LONDON. — Manchester City kick off the New Year at Chelsea on Sunday, eager to move on from a recent Covid-19 outbreak and get back to putting pressure on English Premier League football leaders Liverpool.
The match, cast into question when Covid-19 forced City to close facilities and postpone Monday’s game at Everton, is set to go ahead after the visitors returned to training on Wednesday.
Surging infections in London and the postponement on Wednesday of Tottenham Hotspur’s match at Fulham, Chelsea’s West London neighbours, raised doubts but the English Premier League is confident fixtures can go ahead.
“Safety remains our number one priority, and the club will continue to proceed with great caution,” City said in a statement.
“The bubble will undergo further testing in the coming days, the results of which will inform and dictate the next steps.”
On the pitch, eighth-placed City will be chasing a third successive league win while Chelsea need to turn around a run of poor form that includes three defeats and a draw in their last five games.
“At the moment, they are a crisis club because they are under-performing,” former Chelsea striker Chris Sutton told BBC radio after the West Londoners drew 1-1 with Aston Villa and slipped to sixth.
“They are flat and that’s why (manager) Frank (Lampard) needs to get a few wins under his belt and extremely quickly because it can, as we know, turn ugly at Chelsea.”
Champions Liverpool, on 33 points from 16 matches, drew 0-0 with Newcastle United on Wednesday and travel to Southampton on Monday. The points difference between City and Liverpool is seven points but City have two games in hand.
Manchester United, second in the standings and on a nine- match unbeaten streak, host fifth-placed Aston Villa tonight. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are three points behind Liverpool.
Leeds United, fresh from a 5-0 thrashing of West Bromwich Albion on Tuesday, travel to Tottenham Hotspur for tomorrow’s lunchtime kick-off while high-flying Leicester City are at Newcastle United on Sunday.
Everton host West Ham United today and Arsenal play at West Brom tomorrow.
Sheffield United, with two points from 16 Premier League games, travel to Crystal Palace, who are on a five-game winless run, tomorrow.
Meanwhile, the English Premier League says it has no plans to suspend the season despite a rise in positive coronavirus tests.
On Tuesday, the latest round of top-flight testing found 18 people had the virus.
New coronavirus cases at Fulham led to their Premier League match at Tottenham on Wednesday being called off.
West Brom manager Sam Allardyce has called for a football “circuit break” but the Premier League says it “has not discussed pausing the season”.
English Premiership Fixtures
Today: Everton v West Ham United (7:30pm); Manchester United v Aston Villa (10pm).
Tomorrow: Tottenham Hotspur v Leeds United (2:30pm); Crystal Palace v Sheffield United (5pm); Brighton & Hove Albion v Wolverhampton Wanderers (7:30pm); West Bromwich Albion v Arsenal (10pm).
Sunday: Burnley v Fulham (2pm); Newcastle United v Leicester City (4:15pm); Chelsea v Manchester City (6:30pm).
Monday: Southampton v Liverpool (10pm). — AFP.