Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola is concerned the March international break could result in another wave of coronavirus positives for Premier League clubs.

City can go 10 points clear at the Premier League summit with victory over Everton at Goodison Park on Wednesday - a rearranged fixture after the initially scheduled December encounter was postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak among Guardiola's squad.

Aston Villa also withdrew from action during the post-Christmas period and Newcastle United were affected similarly earlier in the season.

The Premier League responded by upping testing at clubs to twice a week and, in the most recent period returned, there were two positives from 2,970 players and club staff tested.

This represents a significant drop from 36 positives out of 2,593 tests between January 4-10 but Guardiola is wary of some of this good work being undone when his players and others begin travelling the globe again over the coming weeks.

City's Champions League last-16 trip to Borussia Monchengladbach has been switched to Budapest, with European games featuring Premier League counterparts Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea also switched from their original venues due to local COVID-19 protocols.

Asked whether the subsequent international matches next month will place members of his squad at risk, Guardiola replied: "Hopefully not but the only way to be protected from this virus is to stay at home and don’t move and social distance and no contact and don’t travel.

"Now the people are going to travel, the players are going to the national teams and it’s difficult after to control it, so I think something is going to rise unfortunately.

"I would love to say or to guess it's not going to happen but from experience it happened in two or three waves already worldwide, so if you move you take a risk to be contaminated, to get the virus again."

Earlier this month, FIFA granted clubs the right to refuse to release players called up to their national teams if there is a mandatory quarantine period of five days or more on their return.

For Premier League clubs - and significantly for City given the make-up of Guardiola's squad - this means players representing Portugal or South American nations can be held back because anyone returning from those countries will need to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days as they are on the UK's "red list".

Guardiola said there had been no discussions between clubs and federations to his knowledge and does not want the Premier League's handling of the pandemic to be undermined.

"I think the Premier League should be concerned about this, all the leagues [should be] concerned," he said.

"I know the national federations need to play, for the qualification, for the friendly games, for their preparation for the European Championship in summer time, this is normal.

"But the reason why there were a lot of cases in the Premier League and now there is no cases is because people don't move - home and training centre, game, home no more than this.

"The players are going to the national team, they know the situation. We'll tell them to be careful and after they go to the national team they are going to protect them as well."

City will try to extend a record-breaking run of 16 consecutive victories at Goodison Park. They will be without in-form midfielder Ilkay Gundogan (groin), although Kevin De Bruyne (hamstring) will travel with the squad after a month on the sidelines.

After the initial Everton postponement, Guardiola did not envisage City - or any other side - being able to put such a relentless run together.

"That’s true, everyone thought [the season] would be cancelled again," he added.

"Here in England in December and January, the cases rose amazingly but the Premier League and all the clubs, all the team managers and the protocols were so effective."

Joao Felix is back in contention for Atletico Madrid after being sidelined with coronavirus, Diego Simeone has confirmed.

It was confirmed Portugal international Joao Felix tested positive for the virus on February 3, forcing him to miss two games for LaLiga's leaders.

The first was a 2-2 draw at home to Celta Vigo, who netted a late equaliser, before Atleti beat Granada 2-1 in Andalusia on Saturday to stay five points clear at the summit with two games in hand on second-placed Real Madrid.

Moussa Dembele, Thomas Lemar and Hector Herrera were all confirmed as having the virus in the five days after Joao Felix's results were returned, but the situation has had minimal impact on the team's on-field performances.

Up next is a trip to Levante on Wednesday, before hosting Paco Lopez's men at the weekend, and that is followed by the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie with Chelsea.

Simeone is unsure if Joao Felix will feature on Wednesday but was glad to have him back.

"He has not had many symptoms that left him unable to train at home, so he was working with the coaches since the fourth day [of his absence]," Simeone told reporters.

"He is eager and enthusiastic, he is healthy. It's great to be able to count on him tomorrow, but we will decide tomorrow what to do with him."

Attention soon turned to Atletico's other key attacker this term, Luis Suarez, who has recently been the subject of reports claiming the Uruguayan has a clause in his contract that would allow him to leave on a free transfer at the end of the season.

Simeone seemed unimpressed he was even asked the question.

"Normally I don't talk about personal contracts," Simeone said.

"I talk about how to attack, how to play, but I don't interfere in personal matters."

France had their Six Nations plans disrupted by a positive COVID-19 test that sent the squad into self-isolation on Tuesday.

The French Rugby Federation (FFR) also said head coach Fabien Galthie would be retested amid concerns he may have coronavirus.

It was another figure from within the France camp, who was not named, that returned a positive result following testing on Monday.

Announcing that news, the FFR said on Tuesday: "Following the PCR tests carried out last night in Marcoussis with the France XV, all the players tested negative, a member of the technical staff tested positive, as well as a suspicious and unproven case concerning Fabien Galthie who will be tested again this morning.

