Everton’s Premier League trip to Burnley has become the third game to be pulled from Sunday’s programme as the COVID-19 crisis continues to hit the competition.
Injuries and coronavirus cases had left Rafael Benitez down to nine outfield first-team players, the Everton manager said on Thursday.
The English Boxing Day line-up has been trimmed from nine to six fixtures, with Liverpool’s home game against Leeds United and Wolves’ clash with Watford having already been called off.
Benitez said that five Everton players had tested positive since the 1-1 draw at Chelsea last week, with a long injury list meaning he had few options available and was considering pushing Dominic Calvert-Lewin back into action ahead of schedule, following his long lay-off.
Everton had pushed for the game at Turf Moor to be postponed, Benitez saying he was “surprised” it was still on when he spoke on Thursday, and the club were granted their wish on Friday.
The Premier League said its board had “regrettably approved Everton’s request”.
“The board reviewed the club’s request today to postpone the match following further injuries to their squad,” the Premier League said in a statement.
“They concluded that the club will not be able to fulfil their fixture this weekend as a result of an insufficient number of players available to play due to COVID-19 cases and injuries.
“The board this morning was able to make its decision in advance of Boxing Day to give clarity to clubs and their fans. We apologise for the inconvenience and disruption caused to those supporters’ festive plans.
“The league is aware that the decisions this week to postpone three matches on Boxing Day will disappoint supporters, and understands their frustrations at a special time of year when fans look forward to attending and watching football games.”
The Premier League have informed us that our home fixture on Boxing Day has been postponed due to a Covid outbreak within the Everton squad. pic.twitter.com/6nOTE9WIwx
— Burnley FC (@BurnleyOfficial) December 24, 2021
The Premier League and its clubs elected to play on after a Monday meeting, even as the spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus spreads rapidly in England.
The league added on Friday: “While recognising a number of clubs are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks, it is the clubs’ and the league’s collective intention to continue the current fixture schedule where safely possible.”
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