Prem COVID crisis latest: Spurs-Leicester off

Leagues

Tottenham Hotspur‘s trip to Leicester City on Thursday has become the latest Premier League fixture to be called off as the COVID-19 Omicron variant surges in the United Kingdom.

Both clubs previously had separate requests to postpone the game turned down by league officials earlier in the week.

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Spurs were unable to fulfil their last two fixtures — a UEFA Conference League tie against Stade Rennais and last weekend’s league game against Brighton & Hove Albion — after closing their training ground in a bid to control an outbreak which affected at least 15 players and staff.

Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers confirmed on Wednesday that nine players were absent due to a mixture of coronavirus cases and injury. Sources have told ESPN that picture deteriorated on Thursday, leading to the game’s postponement around seven hours before kick-off.

The Premier League said in a statement on Thursday: “In light of the new information, Leicester applied this morning for the fixture to be called off due to an ongoing outbreak within the squad, which has resulted in more players and staff testing positive for COVID-19 today.

“This has left the club with an insufficient number of players available to fulfil the game. Following consultation with the Premier League and UK Health Security Agency, the club’s first team training ground was closed this morning to help contain the outbreak

“The Premier League understands this decision will disappoint and frustrate fans who were due to attend this evening’s game and apologises for the inconvenience and disruption caused at such short notice.”

It becomes the fourth Premier League fixture to be called off this month. Spurs’ previous game against Brighton was postponed, as well as Manchester United‘s clash with Brentford on Tuesday and Burnley‘s match against Watford on Wednesday.

Sources told ESPN that the Premier League rejected further requests for postponements, and Brighton boss Graham Potter confirmed after Wednesday’s 1-0 defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers that his club had asked for that match to be called off.

The U.K. recorded its highest number of infections on a single day since the pandemic began on Wednesday, with 78,610 positive cases.

The Premier League have tightened guidelines at training grounds and increased demands for proof of vaccination or a negative lateral flow test for matchday fans at stadiums, but earlier this week, English football’s top-flight was privately vowing to stick to the existing schedule as closely as possible.

Spurs are facing a major fixture headache. They are likely to be knocked out of the Europa Conference League as they struggle to find a date to replay the Rennes fixture before UEFA’s deadline of Dec. 31.

Ironically, they had asked the Premier League to postpone their match against Leicester so they could play Rennes instead, but now they have no game at all.

Boss Antonio Conte said on Wednesday they had 16 senior players available to train after all first-team areas of the club’s training base reopened on Tuesday.

Tottenham are now three league games behind many of their rivals having had last month’s trip to Burnley also called off at the last minute due to heavy snow.

Speaking in a news conference on Wednesday, Conte said: “For sure, the Premier League didn’t want to postponed the game against Leicester, maybe because we have to play against Burnley and Brighton. We postponed two games before. I can understand, we can understand.

“On the other hand, I think we deserve to play our chance against Rennes to go to the next group. We don’t find a good solution between UEFA and Premier League, why Tottenham has to pay for this? It’s not fair we have to pay for a situation that isn’t our fault?

“I understand if we did something wrong but in this way, for the club, the players, the staff, it’s very difficult to understand what’s happening.”

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