EPL's Aston Villa ravaged by coronavirus

Rob Harris and Steve Douglas
·3-min read

Ten Aston Villa Premier League players have been forced to isolate after testing positive for the coronavirus which continues to wreak havoc with teams and athletes around the world.

The outbreak at the Birmingham-based club threatens next week's Premier League action but the Villans were still able to contest their FA Cup match against Liverpool on Friday, fielding only youth players in a 4-1 loss to the English champions in the third round.

Villa's training ground in central England has been closed after 14 positive cases - 10 of which were players - were discovered from two rounds of tests, on Monday and Thursday.

Tests were also conducted on the youngsters to ensure Villa could field a team against Liverpool.

The team was filled with players from the under-18 and under-23 squads, with under-23 manager Mark Delaney leading the team in place of manager Dean Smith.

Villa's next game in the Premier League is against Tottenham on Wednesday, and Villa chief executive Christian Purslow did not know whether that match would go ahead.

Three Premier League games - Everton vs Manchester City, Tottenham vs Fulham, and Burnley vs Fulham - were postponed last week because of COVID-19 outbreaks among clubs.

On Friday, the English Football League, which runs the three divisions below the Premier League, reported 112 positive cases out of 3,507 players and staff members who were tested in the latest round of checks - an infection rate of more than three per cent.

The Women's Super League was also affected, with Everton-Manchester United becoming on Friday the third game in the division to be called off because of positive coronavirus cases.

Two women's matches scheduled for Saturday - Arsenal-Aston Villa and Manchester City-West Ham, had already been postponed.

Amid the sharp rise in cases, the Premier League warned clubs disciplinary action will be taken over breaches of coronavirus rules.

Clubs were told in a letter from the league that handshakes, hugging and shirt-swapping should stop, in an attempt to limit the risk of COVID-19 spreading particularly with a more transmissible variant of the disease circulating in England.

In Italy, high-profile defender Matthijs De Ligt became the third Juventus player to test positive for COVID-19 in a week.

Alex Sandro and Juan Cuadrado were ruled out of Wednesday's win over AC Milan in Serie A after they tested positive.

De Ligt played the full 90 minutes against AC Milan on Wednesday and the club said he had already been placed in solitary confinement.

Meanwhile, the USA Track & Field indoor championships have been cancelled due to the pandemic.

The meet was scheduled to take place on February 20-21 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The indoor combined events were also cancelled. They were scheduled to be held in conjunction with the championships.

World Athletics announced in December the 2020 World Athletics indoor championships, which were scheduled for March 19-21, 2021, would be moved to March 2023.

For the third straight day, the NFL's Cleveland Browns couldn't get in their facility as COVID-19 testing continues.

The team has not been able to practise this week leading into their playoff game Sunday night in Pittsburgh. The Browns are awaiting final test results and permission from the NFL to practise on Friday.

The PGA Tour Series-China called off its 2021 season because of COVID-19.

"We remain committed to the region and want to do everything we can to give competitive opportunities for players in Asia and from the Pacific Rim," Greg Carlson, PGA TOUR Series-China Executive Director said in a news release.

"We are trying to pursue other opportunities for our players to play in 2021. We will also take this pause and evaluate what we might be able to do in 2022."