Manchester City decimated by cases of Covid, matches postponed, English football finds itself again under the threat of the pandemic which is accelerating in the country, prompting some to demand an interruption of competitions.
Like last season, is the English Championship likely to see its calendar fragmented and upset by the coronavirus? The question arises again as the number of positive Covid-19 tests within clubs of the English elite, the Premier League, has reached its highest level, over seven days, since May.
Eighteen players and members of the management were the subject of a positive PCR test. This figure should be put into perspective, since 1,479 players and staff were tested between December 21 and 27, but it is nonetheless worrying: the prevalence in the Premier League is higher than that of the major cities most affected by ‘England.
A series of postponements in the coming days can no longer be ruled out, like what happened for the Everton-Manchester City duel, scheduled for Monday and stopped just four hours before kick-off, while several cases of Covid were identified within Pep Guardiola’s team and management.
“Pause the season”
Doubt thus exists on the holding of Tottenham-Fulham, scheduled for Wednesday evening, after the discovery of several positive cases in the ranks of the promoted. Positive cases have also been reported at Sheffield United and the scheduling of the Chelsea-Manchester City clash on Sunday is also uncertain.
In the lower divisions, postponements and positive cases have been increasing for several days, so much so that a general suspension from competitions is mentioned.
It was even requested by Sam Allardyce, new West Bromwich Albion coach in the Premier League.
After the defeat of his home team against Leeds (0-5), Allardyce called on the authorities to apply a “circuit break” to slow the rate of spread of the epidemic. “Whatever we do, even with a lot of tests, with the wearing of masks, with hand washing, we continue to be contaminated across the country”, regretted “Big Sam”. “Everyone’s health is most important. When I hear that the new variant of the virus is transmitted 70% faster, the best thing to do is to put the season on a hiatus, ”he said.
The risk of clusters in the FA Cup
Before this week, only one Premier League match (Newcastle-Aston Villa in early December) had been postponed. At this stage, the championship calendar has therefore hardly been affected. But the 2020-21 season started a month later than previous drills, due to the lag until July from the previous season, suspended in late spring.
Manchester United coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer fears the impact of a break on an already compressed schedule: “I don’t see the point in taking a + break, whatever the name. When are we going to play the matches? ”He asked.
While the health situation in the United Kingdom has been alarming since the appearance of the variant of the coronavirus, synonymous with an explosion of positive cases which reached an historic level this week, an appointment in the calendar raises fears of the worst.
From January 8 to 10, elite clubs compete in the FA Cup, the prestigious FA Cup, and will travel or meet clubs from lower divisions that do not have the same health protocols, when they do. have.
Fourteen duels between Premier League and lower division clubs are on the program, as many possible “clusters”. But the Premier League wanted to be reassuring Wednesday by announcing that “the tests for these clubs (of the lower divisions) will be covered”.