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The Premier League is battling a major COVID-19 outbreak across the United Kingdom, one which has already compelled it to postpone 10 games in a week. Though the majority of Premier League matches will not be played this weekend, Chelsea, who have had seven cases within their first team, were instructed to proceed with their match against Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Top-flight clubs will meet on Monday to assess next steps ahead of what is traditionally the busiest period in the English footballing calendar, the run of festive fixtures that begins on December 26. While some, including Brentford manager Thomas Frank, have called for a brief shutdown of fixtures, the league and many clubs are determined to fit in whatever fixtures they can rather than bide their time when the situation could potentially escalate.

It was a view laid out by Jurgen Klopp, who said: "I don't see the massive benefit of it [stopping the Premier League] because we come back [and] it is still the same. If the virus will be gone then I am the first that stops and goes home and waits until it is gone. But that is probably not the case, so where's the real benefit of it? We hope we can play and Tottenham can play on Sunday."

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Before next week's meeting six Premier League matches have been taken off the docket this weekend:

Postponed Premier League matches

1. Manchester United vs. Brighton

Initial date and time: Saturday, Dec. 18, 7:30 a.m. ET

Postponed fixtures so far: Manchester United and Brighton have now both had two games delayed The former had been due to play Brentford on Tuesday night while Brighton's game with Tottenham last Sunday was the first of the 2020-21 season to be postponed due to COVID-19.

What do we know about the clubs' status: United have closed their training ground "for a short period" with the Premier League noting that Ralf Rangnick would have been unable to field a full squad had the match taken place.

Brighton have instructed any staff who can work from home to do so, scaling back operations at the Amex Stadium and their training ground. The Seagulls were without three players due to COVID-19 in their 1-0 loss to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Wednesday night.

Manchester United's schedule: Newcastle (a) Dec. 27, Burnley (h) Dec. 30, Wolves (h) Jan. 3

Brighton's schedule: Brentford (h) Dec. 26, Chelsea (a) Dec. 29, Everton (a) Jan. 2

2. Southampton vs. Brentford

Initial date and time: Saturday, Dec. 18, 10 a.m. ET

Postponed fixtures so far: Brentford's game at home to Manchester United on Tuesday was postponed less than 24 hours before kickoff. Southampton have played the full 17 fixtures they are scheduled for so far.

What do we know about the clubs' status: Ralph Hasenhuttl confirmed on Friday that "nearly 100 per cent" of the Southampton squad has been vaccinated and that there are no cases currently in his first team. His Brentford counterpart Thomas Frank led calls for a temporary postponement of games in England until Boxing Day. "We think we should postpone the full round of Premier League games this weekend," he said in a Thursday morning press conference in which he was informed that the number of cases at Brentford had risen from nine to 13.

"Covid cases are going through the roof at all Premier League clubs, everyone is dealing with it and having problems. To postpone this round and also the Carabao Cup round would give everyone a week at least, or four or five days to clean and do everything at the training ground so everything is clean and you break the chain."

Southampton's schedule: West Ham (a) Dec. 26, Tottenham (h) Dec. 28, Newcastle (h) Jan. 2

Brentford's schedule: Brighton (a) Dec. 26, Manchester City (h) Dec. 29, Aston Villa (h) Jan. 2

3. Watford vs. Crystal Palace

Initial date and time: Saturday, Dec. 18, 10 a.m. ET

Postponed fixtures so far: Watford's home match with Burnley was dramatically postponed just two and a half hours before kick off after an outbreak within the Hornets squad. Crystal Palace have played their full compliment of 17 games.

What do we know about the clubs' status: The Premier League stated that Watford have "an insufficient number of players available to fulfil their match" with their London Colney training ground closed as a result of the outbreak. The Hornets did not provide any further details on the outbreak nor how many players have been impacted.

Watford's schedule: Wolves (a) Dec. 26, West Ham (h) Dec. 28, Tottenham (h) Jan. 1

Crystal Palace's schedule: Tottenham (a) Dec. 26, Norwich (h) Dec. 28, West Ham (h) Jan. 1

4. West Ham vs. Norwich City

Initial date and time: Saturday, Dec. 18, 10 a.m. ET

Postponed fixtures so far: Both West Ham and Norwich have made it this far in the season without having a fixture postponed.

What do we know about the clubs' status: The Premier League's statement on Norwich appeared to be the most significant of the four reasons for games to be cancelled, specifically noting the combination of "COVID-19, injuries and other illnesses" that left them unable to fulfil the game. The league's handbook does not state a minimum number of players required to fulfil a fixture though it is understood to be 14 including one goalkeeper. Thursday's statement would appear to indicate that Dean Smith's side fell short of that number.

