Jose Mourinho warned Tottenham would be left in an "impossible situation" if their game at Aston Villa is postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak and called on the Premier League to show "leadership".

Villa are expected to field a young side in the FA Cup third-round tie against Liverpool on Friday, as a large number of first-team players and staff tested positive for coronavirus this week.

Spurs already had a derby at Fulham called off on December 30 after the Cottagers were hit by the virus and a scheduled trip to Villa Park next Wednesday is now in doubt.

Tottenham will also face Manchester City at a later date of April 25 due to the pandemic and given they are fighting for honours on four fronts, Mourinho suggested they would refuse to accept any more postponements.

Speaking ahead of Sunday's FA Cup tie at Marine, he said: "I believe that is a completely impossible situation for a club to have three matches postponed, especially if that club plays in Europe. If that club doesn't play in Europe, of course there are the UEFA fixtures.

"For a Europa League team to have three matches postponed is impossible. Completely impossible. That's the only thing that I can say."

Asked about the prospect of facing Fulham instead of Villa, he added: "I don't know. It's not for me to find solutions. I'm not going to lie to you, I've been doing that hypothetical exercise with my staff.

"Of course, we have no influence and we don't want to have influence. The only thing that we can say is that what we did in the beginning of the season is impossible to repeat and we refuse to repeat.

"We have to defend our players, the integrity of our competitions and we would never accept to play seven matches in three weeks like we did before. One thing is [the] beginning [of the season], another thing is mid-season.

"And also because of the difficulties and demands of the matches. One thing is to play with all the risks, the Europa League play-offs, another thing is to play Europa League knockout where all the best teams are there.

"We cannot be put in an impossible situation. To have three matches postponed... it is the moment for the Premier League to show leadership, make decisions, that of course a club like us, is trying every day to be ready to play, to follow the rules that we had in our hands.

"We cannot be punished. If we don't play against Aston Villa, we will have three matches postponed and that is impossible. Because after the season we have the Euros, and of course the matches cannot be moved."

Mourinho revealed Gareth Bale trained on Friday and could travel to eighth-tier minnows Marine, while Jack Clarke and Harvey White will be in the squad.

Mikel Arteta knows how he wants to improve Arsenal's squad this month but warned the transfer market is "very complicated" in the current climate.

Julian Brandt is among the reported targets for the Gunners during the January window, although Borussia Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc insisted there had been "no offers at all" for the midfielder.

Arsenal boss Arteta this week revealed Mesut Ozil could be on the move after DC United and Fenerbahce were linked with the out-of-favour playmaker.

The London club allowed Sead Kolasinac to return to Schalke, but there has been very little transfer activity just over a week since the window opened.

Arteta would like to do get his business done early in the window, but in a week that saw Arsenal take a short-term £120million Bank of England loan due to the impact of the coronavirus crisis, the Spaniard is being realistic with his expectations.

Asked about the prospect of making early signings, he said ahead of the FA Cup third round tie with Newcastle United on Saturday: "I don't know. At the moment the market is really complicated and the situation around every club is not easy.

"To get the negotiations going it's not easy, it makes it harder because you can't be face-to-face and you cannot travel to another country to make that happen, it has to be on the phone or Zoom.

"It can go either way. I can tell you what I would like, with the players out and in sorted, but I think it's really complicated."

Arteta says it is important to understand that players may want to move on due to the pandemic.

He added: "It's affecting everything. It's affecting things transfers financially, it's also affecting some players who are here and they are stuck here for a year and realise 'I need to go back home, I need my family to be happy, to be next to me'.

"It's a bit of a mixture, but players are experiencing different feelings that probably are new to them and that's why I keep insisting this virus is about mental health as well as how you are feeling physically. Mental health is a big, big thing that we have to pay more attention to."

One player who has arrived at Arsenal is 19-year-old defender Omar Rekik, who joins the under-23 squad from Hertha Berlin.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Dick Pound is uncertain whether the Tokyo Games will be able to go ahead.

After the Olympics were postponed in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic, they have been rescheduled for this year, with events due to run in Japan's capital from July 23 to August 8.

However, COVID-19 has continued to surge globally with new variants of the virus forcing multiple countries back into lockdown situations.

The outcome of the debate about whether athletes are given priority access to vaccinations, which have just begun to be rolled out in major nations, could prove decisive.

