Manchester City are set to carry out three rounds of COVID-19 tests ahead of Sunday’s clash with Chelsea to try to keep control of the outbreak at the club.
City’s Premier League clash with Everton on December 28 was called off just four hours before kick-off after more members of the squad – believed to be three players – tested positive for the virus.
Kyle Walker, Gabriel Jesus and two staff members were already in quarantine, in accordance with government guidelines, after positive test results ahead of the victory over Newcastle on December 26.
City have shut down their first-team training ground at the City Football Academy for “an indeterminate period” following the outbreak.
Players and staff, who are not self-isolating, were pictured driving into the Etihad Campus on Tuesday morning for tests in their cars with results expected on Wednesday.
There are set to be a further two rounds of tests before Sunday with no decision yet over the possible postponement of the game at Chelsea or the Carabao Cup semi-final against Manchester United three days later.
Subsequent postponements would cause a logistical nightmare with City already trying to squeeze into two extra Premier League matches into a tight schedule as well as competing in domestic competitions and the Champions League.
The clash between Everton and City is the second Premier League fixture to be postponed due to a coronavirus outbreak, with Newcastle United’s game against Aston Villa also called off earlier in December.
The Toffees have asked for full disclosure from the Premier League over why they decided to postpone the match at such short notice with Everton already starting their pre-match preparations.
A club source told Goal that City’s sudden outbreak may have been contracted while in London on December 22 for the Carabao Cup quarter-final with Arsenal and are concerned it may be the highly-infectious variant of the disease.
Pep Guardiola’s team travelled to and from the capital, which is now under the government’s most stringent Tier-4 restrictions, on the day of the game to minimise risk. But they spent the afternoon at a hotel to prepare for the match.
Meanwhile, the Premier League has announced the highest number of positive cases since weekly testing began.
“The Premier League can today confirm that between Monday 21 December and Sunday 27 December, 1,479 players and club staff were tested for Covid-19,” a statement released by the organisation reads.
“Of these, there were 18 new positive tests. Players or club staff who have tested positive will self-isolate for a period of 10 days.”
Several fixtures in the English Football League have also been postponed over the festive period, with a total of seven games cancelled on Monday.