West Ham were clear of COVID-19 cases in their first team prior to Wednesday's game against Arsenal.

West Ham's schedule: Southampton (h) Dec. 26, Watford (a) Dec. 28, Crystal Palace (a) Jan. 1

Norwich's schedule: Arsenal (h) Dec. 26, Crystal Palace (a) Dec. 28, Leicester (a) Jan. 1

5. Everton vs. Leicester City

Initial date and time: Sunday, Dec. 19, 10 a.m. ET

Postponed fixtures so far: Everton have completed their full compliment of games but Leicester's match at home to Spurs on Thursday was postponed.

What do we know about the clubs' status: Leicester, who have closed their training ground, were scheduled to play their match against Spurs until midday yesterday when further positive tests in the Foxes' camp were revealed. Their manager Brendan Rodgers had noted that his side were struggling to find numbers to play the game due not only to COVID-19 but injuries brought on by overplaying those who were available.

Everton had sufficient players to play out a 1-1 draw with Chelsea on Thursday though Rafael Benitez's squad were certainly worse for wear due to injuries.

Everton's schedule: Burnley (a) Dec. 26, Newcastle (h) Dec. 30, Brighton (h) Jan. 2

Leicester's schedule: Man City (a) Dec. 26, Liverpool (h) Dec. 28, Norwich (h) Jan. 1

6. Aston Villa vs. Burnley

Initial date and time: Saturday, Dec. 18, 10 a.m. ET

Postponed fixtures so far: This is the second match Burnley has had called off in dramatic fashion after Wednesday Dec. 15's match vs. Watford was also called off at the last minute. They had also had a November 28th match vs. Tottenham suspended due to weather. Villa had managed to play all their scheduled games until this point.

What do we know about the clubs' status: Initially slated to be played, this match was called off at the last minute on Saturday morning after Aston Villa reported an increased number of positive tests within the playing squad. 

Aston Villa's schedule: Chelsea (h) Dec. 26, Leeds (a) Dec. 28, Brentford (a) Jan. 2

Burnley's schedule: Everton (h) Dec. 26, Manchester United (a) Dec. 30, Leeds (a) Jan.2 

The fixtures that are still on

Five Premier League matches will take place this weekend albeit not free from the impact of COVID-19. Chelsea were without four senior players due to the virus for their game against Everton on Thursday with the injured Ben Chilwell also testing positive. They have had two further positive tests, however they were told that their match against Wolves should go ahead as scheduled.

"I am worried from a medical point of view, we have had four days of consecutive tests," said Thomas Tuchel. "How will it stop if we are in a bus together and in meetings? We are disappointed, we are a bit angry."

Liverpool announced positive results for Fabinho, Curtis Jones and Virgil van Dijk before their win against Newcastle but Klopp says his side want to fulfil their game against Spurs, who have played three matches fewer than many others in the league.

Saturday, Dec. 18
Leeds 1, Arsenal 4

Sunday, Dec. 19
Wolves vs. Chelsea, 9 a.m. ET
Newcastle vs. Manchester City, 9 a.m. ET
Tottenham vs. Liverpool, 11:30 a.m. ET

What comes next?

Clubs are expected to meet on Monday to map out their next steps with the league and many clubs keen to play whatever games they can over the festive period. However others are prepared to consider a break running up to the third round of FA Cup matches, scheduled from January 7-10, a so-called "firebreak" that would presumably allow players to isolate and ride out the current storm.

How feasible that is is not clear. The COVID-19 wave hitting the Premier League is merely reflective of a similar trend in the United Kingdom, where the Omicron variant has led to record positive tests. 

Clarification of rules around postponements will also be near the top of the agenda with Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta demanding clarity over the specific requirements that would lead to a game being taken off the fixture list. His side had four positive cases before the season's opening game against Brentford but were told by the Premier League that any request to call the match off would be denied.

"We need much more clarity about why those games are not being played and what you need to not play a game, so we are playing in the same league. At the end the most important thing is that we are able to maintain within the context the fairness of the competition and for me this is a big thing now."

Currently the league assesses any postponement request on a case-by-case basis, factoring in whether the outbreak is safely contained or could be at risk of spreading further, perhaps even beyond the requesting club.

The Premier League will face enough of a challenge simply rescheduling all the matches that have already been taken off the fixture list. Domestic cup competitions and European fixtures mean there are only two free midweeks between now and the end of the season, spaces usually occupied by teams involved in UEFA competitions who need to make up matches.

There are also concerns among clubs at players travelling in the coming weeks first for the Africa Cup of Nations and then for World Cup qualifiers taking place in North America, South America and Asia. With UEFA Nations League matches due to take place a week after the Champions League final on May 28 (six days after the final round of Premier League games) there is precious little space for the English game to overrun into.