"I can't be certain because the ongoing elephant in the room would be the surges in the virus," Pound said, per BBC Sport, about whether the Games would go ahead.

The comments from Pound came as Japan declared a one-month state of emergency for Tokyo and surrounding regions.

"The situation has become increasingly troubling nationwide and we have a strong sense of crisis," said Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who had recently vowed to hold a "safe and secure" Olympics.

Pound, who is the longest-serving member of the committee, added the vaccine debate might be different in each competing nation.

He said to Sky News: "It is a decision for each country to make and there will be people saying they [athletes] are jumping the queue [for a vaccine].

"But I think that is the most realistic way of it going ahead.

"In Canada, where we might have 300 or 400 athletes, to take 300 or 400 vaccines out of several million in order to have Canada represented at an international event of this stature, character and level – I don't think there would be any kind of a public outcry about that.

"Athletes are important role models, and by taking the vaccine they can send a powerful message that vaccination is not only about personal health, but also about solidarity and consideration for the wellbeing of others in their communities."

Kevin Durant could return for the Brooklyn Nets against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday, head coach Steve Nash said.

Durant missed Tuesday's win over the Utah Jazz and was expected to be absent for another three games after reportedly being exposed to someone who tested positive for coronavirus.

But the star may return early, although he will still miss the Nets' next two games – including Thursday's clash against the Philadelphia 76ers.

"I think Kevin's situation is that if he continues to test negative he can play Sunday," Nash told a news conference.

"That's all I have on that, but can't wait for Sunday to come."

The Nets will also be without another star, Kyrie Irving, against the 76ers due to personal reasons.

"I just found out. I just sent him a message in the last half hour and I haven't heard back yet," Nash said.

"But obviously thinking about him and hope all is well. It's a private matter."

Durant is averaging 28.2 points, seven rebounds and 4.8 assists per game for the Nets (4-4) this season.

Irving, meanwhile, is averaging 27.1 points, 6.1 assists and 5.3 rebounds.

Jurgen Klopp says he has no problem with Liverpool not dipping into the transfer market in January as owners Fenway Sports Group are only acting in the best interests of the club. 

The Premier League champions have been badly depleted this season, particularly in the heart of their defence with Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez long-term absentees and Joel Matip struggling to stay fit. 

Klopp is unlikely to add to his squad during the mid-season window, but the Reds boss understands it is difficult to do business at this time even without the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Liverpool boss insists he is on the same page as club ownership, no matter the key absences that could undermine their push for trophies. 

"In good times everyone thinks our owners are really generous – 'My God, big signings, whatever’ – and in bad times everyone thinks they are really tight – maybe because they are from a different country – but they are not, they are absolutely concerned about the club and success of the club," Klopp said. 

"And that is an understanding how we have it. They see exactly the same things I see about necessity of players and stuff – it's not that I say 'By the way a centre-half would be really nice’ and they say, 'Wow, a centre-half. Really? Why?' 

"It is all clear, all on the table, we work on that. It is the situation and on top of that we have January, not the easiest transfer window, having not the money exactly like we want. 

"It is a window where other clubs say, 'No, we have enough [money] to survive' so we don't do anything on our targets. 

"It is nothing to do with worrying [about whether it will impact their chances of winning trophies] or not. These are the facts.

"My job is to deal with the circumstances which I always do. If the world would be in a completely normal place, we would try everything to do the right stuff now but the world is not in a normal place so I don't know why we constantly try to treat the football like it is independent of other issues around."

Liverpool are due to be in FA Cup action on Friday, though their tie with Aston Villa is in doubt due to a coronavirus outbreak in their opponents' camp.

Villa announced on Friday they had closed their training ground as a consequence, while the Football Association will make a decision on whether the game goes ahead following further testing.

The Football Association (FA) is still hopeful Aston Villa's meeting with Liverpool can go ahead as planned on Friday, with a final decision to be made after further coronavirus testing.

Villa announced on Thursday they had closed their Bodymoor Heath training ground after "a significant coronavirus outbreak" at the club, with first-team training cancelled after players and staff returned positive results.

Their FA Cup third-round clash with Premier League leaders Liverpool was consequently thrown into doubt, though it is hoped the fixture will not have to be postponed.

An FA statement read: "The Football Association and Aston Villa are working closely together to try to ensure that the club's FA Cup third round proper fixture with Liverpool can go ahead as planned at Villa Park.

