traveling to Villa Park when the postponement was announced and Villa apologized for the inconvenience, saying the club ”acted as swiftly as possible this morning to minimize disruption.”

”The results of PCR tests, which were taken yesterday prior to training as well as lateral flow tests, were received this morning,” Villa said in a statement, ”and confirmed further depletion of our playing squad which was already impacted upon for our trip to Norwich in midweek.”

Premier League managers will meet on Monday to discuss the COVID-19 situation, with some managers – like Brentford’s Thomas Frank – advocating a break in play, citing fairness, and others saying the games should continue.

Man City manager Pep Guardiola was cleared to take charge of his team at Newcastle after testing negative in a PCR check. City said Friday he had reported an ”inconclusive” coronavirus test, leading to the cancellation of his news conference on Friday.

The league has already reintroduced emergency measures such as more frequent testing and wearing face masks indoors. Its board assesses applications to postpone matches on a case-by-case basis and ”based on existing rules and COVID-19 postponement guidance issued to all clubs.”

In Europe’s other big soccer countries, there was minimal disturbance to the schedule.

All of the weekend’s Bundesliga and second-division games were going ahead as planned in Germany, albeit with few or no fans attending. The country’s coronavirus-infection rate dropped again Saturday, according to the latest registered figures from the Robert Koch Institute, continuing a gradual decrease over the last three weeks.

In France, games were going ahead as planned in the Coupe de France and Serie A games were taking place as scheduled with 75% capacity in stadiums.

AP Sports Writer Ciaran Fahey in Berlin and Associated Press writer Daniella Matar in Milan contributed to this story.

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