Premier League to hold 'festive firebreak' shutdown talks on MONDAY

BREAKING NEWS: Premier League to hold ‘festive firebreak’ shutdown talks on MONDAY, with ‘a number of’ clubs lobbying for the season to STOP, despite bosses pushing on after postponing nine matches

Premier League shareholders are set to meet on Monday to discuss a festive shutdown of football, according to reports, as its clubs struggle with several coronavirus outbreaks.

Half of this weekend’s fixtures in England’s top-flight have been called off due to widespread cases among many clubs, with Brentford boss Thomas Frank leading calls to temporarily stop the busy winter schedule so the affected teams can recover.

And according to The Times, Premier League chiefs will meet on Monday to discuss a potential shutdown, just a day after announcing their commitment to stick to the current schedule.

The reported meeting hints that the other half of top-flight fixtures planned for this weekend are set to go ahead, barring any further outbreaks in the squads set to play.

Those fixtures include Arsenal’s trip to Leeds and Tottenham’s match at home to Liverpool on Sunday. Wolves are currently planned to host Chelsea while Manchester City will travel to Newcastle as well.

The Premier League will discuss temporarily stopping the season on Monday, say reports

Many top-flight bosses have called for a temporary halt to get their virus issues under control

Manchester United’s clash with Brighton on Saturday lunchtime was one of five matches called off this weekend, with the top-flight striking off four matches in one go late on Thursday. 

Ralf Rangnick’s United had just seven players available for the weekend visit of the Seagulls and have closed their Carrington training base until Tuesday. The club’s next game after that is a trip to Newcastle on December 27.  

Overall, nine matches have been called off due to outbreaks sparked by the Omicron variant, starting from Tottenham’s match with Brighton on December 12 to the five weekend matches called off on Thursday. 

Thursday night’s clash between Leicester City and Tottenham has been called off following requests from both camps this week and while Chelsea also reported a small number of cases on Thursday, their 1-1 draw with Everton went ahead. 

Premier League managers have differed in their views to temporarily stop the season, after Brentford manager Frank came out announcing his club’s desire to announce a temporary stop. 

Brentford boss Thomas Frank wants this weekend’s Premier League games to be postponed

The Danish manager claimed the variant is ‘running like wildfire’ around the world and that shutting down football for at least a week would help clubs get things under control.  

Frank told a press conference on Thursday morning: ‘It would give everyone a week at least, or four or five days to clean and do everything at the training ground so everything is clean and you break the chain.

‘Also in football, you need close contact. Physios need to do their job with players in treatment. We are in dressing room on matchdays, we are travelling by coaches so it’s a little bit more difficult to work from home.’ 

Frank believes a decision to halt this weekend’s round of top-flight fixtures could be enough to sure the busy festive programme will be able to go ahead largely as planned.

‘We fully respect that we want to play and it is important football keeps going, and this way we can make sure Boxing Day keeps going, I’m 100 per cent sure of that,’ added Frank.

Brentford recorded 13 positive cases among players and club staff and their next game is off

Jurgen Klopp said on Thursday that stopping the Premier League is ‘not the right thing to do’ 

‘This Omicron variant is running like wildfire around the world and I think we need to do all we can to protect and avoid it. I think we can do a lot by closing down training grounds for three, four or five days, and then we can go again.’

Meanwhile, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp announced after his side’s 3-1 victory over Newcastle on Thursday night – which saw Virgil van Dijk and Fabinho both miss the game due to Covid – that he sees no point of a ‘circuit breaker’ stop. 

Klopp told his post-match press conference on Thursday: ‘Stopping the league is probably not the right thing but with the schedule we have to be more flexible. We have three players out because of Covid. 

‘Then we play on the 26th and the 28th (of December) and you have 13 players available, that’s not possible. There are plenty of questions we need to find answers for but I don’t have the solution.’  

The Bees have 13 cases among players and staff – the club are now calling for a circuit-breaker shutdown to help clubs recover. Their training ground has been closed and as a result their trip to Southampton on Saturday has been postponed. 

Leicester

Would have been without several players for Tottenham’s visit on Thursday due to Covid before the game was postponed – despite initial calls being rejected – hours before kick-off.  Their training ground was closed on Thursday morning to contain the outbreak but given they have an insufficient number of players available, their weekend trip to Everton is also off.

Manchester United

Case numbers are currently unknown but a large outbreak saw their game with Brentford postponed. Calls to have Saturday’s game with Brighton to be postponed were accepted on Thursday due to the outbreak at the club.

Brighton

Had request to have Wednesday’s game with Wolves postponed rejected by the Premier League following an outbreak at the club. Graham Potter confirmed there were ‘three to four’ positive cases before the game. Game with Manchester United has now been postponed.

Norwich

Dean Smith was facing an anxious wait to discover the full extent of the outbreak at the club. The Canaries had discussions with the Premier League over Saturday’s clash with West Ham and it was agreed to postpone as they have an insufficient number of players available.

Watford

Saw the game with Burnley postponed just hours before kick-off. Case numbers currently unknown. With their training ground closed, their home match with Crystal Palace has now been confirmed as postponed.

Tottenham

Spurs were the first Premier League club to be hit by the Omicron variant last week and saw games against Brighton and Rennes postponed after cases reached double digits among players and staff. Those who tested positive for the virus are expected to return in the next couple of days after completing their 10-day self-isolation period. Spurs’ clash with Leicester on Thursday is postponed despite initial demands to have the game called off were rejected.

Chelsea

After Brentford, the Blues became the latest club to be hit by a Covid outbreak, after it was confirmed ahead of their game with Everton that three more first-team players had tested positive for Covid, with Mateo Kovacic the first Chelsea player to get the virus this week.

Liverpool

It was confirmed just an hour before kick-off against Newcastle on Thursday night that Fabinho, Curtis Jones and Virgil van Dijk are all out having tested positive for Covid.  

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