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December 20, 2021

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Klopp no to unvaccinated players

Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp said players not vaccinated against COVID-19 pose a health risk and it was unlikely the Merseyside club would sign players who refuse the vaccine.

Aston Villa boss Steven Gerrard and his Crystal Palace counterpart Patrick Vieira both said that vaccine status might be a consideration when signing new players as cases continue to rise in the English Premier League.

The league said in October that 68 percent of its players were double-jabbed but last Monday announced a record 42 cases in a week.

COVID-19 outbreaks at various clubs have forced the postponement of 10 games so far, including six from this weekend’s round of fixtures.

“We are not close to signing a player but I thought about it and yes, it will be influential, definitely,” said Klopp, who was previously undecided on whether vaccination status would influence Liverpool’s transfer policy.

“If a player is not vaccinated at all, he is a constant threat for all of us... From an organizational point of view, it gets really messy. If you really want to follow the protocols, it is really difficult to do it.

“If one (player) gets COVID, and others are around him, they are in isolation... So of course it will be influential. We are not going to create a building for unvaccinated players. Hopefully it will not be necessary.”

Liverpool, second in the EPL with 40 points after 17 games, takes on Tottenham Hotspur later yesterday. Seventh-placed Tottenham has not played since December 5 and had two league games postponed following a coronavirus outbreak at the club.

Meanwhile, Arsenal’s 4-1 win at Leeds United was the only action of an EPL Saturday decimated by coronavirus call-offs with five games postponed.

Aston Villa’s home match with Burnley became the latest casualty of surging infection rates across Britain due to the Omicron strain following a worsening outbreak among the Villa squad.

Just four games are now due to be played in total this weekend out of the original 10, with the growing crisis causing chaos during the busiest time in the English football calendar.

Three games were still listed for yesterday, including Spurs vs Liverpool. The other two are Manchester City’s clash at Newcastle United, and Wolverhampton Wanderers at home to Chelsea.

Tottenham revealed it will be missing just two players after an outbreak affecting at least 13 players and staff saw their last three matches postponed.

However, the justification for that match going ahead in front of a 62,000 crowd was called into question after London’s mayor Sadiq Khan declared a “major incident” in the capital due to the spiking case numbers.

A meeting of EPL clubs today is set to decide whether to continue with the intention of playing games where safe to do so or to temporarily halt the campaign as a firebreak for the infection rate.

In the three divisions below the EPL, 19 of the 36 games in the English Football League were called off this weekend.

But EFL chairman Rick Parry suggested that there was no scientific evidence a short break would help.

“If we think a circuit breaker will help we will do it but, at the moment, there’s no scientific evidence to suggest that it will help,” Parry told the BBC.

“We’ve got to stick together, stay calm and keep making balanced decisions on the basis of the latest information.”

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta repeated his call for more transparency into the decision making of when to call matches off after his side’s victory at Elland Road.

“We were really lucky to play today with everything that’s happening,” said Arteta, whose own positive test accelerated the EPL’s three-month shutdown at the start of the pandemic in March 2020.

“I told the players to enjoy the game and give everything because I don’t know how this will develop.

“Now it’s play as you can and we’ll play as we can. The Premier League will make the best decision for everybody, but we want to play all under the same rules.

“That’s where I think they have to come forward. Whatever they decide is best for the competition has to be explained.”


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