Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard revealed there is “constant paraonia” over the status of his players after a glut of Premier League postponements due to coronavirus outbreaks.
Five of the previously scheduled 10 matches due to take place on Saturday and Sunday have been called off, taking the total number of postponed top-flight fixtures over the past week to nine.
Villa’s clash with Burnley is still set to go ahead, but Gerrard admitted that could quickly change after two matches this week were postponed just hours before kick-off.
“There’s certainly a constant paranoia. The testing process has gone on every day and the PCR tests are twice a week. Even now we are playing in 24 hours, I have a team I want to play but it could change,” said Gerrard.
“I’m actually scared to look at my phone at the moment because every time the doctor calls me something changes.”
Premier League clubs are due to meet on Monday to discuss the spiralling crisis, with a split emerging on whether to temporarily halt the season as a firebreaker for infections or carry on.
The timing of the surge in cases in the middle of the most hectic period of the English football calendar has aggravated the chaos.
Four rounds of Premier League matches are due to the played between the weekend and January 3.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp said earlier in the week he wanted to keep going, but admitted that could become impossible as squads become stretched by Covid absences and injuries caused by the schedule.
The Reds were without Fabinho, Virgil van Dijk and Curtis Jones for their 3-1 win over Newcastle on Thursday following suspected positive tests for Covid.
“With reduced squads, smaller squads you cannot play that schedule,” said Klopp.
– ‘Crazy stuff’ –
Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel said he could be forced to make “crazy” decisions in rushing N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic back from injury due to the Blues’ outbreak.
Romelu Lukaku, Timo Werner and Callum Hudson-Odoi missed their 1-1 draw with Everton after testing positive.
“No more positive tests but the lottery starts again tomorrow morning or tomorrow afternoon,” said Tuchel on Friday.
“Maybe we are forced to do the crazy stuff that we wouldn’t normally do. But what’s normal? We miss key players and we find solutions.”
Manchester City’s preparations for Sunday’s trip to Newcastle have been disturbed by manager Pep Guardiola returning an inconclusive test result.
Guardiola now has to wait for the result of a PCR test before knowing if he will be able to lead his side at St. James’ Park.
Newcastle could benefit from a halt to the schedule.
The Magpies are second bottom of the table, but will be able to turn to the resources of the Saudi sovereign wealth fund in the January transfer window to try and dig themselves out of relegation trouble.
“When you start losing players to Covid then the worry is the competition becomes slightly unfair and I don’t think anyone wants to see that,” said Newcastle boss Eddie Howe.
“A decision needs to be made to ensure integrity is maintained in the competition. I think it is on a knife edge.”
Ahead of Arsenal’s trip to Leeds on Saturday, Gunners’ coach Mikel Arteta called for clarity on when matches should be postponed.
Arsenal’s opening game of the season went ahead at Brentford even though they had a number of positive cases in the squad.
“We need more clarity on why those games are not being played and what you need to not have a game played, so you can maintain the fairness of the competition,” said Arteta.
“We have been here on the other side of the table where we had all the arguments in the world to not play a football match and we ended up playing it.”