Coronavirus has accounted for two Premier League games on Boxing Day as the football schedule continues to be affected by the pandemic.
Just four of the scheduled 10 games were possible in the top flight last weekend as cases rise, with Liverpool’s clash with Leeds and Watford’s trip to Wolves now washed off the Boxing Day schedule.
With a meeting of Premier League managers and players to discuss coronavirus issues planned for Thursday, the league met earlier in the day and approved the requests from Leeds and Watford to postpone the games.
Following postponement requests from @LUFC and @WatfordFC as a result of COVID-19, the Premier League Board met this morning and regrettably agreed to call off the two affected clubs’ Boxing Day fixtures— Premier League (@premierleague) December 23, 2021
Full statement: https://t.co/icqowbeWY8 #LIVLEE #WOLWAT pic.twitter.com/WoDSf9x3ZB
In a statement, the Premier League said: “The League aims to provide as much clarity as possible but unfortunately postponements sometimes have to be made at short notice, as safety is the priority.
“The League will endeavour to keep supporters updated if games become at risk on a matchday.
“The board concluded that Leeds United will not be able to fulfil their fixture this weekend due to the number of players with Covid-19, injuries and illness.
“The club’s training ground has also been closed after consultation with the UK Health Security Agency and the Premier League.”
We can confirm our fixture with Leeds United at Anfield on December 26 has been postponed.— Liverpool FC (@LFC) December 23, 2021
The Boxing Day encounter will be rescheduled after the Premier League ruled it was unable to go ahead following the number of positive COVID-19 cases within the Leeds squad.
The statement continued: “Watford FC continue to have an insufficient number of players to field a team after their game against Crystal Palace FC last Saturday was postponed following a Covid-19 outbreak.
“Due to players coming out of isolation, it is fully expected Watford will be available for their fixture on Tuesday 28 December against West Ham United.”
The PA news agency understands Leeds’ game with Aston Villa on December 28 is likely to be under review.
💬 "𝗪𝗲 𝗷𝘂𝘀𝘁 𝗵𝗮𝘃𝗲𝗻'𝘁 𝗴𝗼𝘁 𝗮 𝘀𝗾𝘂𝗮𝗱 𝘁𝗼 𝗳𝗶𝗲𝗹𝗱 𝘄𝗵𝗶𝗰𝗵 𝗶𝘀 𝗱𝗶𝘀𝗮𝗽𝗽𝗼𝗶𝗻𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴."— Preston North End FC (@pnefc) December 23, 2021
Ryan Lowe spoke to the local media following the postponement of our Boxing Day fixture, and you can hear more from the manager on iFollow PNE later today.#pnefc pic.twitter.com/kUYFBVCI47
Postponements are not limited to the Premier League, with the Championship games at Barnsley, Cardiff, Fulham, Millwall, Peterborough and Preston also falling.
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, whose side are still scheduled to face Leicester on Boxing Day, pledged to support any further decision made by the authorities.
Guardiola, who lost his mother to the virus last year, also urged the general public to take more precautions in order to protect themselves and others.
Guardiola said: “The reality is the new variant is here and cases are rising.
“Unfortunately, football and the Premier League are not an exception and we will support what the Premier League decides to do.
“What we want is that people stay safe and well. Please social distance, masks for everyone.
“I am surprised because people say use the mask, but when I go into the street and places, everyone is completely not following the rules. We should take individually, personally, a little bit more.”
If we want to play and carry on, there will be lots of cases for the next two to three months. If we do what we do now, I think that is the best way to try to carry onBrentford boss Thomas Frank
Brentford boss Thomas Frank, who was the first manager to call for a ‘circuit breaker’, said he now believes the decision to play on is the right one.
However, he warned there will continue to be cases and postponements well into the new year, and urged greater transparency from clubs and authorities about the extent of the virus.
Frank said: “It has already been decided the Premier League is continuing, which I think is the right decision.
“Definitely for me, just be very clear, transparency in terms of the number of cases. It is not a concern because I think it is very simple.
“If we want to play and carry on, there will be lots of cases for the next two to three months. If we do what we do now, I think that is the best way to try to carry on.
“If you carry on there will be a situation where there are cases in different clubs. Then we test the day before and the day after, so I think it will be fine.
“The big thing will be, when we actually play the match, that there is a minimal risk of transmitting the virus.”