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Liverpool-Leeds among two more Premier League games postponed

LONDON – Liverpool's clash with Leeds and Watford's trip to Wolves, scheduled for 26 December, became the latest Premier League games to be postponed due to coronavirus outbreaks on Thursday.

A total of 12 matches have now been called off in the past two weeks as Britain battles record numbers of positive COVID cases due to the Omicron variant of the virus.

Everton's request for their match against Burnley to be postponed has been rejected despite being without 11 players due to injury or COVID infection.

Earlier this week, Premier League clubs rejected the option of temporarily halting the season to allow a circuit breaker for infections.

However, the traditional Boxing Day schedule of fixtures has already been disrupted with the potential for more to go in the coming days with daily testing now in place for English top flight clubs.

"Following postponement requests from Leeds United and Watford 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," the Premier League said in a statement.

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Leeds reported five positive cases among players and staff on Thursday which allied to a lengthy injury list meant they would be unable to field a team with the required 13 outfield players and one goalkeeper from their registered 25-man squad.

Watford's previous two matches against Burnley and Crystal Palace had also been called off.

The league said it expected their fixture with West Ham on 28 December to go ahead due to players coming out of isolation.

The Premier League revealed this week that only 84% of players have had at least one dose of vaccination.

However, Leeds are among the clubs with the highest uptake of vaccines in the league.

"All of the cases we have experienced are asymptomatic which we believe is due to our high vaccine take up," Leeds said in a statement.

"The positive cases, combined with our well-documented injury issues, means that we would not have enough recognised first-team players to meet the Premier League requirements for the fixture.

"The training ground at Thorp Arch will be closed for a period of two days on the advice of Public Health England."

'NOT FAIR'

Everton manager Rafael Benitez revealed his surprise at his club's request being rejected.

"We have six injuries and five players with COVID," said the Spaniard. "I think it is not fair."

England striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin could return for the Toffees after a four-month injury layoff, but Benitez echoed the calls of Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel for player welfare to be considered when judging if games can go ahead.

"It's quite dangerous for us, maybe someone has to take responsibility," added Benitez. "Someone has to consider that because of the circumstances of this game we have to play players that maybe are not ready."

Across the three divisions below the Premier League, 18 matches in the English Football League (EFL) scheduled for Boxing Day have already been postponed.

No restrictions have yet been put in place for the size of crowds at matches in England, although supporters do have to provide proof of vaccination or a negative test taken in the previous 48 hours.

Sport in Wales will be forced back behind closed doors from 26 December, while in Scotland a restriction of 500 for outdoor public events from the same day has seen Scottish Premiership clubs bring forward their winter break by a week.

Artmotion S.Africa

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