"In accordance with health protocol, all members of the team and management were isolated this morning. Interactions are kept to a minimum.

"An additional test at the National Rugby Centre will be carried out on Wednesday morning for the entire squad."

The squad are due to disperse later this week to be allowed a short time at home between matches, with France, who have won their opening two games, not in action again until they face Scotland on February 28 in Paris.

They scored a fine 15-13 win over Ireland in Dublin on Sunday to follow up the opening 50-10 victory over Italy.

The FFR statement added: "Tests will be carried out at home on Friday, as well as on Sunday evening at the National Rugby Centre when the squad reunites.

"The announcement of the 31 players for the Scotland match will take place this Wednesday evening, February 17."

Elina Svitolina said playing behind closed doors at the Australian Open felt "a bit disturbing" after having fans in attendance earlier in the week.

The Ukrainian fifth seed booked her spot in the fourth round in Melbourne with a 6-4 6-0 victory over Yulia Putintseva on Saturday.

But no fans were in attendance on Margaret Court Arena as Victoria started a five-day lockdown due to coronavirus.

Svitolina, who will face Jessica Pegula in the last 16, said she felt the difference.

"It was very different conditions. I played a night match at 7:00 with a good crowd. Now it was completely different. It was for sure a bit disturbing, I would say, in some ways sad," she told a news conference.

"But it is what it is. I had to accept. I had to have a good mindset, not thinking too much about that. I just tried to focus on my game."

Svitolina reached the fourth round in Melbourne for the third time in four years after mixing 18 winners with 20 unforced errors.

But the 26-year-old said the lack of fans meant the third-round encounter felt like a practice match.

"It feels like that. I actually had few thoughts about it today. It feels like this. I tried to convince myself that it's a grand slam and that we are playing an important match. I have to focus on my match," Svitolina said.

"But for sure there's some thoughts and there is I say some low moments that can sneak into the mind. It's what we have to deal with. I'm trying my best to do it."

Fans were forced to leave Rod Laver Arena with Novak Djokovic's third-round match at the Australian Open still in progress. 

With Victoria entering a five-day lockdown from Saturday due to coronavirus concerns, spectators were told to leave Melbourne Park before 23:30 local time (12:30 GMT). 

Restrictions were coming into place in Victoria from 23:59 local time (12:59 GMT). 

Djokovic's clash against Taylor Fritz was the only match still in progress, although fans were informed to leave amid increasing drama. The world number one led by two sets to one but was struggling with a suspected abdominal injury in the fourth. 

There were boos when the announcement was made, with a message also displayed inside the arena. Play was briefly suspended as fans were moved out. 

No spectators will be allowed at the year's first grand slam for the next five days, although the tournament will continue. 

Naomi Osaka admitted it was "a bit funny" to be deemed an essential worker as the Australian Open goes on.

The year's first grand slam is set to continue without fans from Saturday as Victoria heads into a five-day lockdown amid coronavirus concerns.

Professional athletes have been deemed "essential workers", meaning the Australian Open can continue.

Osaka, who raced into the fourth round with a 6-3 6-2 victory over Ons Jabeur on Friday, said that seemed strange.

Asked how she felt about being described as an essential worker, the Japanese star told a news conference: "Well, I'm not really sure.

"That kind of seems a bit funny. But I don't know, I don't make the rules. I'm just here just trying to have fun."

Three-time grand slam champion Osaka will face Garbine Muguruza in a blockbuster fourth-round clash.

Serena Williams labelled Victoria's five-day lockdown "rough" as the Australian Open prepares to go behind closed doors amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Fans will not be allowed to attend Melbourne Park - where crowds have been capped at 30,000 per day - from 11:59pm (local time) on Friday until Wednesday after the Victorian government announced a new state-wide lockdown to control an outbreak of the UK COVID-19 strain.

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews made the announcement as Williams booked her spot in the fourth round of the Australian Open, where the 23-time grand slam champion overcame Anastasia Potapova 7-6 (7-5) 6-2.

"I didn't know at all until the match was over. I think it's good that I didn't know," seven-time Australian Open champion Williams told reporters when asked about the lockdown.

"It's rough. It's going to be a rough few days for I think everyone. But we'll hopefully get through it."

American superstar Williams added: "It's not ideal. It's been really fun to have the crowd back, especially here. It's been really cool.

"But, you know what, at the end of the day we have to do what's best. Hopefully it will be all right."

Williams - stuck on 23 majors since winning the 2017 Australian Open in pursuit of Margaret Court's all-time record of 24 - was pushed to the limit by Russian teenager Potapova but prevailed on Rod Laver Arena.

