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Messi among four PSG players with Covid, three more cases at Liverpool

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LONDON: Lionel Messi is isolating at home in Argen­tina after being among four Paris St Germain players announced on Sunday as testing positive for the coronavirus ahead of the team’s return to playing after a brief winter break.

PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino is uncertain when the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner will be able to return to France, or whether he can recover in time to play away to Olympique Lyonnais in Ligue 1 next Sunday.

Leading clubs across Europe, including Barcelona and Real Madrid, have been depleted by coronavirus infections reflecting a wider surging case numbers on the continent spurred by the omicron variant.

England has been the most affected as the Premier League has played on through the Christmas holidays amid a wave of postponements.

Liverpool announced three further coronavirus cases ahead of kickoff at Chelsea on Sunday with goalkeeper Alisson, forward Roberto Firmino and defender Joel Matip isolating. Manager Juergen Klopp had already entered isolation so missed the trip to London.

Brazil great Ronaldo tests positive

Brazilian World Cup-winner Ronaldo also tested positive on Sunday, forcing him to cancel his appearance at celebrations for the 101st anniversary of his first-ever team, Cruzeiro, the club said.

The 45-year-old ex-striker “is fine, with light symptoms, and will now undergo a period of rest and social isolation, in line with medical advice”, Cruzeiro, who Ronaldo bought last month, said on Twitter.

French clubs are back playing for the first time in one and half weeks, a break which allowed players to go home or on holiday.

Mauricio Pochettino’s options for Monday’s Coupe de France match at third-tier Vannes have also been depleted by left back Juan Bernat, backup goalkeeper Sergio Rico and midfielder Nathan Bitumazala contracting Covid-19.

It’s unclear whether the quartet, including Messi, will be fit to play again, although PSG have a 13-point lead at the top of the league standings.

“With regards to Leo, he’s in contact with our medical service,” Pochettino said. “I don’ t know if he’ll be able to play in Lyon. He tested positive in Argentina [and] until he’s negative, he won’t be able to travel to France.”

PSG resumed training earlier this week, raising the prospect of further infections in the squad. “It’s the risk everyone runs in football on a world scale,” Pochettino said. “Contact is unavoidable in football, it’s obvious that there are more risks. We’ve taken all the steps necessary to avoid a player transmitting the virus.”

Published in Dawn, January 3rd, 2022

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