Club fears over player fit­ness af­ter wave of pos­i­tive tests

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Sam Wal­lace, Tom Mor­gan and Luke Ed­wards

Pre­mier League clubs were last night fac­ing ma­jor con­cerns over how their play­ers will cope with the de­mands of the sea­son’s start, af­ter many were ruled out of cru­cial pre­sea­son train­ing be­cause they ei­ther tested pos­i­tive for coro­n­avirus or have been placed in iso­la­tion beBy cause of con­tact pro­to­cols. Manch­ester United mid­fielder Paul Pogba was left out of France’s squad by Di­dier Deschamps for their Na­tions League games next month, with the coach dis­clos­ing that the 27-year-old had tested pos­i­tive on Wed­nes­day and was no longer avail­able.

Pogba’s United team-mate, Aaron Wan-Bis­saka, will go into a manda­tory 14-day iso­la­tion this week when he re­turns from hol­i­day in Dubai – a des­ti­na­tion play­ers were ad­vised to avoid for that rea­son.

At Chelsea, Jorginho, Ross Barkley, Emer­son, Michy Bat­shuayi, Ma­son Mount, Fikayo To­mori, Tammy Abra­ham and Chris­tian Pulisic are all in iso­la­tion.

Six of them – not iden­ti­fied – have tested pos­i­tive and a fur­ther two are obliged to iso­late. Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur mid­fielder Tan­guy Ndombele is also un­der­stood to have tested pos­i­tive for the virus, and New­cas­tle United striker Joelin­ton is in iso­la­tion. There was also a pos­i­tive test among the first-team squad at Southamp­ton last week.

Arse­nal man­ager Mikel Arteta did not dis­close which of his play­ers

were iso­lat­ing al­though it was no­table that the club did not re­lease train­ing pic­tures.

Spurs cap­tain Harry Kane missed the start of his club’s pre-sea­son be­cause he was obliged to quar­an­tine on re­turn­ing from a hol­i­day in the

Ba­hamas. For Gareth South­gate, it now looks in­evitable that he will lose Mount and Abra­ham from his Eng­land squad for the Na­tions League games against Ice­land and Den­mark at the start of next month.

The test­ing pro­gramme that was fun­da­men­tal to the suc­cess of Pro­ject Restart, when the clubs re­turned to ac­tion in June to com­plete last sea­son, has al­ready be­gun, with play­ers first re­port­ing to train­ing grounds alone for an ini­tial test.

Only when they have tested neg­a­tive are they able to join the biose­cure bub­ble around the squad and com­mence full-con­tact train­ing.

The Pre­mier League is not yet pre­pared to re­lease data for its test­ing, which has be­gun club by club. The twice-weekly dis­clo­sure of re­sults will even­tu­ally re­sume.

Al­though the clubs will prob­a­bly have most of their play­ers re­turned from quar­an­tine or iso­la­tion by the start of the sea­son, it will give them precious lit­tle time to con­di­tion those who have missed out for the in­ten­sive pro­gramme to fol­low as the sea­son gets go­ing.

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