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Virus surge to affect European resumption

Europe’s surge in COVID-19 cases has affected the continent’s leading soccer leagues with an increasing number of players testing positive every day threatening the return of fixtures in those countries which have taken a winter break.

Ironically some of the players may have contracted the virus while on holiday in places as far-flung as Florida and Dubai.

Spain’s LaLiga is one of the worst-affected competitions with more than 90 positive cases confirmed by Thursday.

Barcelona now have ten cases with midfielder Philippe Coutinho, defender Sergino Dest and winger Ez Abde the latest players to return positive tests. They are due to resume league action on Sunday at Real Mallorca.

Dest, like Vinicius Jr, who is one of four Real Madrid players in quarantine, visited Miami during the break, attending a Miami Heat match. The Heat subsequently had an NBA match postponed as they had a dozen players out with COVID-19 or injury.

Atletico Madrid have recorded five COVID-19 positives, including manager Diego Simeone. Captain Koke, midfielder Hector Herrera plus forwards Antoine Griezmann and Joao Felix also tested positive with a PCR test. They previously returned negative results on an antigen test.

Atletico resume against Madrid neighbours Rayo Vallecano who are also grappling with an outbreak with a total of 15 cases.

In Italy Juventus, Roma and Lazio have suspended ticket sales for forthcoming matches as stadiums will be reduced to a maximum 50 per cent capacity.

French club Angers have asked for their match against Saint-Etienne on January 9 to be postponed. There are 19 confirmed cases among its squad of 30 of which more than 10 will not be authorised to play again until January 10. A further five staff members have the virus.

Strasbourg said coach Julien Stephan has the virus while Lyon midfielder Lucas Paqueta tested positive on vacation in Dubai and is isolating there.

In Germany players from Eintracht Frankfurt, Borussia Moenchengladbach, Hertha Berlin, Wolfsburg and Augsburg were added to the list of those who will now all but certainly miss the league restart on January 8.

“Football is always a gamble, and this now comes on top of it,” Augsburg coach Markus Weinzierl said on Thursday.

“Everyone will be affected over the coming weeks. And there will be differing factors of luck.”

In England, where matches have been played throughout the festive period, games continue to be postponed with six of Saturday’s 23-match Football League programme off so far.

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