Leeds and Watford call off Boxing Day fixtures due to Covid outbreaks

Coronavirus has accounted for two Premier League games on Boxing Day as the football schedule continues to be affected by the pandemic.

Just four of the scheduled 10 games were possible in the top flight last weekend as cases rise, with Liverpool’s clash with Leeds and Watford’s trip to Wolves now washed off the Boxing Day schedule.

With a meeting of Premier League managers and players to discuss coronavirus issues planned for Thursday, the league met earlier in the day and approved the requests from Leeds and Watford to postpone the games.

In a statement, the Premier League said: “The League aims to provide as much clarity as possible but unfortunately postponements sometimes have to be made at short notice, as safety is the priority.

“The League will endeavour to keep supporters updated if games become at risk on a matchday.

“The board concluded that Leeds United will not be able to fulfil their fixture this weekend due to the number of players with Covid-19, injuries and illness.

“The club’s training ground has also been closed after consultation with the UK Health Security Agency and the Premier League.”

The statement continued: “Watford FC continue to have an insufficient number of players to field a team after their game against Crystal Palace FC last Saturday was postponed following a Covid-19 outbreak.

“Due to players coming out of isolation, it is fully expected Watford will be available for their fixture on Tuesday 28 December against West Ham United.”

The PA news agency understands Leeds’ game with Aston Villa on December 28 is likely to be under review.

Postponements are not limited to the Premier League, with the Championship games at Barnsley, Cardiff, Fulham, Millwall, Peterborough and Preston also falling.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, whose side are still scheduled to face Leicester on Boxing Day, pledged to support any further decision made by the authorities.

Guardiola, who lost his mother to the virus last year, also urged the general public to take more precautions in order to protect themselves and others.

Newcastle United v Manchester City – Premier League – St. James’ Park
Pep Guardiola urged the public to do more to combat the spread of coronavirus (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Guardiola said: “The reality is the new variant is here and cases are rising.

“Unfortunately, football and the Premier League are not an exception and we will support what the Premier League decides to do.

“What we want is that people stay safe and well. Please social distance, masks for everyone.

“I am surprised because people say use the mask, but when I go into the street and places, everyone is completely not following the rules. We should take individually, personally, a little bit more.”

Brentford boss Thomas Frank, who was the first manager to call for a ‘circuit breaker’, said he now believes the decision to play on is the right one.

However, he warned there will continue to be cases and postponements well into the new year, and urged greater transparency from clubs and authorities about the extent of the virus.

Frank said: “It has already been decided the Premier League is continuing, which I think is the right decision.

“Definitely for me, just be very clear, transparency in terms of the number of cases. It is not a concern because I think it is very simple.

Thomas Frank File Photo
Brentford boss Thomas Frank says playing on is the right decision (Nick Potts/PA)

“If we want to play and carry on, there will be lots of cases for the next two to three months. If we do what we do now, I think that is the best way to try to carry on.

“If you carry on there will be a situation where there are cases in different clubs. Then we test the day before and the day after, so I think it will be fine.

“The big thing will be, when we actually play the match, that there is a minimal risk of transmitting the virus.”