"Final confirmation will be made tomorrow pending the results of additional COVID-19 testing."

It was announced earlier on Thursday that the third-round clash between Shrewsbury Town and Southampton would not go ahead on Saturday after "several" members of the League One side returned positive coronavirus results.

Derby County this week revealed they will select a side made up of Under-18 and Under-23 players for their tie at non-league Chorley on Saturday, with interim boss Wayne Rooney and his first-team squad staying at home following a coronavirus outbreak at the Championship club.

Aston Villa closed their training ground on the eve of Friday's FA Cup third-round clash with Liverpool due to a "significant" coronavirus outbreak.

Villa on Thursday revealed a large number of first-team players and staff are isolating after testing positive for COVID-19 this week.

The first team did not train the day before they are due to face Premier League champions Liverpool at Villa Park and talks are being held over the scheduling of the tie.

"Aston Villa can confirm that the club has closed its Bodymoor Heath training ground after a significant coronavirus outbreak," a club statement said.

"A large number of first team players and staff returned positive tests after being routinely tested on Monday and immediately went into isolation.

"A second round of testing was carried out immediately and produced more positive results today.

"First team training ahead of tomorrow's FA Cup match with Liverpool was cancelled.

"Discussions are ongoing between medical representatives of the club, the Football Association and the Premier League."

Hansi Flick has ruled out Bayern Munich making any major signings in the January transfer window.

The head coach said on Thursday there was a chance of "one or two" players leaving the European champions.

But in terms of arrivals, Flick said it was important he did not press the club to bring in new faces during a "very difficult" period.

Like all clubs, Bayern's finances have taken a hit, largely because of the absence of supporters from stadiums during the COVID-19 crisis.

"Let me be very clear about this: the current situation affects all clubs in the world," Flick said.

"It's not an easy situation with corona. I'd like to be clear: I don't want to demand new players. I know the situation at Bayern Munich; I know it's very difficult at the moment.

"The squad we have here at our disposal is the squad we'll have until the end of the season.

"I'm not sure if one or two might still transfer. There are certain things that have been talked about, but currently we have very good quality in our squad and I don't think our goals are in jeopardy."

Speaking ahead of Friday's Bundesliga trip to face Borussia Monchengladbach, Flick claimed leaders Bayern "still have room for improvement".

"The team knows it and every single player knows it," Flick said.

Scoring 44 goals in 14 league games has pleased Flick but shipping 21 at this early stage of the campaign is a concern.

"We have to work on that," he said. "It's not about the defence in particular. It's conceding no goals, keeping clean sheets, defending.

"In order to do that you have to have a compact defence and order and organisation with which you pressure the opponent and that's what we have to improve on."

Flick was asked whether Joshua Zirkzee may be on the move, with the 19-year-old on the fringes of the Bayern squad.

He responded: "At the moment I am not aware of any departures, but everything can always go quickly.

"Zirkzee has tremendous qualities and can develop well. He was out of training for a few weeks. He will get games, also with the under-23s. He can take a lot from the professionals, but then he has to show what he can do with the under-23s and put himself at the service of the team. He is good in front of goal, has strong technique and good dynamics."

Bayern have a doubt over Serge Gnabry for the Gladbach game after he was substituted with a knock in the 5-2 win over Mainz on Sunday, Flick saying the forward is "still in pain".

Barcelona have ratified January 24 as the date for their presidential elections despite calls for it to be postponed amid rising cases of coronavirus.

The region of Catalonia has recently imposed new restrictions in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19 infections, with certain rules tightened for 10 days as of January 7.

While that does not interfere with the previously agreed date for the election, there had been increasing calls for it to be postponed due to fears certain members would not be able to vote as a result.

Former Barca vice-president Jordi Cardoner was among those in favour of issuing a delay, suggesting in an interview with Sport that to not postpone the election would be to show "a lack of respect and an attack on the health of our members".

But Barca confirmed on Thursday that the date of January 24 and "all procedures" have been accepted by the local authorities.

As part of a statement, Barca confirmed: "The board has also ratified January 24 as the date for the elections and that all procedures have been accepted by the Generalitat de Catalunya, in liaison with the Ministries for Health, the Interior, Sport and Procedure.

"All efforts have been made to ensure that the pre-candidates can collect support slips under the best possible conditions and with as much time as available."

