Arteta: Derby with Tottenham could be postponed


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LIVERPOOL, England — Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said that there is a “possibility” that Sunday’s North London derby against Tottenham in the Premier League could be postponed after the Gunners were left with just 12 fit outfield players following further COVID-19 and injury problems in the wake of Thursday’s 0-0 draw against Liverpool in the Carabao Cup semifinal first-leg at Anfield.

Arsenal lost midfielder Martin Odegaard to a positive COVID test shortly before kickoff, while Cedric Soares and Bukayo Saka both limped off with injuries during the game. Meanwhile, a red card for midfielder Granit Xhaka means the Switzerland player is automatically out of the game at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

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Premier League rules state that teams must fulfil fixtures if they have 14 players — 13 outfield and a goalkeeper — available to play, although some clubs have failed to have games postponed in recent weeks because their absences have been largely due to injuries rather than COVID.

But while Arteta is hopeful that the Spurs clash will go ahead, the Arsenal manager raised doubt by admitting his concerns over his team’s lack of available players.

“[Postponement] is a possibility in every game, from our side and the opponents’ side with the issues everyone is having and it is happening every week,” Arteta said. “But we try to prepare the game thinking we will play.

“We came here and we were missing nine or 10 players. We don’t know what to expect the next day so we cannot be looking at that.

“We cannot use it as an excuse. We have to play games, it is our job and it can change to be in a more difficult position. But we have players I decided to play and we will try to do the same on Sunday.”

England forward Saka went off in the 81st minute at Anfield, but Arteta was hopeful that the 20-year-old could recover quickly.

“He felt something in the last minute,” Arteta said. “He was really fatigued, I don’t know. He recovers pretty quickly, but he’s played a lot of minutes in the last month.”

In total, 18 Premier League games have not been played on their originally scheduled date due to COVID, with the vast majority yet to be rescheduled. Arsenal have had one game called off, while Tottenham have seen two postponed, with another — at Burnley — not played due to inclement weather conditions.

And Thursday’s game at Anfield was originally meant to be the semifinal’s second leg, but the venues flipped when last week’s meeting was postponed due to a coronavirus outbreak at Liverpool.

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