The 39-year-old Williams - who has played and won more matches than any other woman in the tournament's history - celebrated her 90th Australian Open victory in her 101st contest.

"It was good to get through that match," said former world number one Williams as seventh seed Aryna Sabalenka awaits in the last 16. "The first set was extremely tight. I was a little tight, but it worked out. Was able to play a little more free in the second set."

The Australian Open will continue without supporters after Victoria announced a five-day lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

This year's delayed Australian Open had started on Monday with a limited amount of fans - capped at 30,000 per day at Melbourne Park - due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The Victorian government announced a new lockdown on Friday to control an outbreak of the UK coronavirus strain, state premier Daniel Andrews said.

Victoria's new state-wide restrictions will be introduced from 11.59pm on Friday - with reigning men's champion Novak Djokovic still scheduled to close out the day - until Wednesday.

"Any number of other large and small professional sport events, they will function essentially as a workplace," Andrews told reporters. "But they will not function as an entertainment event, because there will be no crowds.

"And the workforce will be the minimum that is needed in order for that to be COVID-safe and safe in lots of other contexts."

In response, the Australian Open released a statement while tournament director Craig Tiley insisted the slam will continue.

"Tennis Australia continues to work with the government to ensure the health and safety of everyone," the Australian Open said in a statement.

"The Victorian government has announced a five day lockdown commencing at 11:59pm on Friday. Australian Open sessions today and tonight will continue as planned with COVIDSafe protocols in place.

"We are notifying ticketholders, players and staff that there will be no fans onsite at the AO for five days, commencing from Saturday 13 February.

"Full refunds will be available for anyone who has tickets for these sessions and they will be advised on how to apply as soon as possible.  

"The AO broadcast-only contingency plan will commence from Saturday 13 February until restrictions are lifted. Play will continue uninterrupted on the broadcast, albeit without spectators onsite."

The Australian Open was due to get underway in January, but the COVID-19 crisis forced the year's first slam to be pushed back until February.

The lead-in tournaments across the ATP and WTA Tours took place behind closed doors in Melbourne.

The Toronto Raptors will play the remainder of their 2020-21 home games at Tampa Bay's Amalie Arena due to ongoing coronavirus restrictions.

The Raptors – who won their first NBA Championship in 2019 – announced in November that they would be based in Tampa for the first half of the season, due to border restrictions and public safety measures in place between Canada and the United States amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the pandemic and such restrictions still ongoing, Toronto have now taken the decision to remain in Florida for the rest of the season.

"Florida has been really welcoming to us and we're so grateful for the hospitality we've found in Tampa and at Amalie – we're living in a city of champions, and we intend to carry on the tradition of winning for our new friends and fans here," Raptors president Masai Ujiri said, also referring to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' recent Super Bowl triumph.

"But home is where the heart is, and our hearts are in Toronto. We think often of our fans, of our Scotiabank Arena family, and all those we are missing back home, and we can't wait until we can all be together again."

The Raptors, along with the rest of the NBA teams, are set to find out their schedule for the second half of the season in the coming days.

Toronto are fifth in the Eastern Conference, with Nick Nurse's team having won five of their last six games.

The body in charge of France's football leagues has called for urgent government support to help the sport survive its financial crisis.

The Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) on Tuesday called for a meeting with authorities to establish an "emergency support plan" to safeguard the future of professional French clubs.

It said collective losses of more than €1billion meant "the survival of the professional football industry is at stake".

The stark warning came in the wake of the collapse of the television channel Telefoot Chaine, which broadcast for the final time last week.

Mediapro, which operated the channel, had struck a lucrative five-year deal with the LFP for Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 broadcast rights, but that agreement was cancelled in December after less than six months.

The LFP agreed a new deal with Canal Plus last week but, with the reduced broadcast earnings and the impact of behind-closed-doors matches during the coronavirus pandemic, it is forecasting overall revenue of €759.1m - almost €0.5billion less than had been budgeted by clubs for 2020-21.

"In this context, the measures already taken by the government for the current season last November have unfortunately turned out to be insufficient or inappropriate in terms of enabling the continuation of activity for the industry," the LFP said in a statement. "Especially since these announcements did not take into account the continuation of the closed-door matches in 2021.

"Consequently, the LFP requests an emergency meeting with the Ministry of the Economy, Finance and Recovery, and the Ministry of National Education, Youth and Sports to receive the leaders of the LFP and a delegation of clubs to build an emergency support plan.

"There is no question here of asking the state to compensate for the drop in TV rights, or the failure of Mediapro. On these issues, the clubs have already made great efforts to adapt to this major drop in income, both through salary negotiations with their players and through the reforms that the LFP is preparing to ensure its future. However, it is essential that the state participates in helping professional clubs and their shareholders to overcome the emergencies that the COVID-19 crisis has generated.

