Across England’s professional football leagues, 23 upcoming matches have already been scratched. The Scottish Premiership has instituted a pause by starting its three-week winter break early. And beginning on Boxing Day, all sporting events in Wales must be held behind closed doors.
In the States, the NFL has been forced to shuffle its schedule, the NBA has already postponed nine games, and the NHL’s season is on pause. The Hawaii Bowl has been canceled, Texas A&M was forced to withdraw from the Gator Bowl, and dozens of NCAA basketball teams have temporarily halted their seasons.
But in spite of the COVID-induced carnage unfolding all around them (including the cancellation of six of GW-18’s ten fixtures), the EPL decided on Monday to press forward with as much of its season as it could maintain. So long as the UK government doesn’t provide a force majeure escape from TV contract obligations, the league clings to its handbook, which requires teams to play if they can field 13 outfielders and a goalkeeper, even if they have to dip into their U-23 and U-21 squads to achieve those numbers.
Even so, three GW-19 fixtures have already been axed. Liverpool vs Leeds, Wolves vs Watford and Burnley vs Everton are off, and with daily testing continuing across the league, more fixtures could follow. At the very least, we should prepare for new positives to sideline individual players (e.g., Tim Krul Tweeted out his own positive result just this morning.) At the same time, updated protocols may make it possible for players to return from isolation sooner than we had previously expected, surprising us with their unanticipated availability.
All this uncertainty makes it imperative that you follow this space closely ahead of the transfer deadlines, and that you delay your trades as long as you possibly can (especially in FPL, where transfers are limited and final).
Fantrax managers will have the luxury of some confirmed lineups ahead of the MCI/LEI, NOR/ARS, TOT/CPL, and WHU/SOU matches. Set a Sunday alarm to get you here in the countdown hour to pick from among the guaranteed starters!
Also, as if COVID wasn’t enough to contend with, during the festive period we also have to worry about the threat of weather. Fortunately it looks like parts of Scotland are the only regions in Britain with the potential for snow over the next several days, so it doesn’t look like a White Christmas will scupper the Boxing Day matches that survive COVID.
So whether you celebrated Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or the Winter Solstice, we at NMA wish you health and prosperity in the new year, and good luck in GW-19!
Suspended: Benjamin Mendy (by club)
Injured: Ferran Torres (foot, out), Kyle Walker (match fitness, doubt)
Injured: Harvey Barnes (knock, out), Wesley Fofana (ankle, out), Johnny Evans (thigh, out), Ricardo Pereira (shin, doubt), Caglar Soyuncu (hamstring, doubt), Jamie Vardy (hamstring, doubt), James Justin (knee, out)
COVID: Hamza Choudhury (unconfirmed)
Norwich - Arsenal
Injured: Mathias Normann (pelvis, out), Andrew Omobamidele (back, out), Milot Rashica (pelvis, out), Christoph Zimmerman (ankle, out), Grant Hanley (shoulder, out)
COVID: Time Krul, Joshua Sargent, Pierre Lees-Melou, Lukas Rupp, Christos Tzolis
Suspended: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (by club)
Injured: Sead Kolasinac (ankle, out), Takehiro Tomiyasu (muscle, doubt), Ainsley Maitland-Niles (non-COVID illness, doubt)
COVID: Sambi Lokonga, Callum Chambers, Pablo Mari
Tottenham - Crystal Palace
Injured: Ryan Sessegnon (thigh, out), Cristian Romero (thigh, out)
COVID: Bryan Gil, Dane Scarlett
Injured: James McArthur (thigh, doubt), Nathan Ferguson (match fitness, out)
COVID: Patrick Vieira has confirmed “a couple cases” but has not revealed names.
Injured: Kurt Zouma (thigh, out), Angelo Ogbonna (knee, out), Aaron Cresswell (back, doubt)
COVID: Michail Antonio
Injured: Alex McCarthy (thigh, out), Fraser Forster (match fitness, doubt),
Injured: Marvelous Nakamba (knee, out), Leon Bailey (thigh, out), Ashley Young (knock, doubt), Bertrand Traore (thigh, out)
COVID: Keinan Davis, Anwar El-Ghazi, Morgan Sanson, Jed Steer
Injured: Ben Chilwell (knee, out), Andreas Christensen (back, doubt), Rueben Loftus-Cheek (ankle, doubt), Hakim Ziyech (calf, doubt)
COVID: Callum Hudson-Odoi, Kai Havertz, Romalu Lukaku, Timo Werner, Ben Chilwell (out with knee anyway — Merry Christmas Ben!)
Brighton - Brentford
Suspended: Yves Bissouma (1 match)
Injured: Lewis Dunk (knee, out), Joel Veltman (fatigue, doubt), Steven Alzate (ankle/foot, out)
COVID: Jason Steele, Jurgen Locadia
Injured: Kristoffer Ajer (hamstring, out), Charlie Goode (hamstring, out), Rico Henry (hamstring, doubt), Zanka (muscle, out), David Raya Martin (knee, out)
Suspended: Isaac Hayden (1 match)
Injured: Paul Dummet (calf, out), Federico Fernandez (thigh, out), Jamal Lewis (hamstring, out), Jonjo Shelvey (muscle, doubt), Javier Manquillo (non-COVID illness), Emil Krafth (non-COVID illness),
Injured: Paul Pogba (thigh, out)
Are we having fun yet? Please share your thoughts and questions in the comments, and then come back near deadline time on Sunday for the latest. Happy Christmas!