Uncertainty looms over Manchester City’s immediate run of games as a Covid-19 outbreak has spread amongst the squad, with three new cases being detected, and caused the postponement of their Premier League fixture against Everton.
City were due to take on Everton at Goodison Park at 8pm, but four hours before kick-off the Premier League announced that the fixture had been postponed. City have now had seven new positive tests over the past five days.
Three more positive tests
The club announced on Christmas Day that Gabriel Jesus, Kyle Walker and two staff members had contracted the virus. The squad were tested again yesterday and there were three more positive tests. The trio have not been named but are believed to be players. City lodged a request to postpone the match on Monday morning with confirmation arriving after a Premier League board meeting later in the afternoon.
A City statement read: “After the latest round of Covid-19 testing, the club returned a number of positive cases, in addition to the four already reported on Christmas Day. With the security of the bubble compromised, there posed a risk the virus could spread further amongst the squad, the staff and potentially beyond. Based on strong medical advice the Premier League, in consultation with both clubs, has decided to postpone the fixture.
“All positive cases involving players and staff will observe a period of self-isolation in accordance with Premier League and UK government protocol on quarantine. The first-team training ground at City Football Academy will close for an indeterminate period, with the squad and associated bubble undergoing testing before any decision is made for training to resume. Everyone at the club wishes all of our colleagues a speedy recovery ahead of their return to work, training and competition.”
The Everton game is the second league fixture to be postponed owing to Covid-19, after Aston Villa v Newcastle United this month, but despite the outbreak at City the league insists its protocols are being observed.
Its statement said: “This rise has created uncertainty and the Premier League board received medical advice that the match should be postponed. The board agreed to rearrange the game as a precaution and further testing will now take place tomorrow. The decision has been taken with the health of players and staff the priority.
“The Premier League continues to have full confidence in its protocols and rules, and the way in which all clubs are implementing them. The League wishes those with Covid-19 a safe and speedy recovery and will rearrange the postponed fixture against Everton in due course.”
Everton demand an explanation
There is, however, doubt over how this postponement will be dealt with and Everton are waiting further clarification from the Premier League. Premier League guidelines that pre-date the pandemic state a fixture should proceed and requests for a postponement be rejected unless a club has fewer than 14 players available. Everton will ask the league for a full disclosure of why it agreed to postpone the game in this instance.
With players in quarantine and the training complex closed for an ‘indeterminate period’, City’s matches at Chelsea on Sunday and Manchester United next Wednesday in the Carabao Cup semi-final are in serious doubt.
Guardiola’s team played against Newcastle on Boxing Day but it is during their trip to London to face Arsenal in last week’s Carabao Cup quarter-finals that it is believed the new strain of the virus entered the City camp. City stayed overnight in the capital following the game before returning to Manchester the following day.