Expectations continue to grow over the prospective return of the Premier League before the first of two key meetings this week.
The clubs are to meet via video conference on Wednesday morning having taken soundings from players and coaching staff, who were briefed on a return to contact training by the league in a pair of short meetings on Tuesday. The likelihood is that a vote to enable “stage two” training will pass easily at the meeting of shareholder clubs, with players then able to tackle and practise in small-side games from the following day.
A quick return to contact training will help address one of the remaining concerns of coaching staff: ensuring there is sufficient time for players to get match-fit – and reduce the risk of injury – before a return to competition in June.
The most likely dates for a restart are either the 19 or 26 of June, but every week that the season continues beyond 16 July will cost the competition roughly £36m in rebates to broadcasters such as Sky and BT, an issue that is to be the subject of a further meeting on Thursday.
Another round of testing was performed on players and staff on Tuesday, with results expected on Thursday. Among those to have taken a test is Watford’s Adrian Mariappa. The defender was one of six players and staff to fail the first round of Covid-19 tests last week but, having served a seven-day isolation period, he would be fit to resume training should he get the all clear.
Watford last week had three failed tests, the other two from staff members, one of whom had come into contact with a further two players, who had then to isolate in turn. The captain, Troy Deeney, also withdrew from training, alongside several other players but it is understood some of those to sit out have now returned.
One of the two Premier League players to test positive in a second round of testing was the Bournemouth goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale. The 22-year-old said he was unsure how he had contracted the virus, but in a statement Bournemouth insisted their training ground remained safe.
“Following strict adherence of the Premier League’s return to training regulations,” the statement read, “the club’s training ground remains a safe working environment for players and backroom staff, who will continue to be tested for Covid-19 twice per week.”