"The survival of the professional football industry is at stake, and above all of a cultural and economic heritage that cannot be allowed to go up in smoke today."

Thomas Lemar and Hector Herrera are the latest Atletico Madrid players to test positive for coronavirus.

Atletico confirmed last week that Joao Felix and new signing Moussa Dembele returned positive test results in consecutive days, ruling them out of Monday's LaLiga visit of Celta Vigo.

Now their midfield and attacking options have been further depleted, with Herrera and Lemar immediately beginning periods of isolation.

A club statement read: "Our players Hector Herrera and Thomas Lemar underwent antigen tests prior to the match against Celta Vigo according to the LaLiga protocol, giving a positive result for COVID-19, which was later confirmed with the relevant tests PCR.

"Both players remain isolated in their respective homes, strictly complying with the recommendations of the health authorities and LaLiga protocol."

Atletico did not provide any further information regarding their respective conditions.

Lemar and Herrera could miss as many as three games, with Atletico facing Celta, Granada and Levante in the next 10 days.

Kevin Durant will miss the Brooklyn Nets' clash with Eastern Conference leaders the Philadelphia 76ers due to the NBA's health and safety protocols.

Durant was in doubt for Saturday's showdown in Philadelphia following an unusual series of events on Friday.

The Nets star was named in the starting line-up to face the Toronto Raptors before being removed because of the league's health and safety protocols.

Durant was allowed to enter the game in the opening quarter, only to then exit in the third period – again due to coronavirus protocols – as the Nets lost 123-117.

Former MVP Durant finished with eight points, six rebounds and five assists in 19 minutes against the Raptors.

Prior to Saturday's matchup against the 76ers (16-7), Nets head coach Steve Nash said Durant is eligible to re-join the team on Friday.

Durant has been averaging 29.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game for the Nets (14-10) this season.

 

Steve Nash believes Kevin Durant will miss Saturday's clash against the Philadelphia 76ers, but the Brooklyn Nets head coach is unsure how long the star will be out.

In an unusual series of events, Durant was named in the Nets' starting lineup to face the Toronto Raptors on Friday before being removed due to the NBA's health and safety protocols.

But Durant was allowed to enter the game in the first quarter, only to then exit in the third – again due to coronavirus protocols – as the Nets fell 123-117.

Nash said he was unsure how long Durant, who missed three games in January due to the health and safety protocols, would be sidelined.

"I don't believe he'll come to Philly, but I don't think that necessarily they've decided," he told a news conference.

"It's just a contact-tracing procedure and it's to be determined how much time he'll have to miss, but we're just gathering information still at this point."

Durant finished with eight points, six rebounds and five assists in 19 minutes against the Raptors.

Nash admitted he got distracted by Durant's situation as the Nets slipped to 14-10.

"If I'm honest, I probably didn't handle it great, just trying to juggle all those balls, all that different information, what does it mean," he said.

"I probably got a little distracted about thinking what it means long-term for our team. We've already been playing guys a lot of minutes and if Kevin's not playing are we going to run the remaining guys too many minutes.

"Maybe I got a little bit distracted by the big picture but that's the way this year's going to be. We're going to be in and out of COVID situations and minute pile-ups and all the difficulties that we're going to face this year and it's going to be similar for everyone.

"We just have to try to adapt and be able to bounce back from little setbacks like this and unfortunately we couldn't bounce back to win the game, but we've got to be able to bounce back this next week and play well and keep getting better."

Kevin Durant left the Brooklyn Nets' clash against the Toronto Raptors in the third quarter due to the NBA's health and safety protocols.

Durant exited Friday's game after a strange sequence of events, which saw him come off the bench for the first time in his career.

The 2014 NBA MVP was initially named to start but was later removed from the lineup.

Durant was then cleared to enter the game late in the first quarter, with ESPN reporting he had gone through contact tracing.

But his outing ended in the third quarter, again due to COVID-19 protocols.

"Free me," Durant tweeted.

Durant had eight points, six rebounds and five assists in his 19 minutes on the court.

"It's tough to lose Kevin Durant twice in one night," Nets head coach Steve Nash told ESPN.

"It wasn't easy but we've got to be adaptable, this is the type of season it's going to be, we have a lot going on in our world. We've got a lot of guys who can step up."

Kevin Durant came off the bench for the first time in his NBA career after missing the start of the Brooklyn Nets' clash against the Toronto Raptors due to health and safety protocols.

Durant was initially named to start on Friday, but was later removed from the lineup due to the protocols.

ESPN reported the 2014 NBA MVP was going through contact tracing, and Durant ended up entering the game late in the first quarter.

After 866 NBA starts, it marked the first time he had come off the bench.

The Nets trailed 34-23 after the first quarter against the Raptors.

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