Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel: Not postponing games over Covid-19 is a safety risk

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel: Not postponing games over Covid-19 is a safety risk

by Emily Smith
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Wolves 0-0 Chelsea: ‘It’s not safe’ – Tuchel annoyed Covid-hit Chelsea forced to playChelsea boss Thomas Tuchel says player safety is at risk after his side were made to play their Premier League game against Wolverhampton Wanders on Sunday despite a Covid-19 outbreak.

Tuchel’s side had a request for the fixture to be postponed after reporting several positive cases at the club.

Chelsea had just four outfield players on the bench as they drew 0-0 with Wolves.

“It is not safe,” Tuchel told BBC Sport.

He added: “We talk about protecting players and a safe environment but it is not safe. I would be not surprised if the next test shows up and we have more positives.

“How should it stop if we sit in the bus and have dinners and just stay together like nothing happened?”

Six of the Premier League’s 10 weekend matches were postponed because of Covid. Aston Villa’s game with Burnley on Saturday was called off just two and a half hours before the scheduled 15:00 GMT kick-off.

The 20 top-flight clubs are set to meet on Monday at 13:00 GMT to discuss the escalating crisis around the coronavirus pandemic.

Managers and captains are also due to hold their own meetings.

Weekend sport hit by rapid rise in Covid casesNo plan for EFL circuit breakerPremier League and government urge players to get vaccineThe Sports Desk podcast: Should sport get tough on vaccine hesitancy?’We cannot carry on as usual’Speaking after his side’s 2-2 draw at Tottenham on Sunday, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp outlined his own frustrations around the current schedule.

The Reds are currently without the likes of Thiago, Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho, Curtis Jones and Jordan Henderson due to Covid-related issues or ill health.

“We play now on Wednesday, Sunday and Tuesday,” Klopp said.

“That is impossible. We do not have the players. We could maybe have another [Covid] case or two. We have to think about it, we cannot just push it all through.

“First of all, take away the second semi-final of the Carabao Cup. Just play once, wherever you play it I don’t care. The 26th and 28th December is really not possible. We would prefer to play but we need some help. If we carry on, we cannot carry on as usual.

“If we don’t play any more and have a break I am fine. But I know the problem. When do you want to play the games? It is not that easy to fit them in. We said before coronavirus that it was a bit busy and now it gives us a proper punch.”

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta said on Saturday he wants everyone to “play under the same rules” when it comes to deciding how things will progress.

Having stressed the importance of the league completing the season, the Premier League – and UK government – has urged footballers to get vaccinated. Latest figures, published in October, said 68% of the English top flight’s players had received two doses.

How realistic is a circuit break?Analysis by BBC Sport football reporter Simon Stone

If one lesson is to be learned about football during the pandemic, it is no-one wants to give anything away and everyone will be looking after themselves.

The obvious point around the Premier League meeting is that nine matches have been postponed in barely a week and all clubs, to a lesser or greater extent, are wrestling with the impact of Covid on their squad.

A circuit break – or postponement of fixtures – sounds good in theory. But in practice?

First, where are the spare games going to be played? The season must end on 22 May. Between now and then, there are two spare midweeks with no matches in them.

Second, are clubs willing to pay a rebate to any broadcaster inconvenienced?

And then, there are the more political aspects. Moving fixtures from December to a later point in the season would help clubs who have money to spend in the January transfer window. Clubs not in great form at present might be open to the idea as well, whereas clubs whose form is good might be keener to play on.

The outcome will be fascinating.

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