Why Newcastle United's trip to Southampton is under threat of COVID-19 postponement
The Magpies’ request to postpone their match at Goodison Park due to injuries and COVID-19 cases was quickly granted by the Premier League on Tuesday evening.
Teams across the Premier League have had games postponed during the festive period due to a sharp rise in positive cases and emergence of the Omicron variant.
Newcastle’s match at Southampton on January 2 is also at risk of postponement, unless The Magpies’ situation improves ahead of the weekend.
But Eddie Howe is set to address the media in his pre-match press conference on Friday afternoon which is likely to shed more light on the situation.
What the Premier League rules say about COVID-19 postponements
Premier League rules stipulate if a club cannot field 13 outfield players and a goalkeeper from its squad list or its ‘appropriately experienced’ under-21 players due to COVID-19 infections, isolation and other injuries and illnesses, the match will be postponed.
A match may also be postponed as a precaution where the status of a COVID outbreak at a club is unclear with insufficient time to acquire sufficient information ahead of the scheduled match.
The Premier League board will also consider the number of individuals affected by the outbreak and their proximity to the match in question. The fact Newcastle would have to make a 650-mile round-trip to Southampton this weekend for the game to go ahead may also be a factor considered.
Advice from the UK Health Security Agency and other public bodies will also be considered. If a club has to close its training ground in a way that significantly impairs their ability to prepare for a match, a postponement will also be considered.
Which players are out for Newcastle?
In terms of injuries, Callum Wilson (calf) will miss the trip to St Mary’s Stadium should the game go ahead as planned. Allan Saint-Maximin (calf) and Ryan Fraser (hamstring) is also doubts.
Federico Fernandez (calf) and Jamal Lewis (hamstring) remain sidelined while the game is still expected to come too soon for Paul Dummett following a lengthy time out with a calf injury.
A 95th minute booking for Javier Manquillo against Manchester United means he will now be suspended for the Southampton trip after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season.
Isaac Hayden was set to return from the suspension he served on Monday but is now understood to also be injured following an Instagram update which revealed the midfielder in a hospital bed with a covering on his left knee – the caption reading: “My new best friend for a while.”
Ciaran Clark, Matt Ritchie, Karl Darlow and Joe Willock were also omitted from Newcastle’s last matchday squad with Howe citing ‘COVID and injuries’ as a reason for player absences but would not comment on individual players.
Should the situation remain the same this weekend, Newcastle are set to have 12 senior players unavailable for the trip to Southampton.
That would leave The Magpies with just 10 senior outfield players, including under-23s midfielder Elliot Anderson. Even the return of Matty Longstaff from his loan at Aberdeen would not be enough to pass the minimum player threshold.
However, if the likes of Clark, Ritchie and Willock are back available on Sunday, there is still a chance the match could go ahead.
How Newcastle could get the match postponed
Given their situation, Newcastle are likely to request another postponement for this weekend’s match at Southampton. In order to be successful with their request, they will have to produce a detailed account of their COVID situation as well ‘clear reasons why they believe the match should be postponed’.
They must provide the following information for consideration:
- Players and staff who have returned a positive COVID-19 test, their vaccination status and, if known, the source of their infections- Players and staff who are self-isolating- Players who are unavailable to play through injury or illness- Players listed on the club’s squad list who are still available to play in the match, including appropriately experienced under-21 players (under-21 players who have played for the club, another Premier League or EFL club, or an overseas club in the current season). - Supporting medical information to verify the status of each unavailable player, which will be reviewed by the League’s medical advisers
What Southampton have said about Newcastle’s postponed match?
Southampton boss Ralph Hassenhuttl aimed a not so subtle dig at Newcastle following their postponement at Everton.
“Injuries are not Covid cases,” he said. “Injuries are also here for us.
"[Newcastle] had seven or eight players on the bench during their last game, and now they have two more injuries. They should still have thirteen players plus one [goalkeeper]. This is the message from the Premier League.”
How a postponed match could benefit Newcastle?
Newcastle are following the same rules as every other Premier League side yet their postponement request at Everton sparked quite the backlash from opposition supporters.
This could be down to the argument that The Magpies could actually benefit significantly from a small break to their hectic schedule ahead of the January transfer window.
Extra time off will enable Newcastle to get players back from injury without being without them for many, if any Premier League matches. After the Southampton game, Newcastle’s next Premier League outing wouldn’t be until January 15 when they host Watford at St James’s Park.
That gap will also enable Howe to strengthen his squad and bed new January signings in by the time the next competitive league match rolls around.
Any signings made prior to the Southampton match on January 2 would be ineligible to feature due to a Premier League rule that prevents new signings made from January 1 to January 3 from playing in matches that take place within those dates.