The PFA has urged its members to remember the "vital importance" of following coronavirus and club protocols as the United Kingdom enters a third period of national lockdown.

On Monday, the UK government confirmed England would be placed under strict restrictions as COVID-19 infection rates and deaths continue to rise.

Though vaccines are starting to be rolled out to vulnerable groups, the UK recorded 62,322 new cases and 1,041 deaths on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the Premier League confirmed that 40 players and staff members – a new high – had tested positive for the virus over the most recent two rounds of testing, up from 18 the previous week.

Three matches in England's top flight were postponed over the festive period, while a number of EFL games have also been unable to take place.

With elite sport allowed to continue despite the new lockdown regulations, the Premier League has insisted it has full faith in its protocols, while the EFL announced on Wednesday it would introduce a twice-weekly testing regime, starting from January 11.

However, amid the rise in cases and deaths, there have been high-profile examples of players breaking coronavirus rules over recent weeks.

Manchester City, who have been hit by an outbreak within their squad, launched an investigation into reports of Benjamin Mendy hosting a party on New Year's Eve that included guests from outside his household.

Meanwhile, Tottenham head coach Jose Mourinho was disappointed to learn of a Christmas gathering which saw Sergio Reguilon, Erik Lamela and Giovani Lo Celso breach regulations, with West Ham's Manuel Lanzini also in attendance.

The PFA has released a statement, which read: "Following the announcement of a third national lockdown, the PFA would like to reinforce the message that players must follow the current COVID-19 rules and club protocols as a matter of vital importance.

"In a close-knit football environment, the ramifications of any rule breaches are potentially hugely damaging for fellow players, clubs and the game as a whole.

"It is a testament to the hard work of everyone involved that the vast majority of matches have gone ahead as scheduled and the risks to players, staff and their families have been well managed and kept to a minimum.

"Although prospects are brighter due to the vaccine's imminent rollout, players must continue to take the lead and act responsibly and professionally.

"Between now and the end of the season, we ask that you continue to take personal responsibility and follow the lockdown rules, without exception.

"Throughout the pandemic, we have seen that players have a unique position to inspire and influence society positively.

"Your compliance with the national restrictions sets the right example to millions of fans and young people. Following the rules is also the best way to protect your loved ones, your colleagues and their families from harm."

Olympic athletes should be among those prioritised for a coronavirus vaccine so that the Tokyo Games can go ahead, according to International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Dick Pound. 

The rescheduled Games are set to get under way on July 23, a whole calendar year after the original starting date, despite concerns over rising COVID-19 cases in host country Japan.  

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will decide on Thursday whether to implement a new state of emergency in Tokyo amid growing calls to take action, which could again put the Olympics in jeopardy. 

IOC chief Pound, the organisation's longest-serving member, believes the best way of ensuring it goes ahead is to vaccinate all athletes beforehand.

"In Canada where we might have 300 or 400 athletes - to take 300 or 400 vaccines out of several million in order to have Canada represented at an international event of this stature, character and level - I don't think there would be any kind of a public outcry about that," Pound told Sky News. 

"It's a decision for each country to make and there will be people saying they are jumping the queue but I think that is the most realistic way of it going ahead." 

Costs for the Olympics have already increased by $2.8billion (£2.1bn) due to measures being put in place to stop the spread of coronavirus.

 

England's Test squad has been cleared to begin training ahead of next week's series opener with Sri Lanka after being retested for coronavirus.

Joe Root's travelling party had been isolating in their hotel rooms after all-rounder Moeen Ali returned a positive result from PCR tests taken upon arrival at the airport in Hambantota on Sunday.

Moeen will continue to observe a 10-day quarantine period, while team-mate Chris Woakes will isolate for a minimum of seven days after being deemed a possible close contact.

However, the latest round of results show Moeen to be the only positive case and the rest of the squad can begin restricted training on Wednesday. 

"All PCR tests from yesterday are negative, except for Moeen Ali, and we can start controlled training this afternoon," an ECB spokesman said.

"Close contact Chris Woakes tested negative but will continue to isolate in his room."

England's two-match series with Sri Lanka gets under way in Galle on January 14.

Milan pair Ante Rebic and Rade Krunic have tested positive for coronavirus ahead of Wednesday's Serie A meeting with Juventus.

Both players are asymptomatic and have begun a period of self-isolation at home, Milan confirmed on their official website.

