Brendan Rodgers: International football increases Covid-19 risk for club teams

Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers has no doubt international football “increases the risk” for clubs in terms of coronavirus-related availability issues.

Rodgers’ former club Celtic are preparing for Saturday’s derby clash against Rangers with a number of their players either doubtful for or ruled out of the match for reasons related to positive Covid-19 tests that emerged while they were with international sides.

When asked if he thought it was practical for international football to be happening at the moment, Rodgers said: “There’s no doubt, for a club team it increases the risk.

“You only need to look up north, the Celtic-Rangers game – you look at Celtic and the players that may well be out of their game at the weekend against Rangers, guys that have been away with the international team.

“You know at least when they are at your club you have them in your bubble, and from our perspective that has been really, really good. But there’s no doubt it increases the risk when they travel and go outside of that bubble.

“The international federations and the managers themselves will tell you it is still important for them, and they will have extreme measures as well to ensure the players don’t pick up anything.

“But I think you can see over this period of time, with the games, and everything else around the pandemic, it increases the unavailability of players, that’s for sure.”

The issue Rodgers, whose side host Aston Villa on Sunday, has been left facing after the international break is injuries.

Caglar Soyuncu sustained one while away with Turkey that is expected to keep him out for “a number of weeks”.

And Jonny Evans has returned from Northern Ireland duty – 120 minutes against Bosnia, 90 against Austria and then 45 against Norway before being withdrawn at half-time – with abdominal pain.

Evans is being monitored ahead of the Villa game, along with Jamie Vardy, who felt a calf problem after training on Thursday.

Rodgers said regarding Vardy: “He’s had a couple of these issues before, where he has had tightness in his calf. We’re just awaiting the results of the scan because he’s not sure if it was a kick or whether something else happened.

“So we just have to be sure on that. He’s gone for an MRI scan and we’re hoping it might just have been a kick on his calf which has just become a little bit tight.”

Soyuncu’s absence and doubts over Evans means fellow centre-back Wesley Fofana, the 19-year-old Frenchman recently signed from St Etienne, could make his Foxes debut on Sunday.

Dennis Praet (knee) is another doubt, and Daniel Amartey (hamstring) is definitely sidelined, but Rodgers has said James Maddison, who missed the 3-0 loss to West Ham on October 4 due to injury, will be available to play some part.

Rodgers has also been speaking about Islam Slimani, who last played for Leicester in January 2018 and has since been on loan at Newcastle, Fenerbahce and Monaco.

“My thinking was he’d probably end up going out, but I’ve had it in my mind that if he didn’t, he can certainly be someone that can come into our squad,” Rodgers said of the striker.

“He’s not gone out on loan, and he’s someone I happily welcome in, because it’s going to be a real demand for all the players.

“To have quality players is important. He is someone who can contribute for us. He will come into our Premier League squad.”