EPL postpones match after Villa outbreak

Friday 15 January, 2021
Rob Harris
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Aston Villa's upcoming clash with Everton is the latest Premier League match to be postponed.

The coronavirus outbreak at Aston Villa has led to the postponement of another game as the Premier League holds talks with captains and managers of clubs to urge compliance with enhanced regulations.

"A significant number of players and staff remain in isolation" at Villa, the league said on Thursday after granting the central England club's request to no longer play Everton on Sunday.

Villa, whose game against Tottenham on Wednesday was also called off, says it expects the isolating players and staff to be part of training again from Sunday.

The league has tightened coronavirus protocols, including telling players and managers to avoid shaking hands and hugging during goal celebrations.

That message was being reinforced in virtual meetings with club captains and managers before this weekend's games.

The Premier League is among the elite sports competitions allowed to continue during England's third national lockdown which began last week.

But the government expressed concern on Wednesday about players not adhering to the regulations when they are so closely celebrating goals - just as the public is largely told to avoid such close contact.

Some players also flouted national rules by holding gatherings in their homes around Christmas.

The Premier League issued a statement Thursday together with the organisers of the lower men's divisions and the Women's Super League assuring the government the rules will be followed.

"Safety is a collective effort and football requires the ongoing support of clubs, managers, players and all those involved in staging matches to continue to manage the spread of infection and set the right example to the public on and off the pitch," the statement said.

While Harry Kane celebrated on his own after scoring in Tottenham's 1-1 draw with Fulham on Wednesday, Manchester City's players still hugged after Phil Foden scored in a 1-0 victory over Brighton.

"Sometimes the brain is a subconscious one and you are just there in the moment," City manager Pep Guardiola said. "You are not thinking."

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard agreed.

"To control the emotions is a fair ask, but to dictate emotion will probably be very difficult on the pitch," he said.

"Let's just see how this goes because as it goes along we will see if players can control it. I hope they can."

All eyes will be on Anfield on Sunday as champions Liverpool welcome leaders Manchester United.

United midfielder Paul Pogba says players will change their celebrations to comply with the guidelines.

"We will find another way, we will find another way to celebrate and be happy," Pogba told Sky Sports.

Lampard's Leicester counterpart Brendan Rodgers said if players make mistakes celebrating a goal, it's an "honest mistake".

"It is instinct, and an instinct for as long as they have ever known," he said. But if it means not being able to celebrate a goal then it is something we have to look at."