The news comes on the back of Juve announcing that full-backs Alex Sandro and Juan Cuadrado had contracted COVID-19, also ruling them out of the crunch clash at San Siro.

Rebic has featured 14 times for Milan in all competitions this season, while Krunic has been used on 20 occasions.

The pair have appeared together in eight Serie A matches this season, Milan winning each of those games. On the seven occasions they have not featured, meanwhile, the Rossoneri's win rate drops from 100 per cent to 43.

Serie A leaders Milan are already without injured quartet Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Alexis Saelemaekers, Ismael Bennacer and Matteo Gabbia, while Sandro Tonali is suspended.

The club said in a statement: "AC Milan announces that Ante Rebic and Rade Krunic tested positive for a molecular swab carried out yesterday in anticipation of the match against Juventus.

"The players, asymptomatic, remained in isolation at home where a second control swab was taken today. The health authorities were promptly informed.

"All members of the team group underwent a further test today with negative results."

Speaking on Tuesday, doctor Roberto Testi, the director of the Department of Prevention at the Turin ASL, warned the high-profile contest may be called off if Juve report further positive tests on the day of the game.

"If there should be more positive tests and the evidence of an uncontrolled breakout within the squad, that would become a problem of safety for the other players," he told Corriere della Sera.

"Clearly, at that point, the ASL would be forced to intervene, isolating everyone and blocking Juve's departure towards Milan."

Milan enter the game 10 points better off than reigning champions Juventus having played a game more.

Stefano Pioli's men won the most recent encounter between the sides 4-2 last July and are seeking successive league wins in this fixture for the first time since 2010.

It will mark the first time Milan have faced Juve sitting ahead of their rivals in the table since November 2015, when losing 1-0 through a Paulo Dybala goal. 

Alex Morgan and her family are fighting back after catching COVID-19 in California over the festive season, the United States women's football superstar has revealed.

The 31-year-old, twice a Women's World Cup winner, left Tottenham last month after a three-month playing spell in England.

Although London has become a coronavirus hot spot, Morgan says she was back in the USA when the virus struck.

She wrote on Twitter: "Unfortunately, my family and I closed out 2020 learning that we had contracted Covid while in California over the holidays.

"We are all in good spirits and recovering well. After our isolation is completed, I will follow US Soccer's return to play guidelines to ensure my body is fully recovered and I can join my team-mates back on the field soon. Be safe and happy new year."

Morgan is married to former LA Galaxy and Orlando City footballer Servando Carrasco, and they celebrated a sixth wedding anniversary on December 31. Their first child was born last May.

The USWNT great signed for Spurs in September, having not played since August 2019 due to pregnancy and the disruption caused by the pandemic.

She made five appearances for Spurs in all competitions, scoring two goals. Morgan is a two-time Women's World Cup winner and has scored 107 goals in 170 appearances for the USA.

Morgan is expected to resume her club career with the Orlando Pride in the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL), ahead of playing at the Tokyo Olympics.

Orlando retained the 31-year-old forward's NWSL rights when she made the short-term move to Tottenham.

Formula One rising star Lando Norris has tested positive for COVID-19 while holidaying in Dubai.

The McLaren driver, who had a first career podium among seven top-six finishes last season, said he was largely asymptomatic but had lost his sense of taste and smell.

Norris, 21, was taking a break in the United Arab Emirates and will be confined to his hotel room for two weeks as a result.

On Tuesday, he wrote in a message posted to Twitter: "Hi everyone, hope you are all keeping well. Yesterday I lost my sense of taste and smell so immediately self isolated [sic] and took a test.

“It's come back as positive, so I've told everyone that I’ve been in contact with and will be self isolating for the next 14 days.

“I feel alright and have no other symptoms but I just wanted to let you all know. Take care.”

McLaren confirmed the positive, saying it came before Norris was due to join the team for pre-season preparations.

The team said in a statement: "McLaren can confirm that Lando Norris tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday in Dubai, where he is currently on holiday ahead of a planned training camp."

The 2021 Formula One season is scheduled to start in Australia with a March 21 race; however, reports have indicated that grand prix is likely to be pushed back until later in the year due to Melbourne's quarantine restrictions.

That would mean the campaign getting under way a week later in Bahrain, with pre-season testing switching to Bahrain from Barcelona also reported to be a possibility.

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