Liverpool have formally requested a postponement of their Carabao Cup semi final visit to Arsenal, after a fresh Covid outbreak at the club.
Talks between Anfield officials and the EFL continued throughout the afternoon and into Tuesday evening, as more members of Jurgen Klopp’s squad offered a suspected positive test.
It is understood the members of Jurgen Klopp’s backroom staff unaffected by Covid-19 decided to cancel training in the afternoon, after the THIRD separate outbreak at the club.
The regular daily testing conducted before players and staff are allowed to enter the Kirkby complex indicated possible cases, and while the training ground wasn’t closed down completely, the club took the precaution of abandoning the afternoon session.
Sources at the EFL confirmed a dialogue was ongoing, and Liverpool decided to make the formal application for a postponement, after it became clear they simply wouldn’t have the numbers to field a team.
Liverpool had nine players ruled out of their weekend visit to Chelsea through Covid isolations, injury and suspension, and subsequently had Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita all depart for the Africa Cup of Nations.
Andy Robertson is back from suspension, but it is understood those players who were isolating – Roberto Firmino, Alisson and Joel Matip – will not be cleared to return in time for Thursday game.
Klopp himself is also due to be absent as he continues his isolation period, as are three of his backroom staff, and any further Covid-related absences would leaves the Reds close to being unable to send out a team.
EFL rules state that permission to postpone games will only be granted where clubs have less than 14 players available – including a goalkeeper – from their registered first team squad.
Under 21 players not on the squad list but who have played at least one league match will be counted in the 14, as will any other contracted senior player not on the squad list but otherwise eligible to play.
Liverpool have only one U21 player, Tyler Morton, to have made a senior league appearance this season.
In a statement issued in the early evening, the club confirmed it had made the formal request, because of ‘further Covid-19 cases and other player availability linked to injury and fitness’.
The statement went on to confirm that training was cancelled as a precaution, with the club mindful of the risk of further infection.
It is the third outbreak, with Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho, Thiago and Curtis Jones missing games because of the virus, and then the trio who missed the Chelsea game at the weekend.
The EFL will now consider the request, but it seems likely to be granted given the dialogue which continued during Tuesday, detailing the circumstances in which a formal request could be made.
It is understood Liverpool did have a player who wasn’t registered available under the league’s rules, but his fitness to play was in question, because of an extended absence from the first team picture.
Liverpool will now conduct ongoing tests on the rest of their squad in an attempt to contain the outbreak and prevent further infection, but the request for the postponement will mean that Sunday’s FA Cup tie with Shrewsbury is now also in doubt, though Firmino, Matip and Alisson could all be cleared to play by then.
The EFL confirmed it would now consider Liverpool’s request and study the evidence in relation to competition rules. A spokesperson said a decision would be reached as quickly as possible.
“We will look to confirm the League’s position as soon as possible once the circumstances have been fully reviewed,” the statement read.
“The League has this evening received a request from Liverpool FC to postpone Thursday’s Carabao Cup semi-final first leg versus Arsenal FC which will now be considered in accordance with the competition rules as set out at the start of the season alongside information submitted by the Club.”
Liverpool in their own statement explained they had taken the decision to act quickly with their request, to avoid the potential of a late postponement.
“Among the considerations which led to today’s application to the EFL is the need for travelling supporters to be given as much notice as possible of any potential postponement,” the club said.
With no prospect of the current situation improving ahead of Thursday’s fixture and the potential for it to worsen, the club considers it both prudent and reasonable to ask for the fixture to be rescheduled.”