CONFIRMED: Norwich City's trip to Leicester has been postponed
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City’s trip to Leicester on New Year’s Day has been postponed, the Premier League has announced.
It's understood that City's squad depletion had reached levels of struggling to put together a five-a-side game in training, due to high levels of illness and injury, with as few as five outfield players able to train fully today.
TalkSport reported this afternoon that the game was in doubt, with the radio station scheduled to be providing live commentary from the game on Saturday, and that has proved to be correct.
The Canaries were without 10 players during their 3-0 defeat at Crystal Palace on Tuesday and it’s believed there are more Covid symptoms in the camp.
Milot Rashica was the only player hoping to be in contention to return from injury, after a six-game absence, and City named two keepers among their eight substitutes on Tuesday.
Dean Smith gave 18-year-old Jon Rowe his Premier League debut at Palace due to their limited attacking options and also started Sam Byram, whose return from over 20 months out injured has had to be fast-tracked.
A statement from the Premier League explains: "Following a request from Norwich City, the Premier League Board met today and regrettably agreed to postpone the club’s fixture at Leicester City’s King Power Stadium, due to be played at 15:00 GMT on Saturday 1 January.
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"The Board accepted Norwich’s application as the club do not have the required number of players available for the match (13 outfield players and one goalkeeper), due to Covid-19 cases and injuries.
"The decision by the Board was able to be made in advance of the fixture to give clarity to the affected clubs and their fans. We apologise for the inconvenience and disruption caused to supporters’ festive plans.
"The League is aware that the recent decisions to postpone matches will disappoint supporters, and understands their frustrations at a special time of year when fans look forward to attending and watching football games.
"The League aims to provide as much clarity as possible, but unfortunately postponements sometimes have to be made at short notice, as safety is our priority. Where possible, the League will endeavour to keep supporters updated if games become at risk on a matchday."
A statement from City adds: "The postponement of the fixture comes after PCR test confirmation of positive Covid-19 results and injuries within the Norwich playing squad.
"Those individuals who have returned a positive Covid-19 test result are completing a period of self-isolation, as per Premier League protocols and government guidelines.
"The club regrets any inconvenience caused to Leicester City and both sets of supporters.
"Details of a rearranged date for the fixture, and future ticketing arrangements, will be communicated in due course."
Leicester were without nine players as they pulled off a 1-0 home win over Liverpool later on Tuesday but star striker Jamie Vardy suffered a hamstring strain and is facing at least three weeks out.
Harvey Barnes was the only player returning from Covid isolation in time for the Foxes, leaving their absentee list at eight players as Brendan Rodgers held his press conference this afternoon.
Norwich boss Smith had described the festive fixture schedule as ‘lunacy’ ahead of his team’s 5-0 home defeat to Arsenal on Boxing Day - and it was City that made the postponement request for the Leicester game.
Smith said that with the benefit of hindsight the 2-0 defeat to Aston Villa on December 14 should not have gone ahead, with players having Covid symptoms and uncertainty about players who should be in the squad.
The trip to West Ham on December 18 was postponed as City tried to get on top of their outbreak but goalkeeper Tim Krul posted on social media on Christmas Day to reveal he had Covid.
Teemu Pukki, Max Aarons and Todd Cantwell then subsequently dropped out of Tuesday's squad with unspecified illness or injury that Smith opted not to explain specifically.
Speaking this afternoon, Leicester manager Rodgers confirmed that former Norwich star James Maddison was expected to shake off the knock which forced him off during the second half against Liverpool.
With Vardy ruled out though, he said: "I think the fatigue element in that combination of games has probably led to it. The players are not robots. People think because they are paid a lot of money they should turn out and play every single day of the week and that’s not the case.
“He felt it in the cup game at Liverpool, where the last half-hour it was hindering his performance.
“We didn’t involve him at the weekend to give him maximum rest – even though he was on the bench he wasn’t able to play – and the other night he just felt it towards the end of the game.
“It’s the combination of games we have had and the recovery time has made it difficult for him.”
Patson Daka, Ceglar Soyuncu, Wesley Fofana, James Justin, Ryan Bertrand, Jonny Evans and Ricardo Pereira were among their absentees, with Covid concerns contributing to the Foxes having games against Tottenham and Everton called off prior to Christmas.
Leicester are ninth after bouncing back from a chaotic 6-3 defeat at Manchester City on Boxing Day with their midweek win. Norwich are bottom and have failed to score in five consecutive defeats, conceding 14, to leave them bottom of the Premier League heading into 2022.
Previously the Premier League has issued guidance to explain that if clubs can name 13 outfield players and a goalkeeper from their registered 25-man squad then games would go ahead.
But with the transmissibility of the Omicron variant of Covid-19, further factors are taken into consideration and 15 top-flight games have been postponed in the past three weeks.
Smith was due to hold his pre-match press conference on Friday morning but it's expected that will be cancelled.