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Managers and players meeting to discuss Premier League Covid issues

Premier League managers and players will meet on Thursday to thrash out a host of coronavirus issues, the PA news agency understands.

Rising Covid-19 cases across the league have seen nine of the last 20 matches in England’s top flight postponed, with other matches only going ahead with depleted squads.

Premier League clubs opted on Monday to continue with the hectic Christmas schedule, while the Carabao Cup quarter-finals were completed on Wednesday.

England’s top managers and players will look at ways to cope with the increasing toll of the Omicron variant, while also bidding to keep the Premier League show on the road.

Replays have already been scrapped for the FA Cup third and fourth rounds to help ease fixture congestion, but Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp would prefer the League Cup semi-final to be one-legged instead of two.

Aston Villa boss Steven Gerrard revealed the extent of Covid-19 anxiety among his players on Wednesday, while Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson said players’ welfare is not taken seriously enough in England.

Liverpool joined Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham in reaching the League Cup semi-finals, courtesy of Wednesday’s 5-4 penalty shoot-out win over Leicester.

And boss Klopp immediately admitted his preference for just one leg in the competition’s last four.

“I think it would be better with one game, absolutely, but obviously what I say is not too important,” said Klopp.

“If there are two games then we will play two games. But it would be helpful if there was only one, true.”

Villa manager Gerrard revealed the scale of continued concerns over coronavirus among Premier League players.

The Birmingham club are due to host Chelsea on Boxing Day and travel to Leeds two days later.

“We had a situation at the weekend where one of the players was reluctant to get out of his car because he had some symptoms and he’s got a young family, and you can totally understand his view in his situation,” Gerrard said.

“This is a guy who’s got a young family, it is Christmas time, and that’s the situation everyone is in.

“No-one wants to get this virus. Everyone wants to protect their own families. This is our job and your priority is always going to be your family, of course it is.

“Thankfully he was tested after and he didn’t have a situation, but that player would not have been available for me on the day, and these are the little situations that people don’t see.

“We’ve got a major responsibility to listen to the players and deal with every situation as it comes your way.”

Liverpool captain Henderson insisted football authorities do not take enough heed of player welfare.

“Football to us is everything and we want to be able to perform at the highest level every time we set foot on the pitch. And unfortunately, in this period it is difficult to do that,” Henderson told BBC Sport.

“That has been like this for a few years now and it has been difficult but then, on top of that, you chuck in Covid and it becomes even harder and even worse.

“I am concerned that nobody really takes player welfare seriously.

“I think decisions get made – of course we want to play as footballers, we want to get out there and play – but I am worried about player welfare and I don’t think anybody does take that seriously enough, especially in this period when Covid is here.

“We will try to have conversations in the background and try to have some sort of influence going forward, but at the minute I don’t feel the players get the respect they deserve in terms of having somebody being able to speak for them independently and having the power to say ‘actually this isn’t right for player welfare’.”

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