Leicester-Tottenham called off as Premier League’s COVID-19 crisis continues

Tottenham Hotspur’s trip to Leicester City on Thursday became the latest Premier League match to be called off with the outbreak of the COVID-19 variant Omicron in the UK.

Both clubs had previously asked for the match to be postponed, which league officials rejected earlier in the week.

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Spurs were unable to complete their last two games – the UEFA Conference League match against Stade Rennais and last weekend’s league match against Brighton & Hove Albion – after closing their training ground in a bid to control the outbreak that has affected at least 15 players and staff.

Leicester coach Brendan Rodgers confirmed, on Wednesday, the absence of nine players due to a combination of coronavirus cases and infection. Sources told ESPN that the picture deteriorated on Thursday, causing the match to be postponed about seven hours before kick-off.

The Premier League said in a statement on Thursday: “In light of the new information, Leicester this morning applied to cancel the match due to an ongoing outbreak within the squad, which has resulted in more players and staff testing positive for COVID-19 today.

“This club was left with an insufficient number of players available to get the match done. After consultation with the Premier League and the UK’s Health Security Agency, the first team training ground was closed this morning to help contain the outbreak.

“The Premier League understands that this decision will disappoint and disappoint the fans who were due to attend this evening’s match and apologize for any inconvenience and disruption that occurred at such short notice.”

This became the fourth Premier League match to be canceled this month. Tottenham’s previous match against Brighton has been postponed, as well as Manchester United’s match against Brentford on Tuesday and Burnley’s match against Watford on Wednesday.

Sources told ESPN that the Premier League had rejected further requests for a postponement, and Brighton coach Graham Potter confirmed after the 1-0 loss to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Wednesday that his club had requested that that match be cancelled.

The UK has recorded the largest number of infections in a single day since the pandemic began on Wednesday, with 78,610 positive cases.

The Premier League has tightened guidelines at training grounds and increased requests for proof of vaccination or passive lateral flow testing of match-day fans into stadiums, but earlier this week the Premier League in particular pledged to stick to the current schedule as closely as possible.

Tottenham have a big problem in the match. They will likely be eliminated from the European Conference League as they struggle to find a date for a rematch with Rennes before the December 31 UEFA deadline.

Ironically, they have asked the Premier League to postpone their match against Leicester so they can play Rennes instead, but now they have no match at all.

Coach Antonio Conte said on Wednesday he had 16 senior players ready to train after all first-team areas at the club’s training base reopened on Tuesday.

Tottenham are now three games behind in the league, trailing many of their rivals, after last month’s trip to Burnley was also canceled at the last minute due to heavy snow.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Conte said: “Certainly, the Premier League did not want to postpone the match against Leicester, perhaps because we have to play against Burnley and Brighton. We have postponed two games before. I can understand, we can understand.

“On the other hand, I think we deserve to play against Rennes to go to the next group. We don’t find a good solution between UEFA and the Premier League, so why should Tottenham pay for it? To pay for a situation that is not our fault?

“I understand if we did something wrong but in this way, for the club, the players and the coaching staff, it is very difficult to understand what is happening.”


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