Liverpool’s Carabao Cup semi-final at Arsenal postponed after EFL ruling

Liverpool’s Carabao Cup semi-final at Arsenal postponed after EFL ruling

The EFL has granted Liverpool’s request to postpone their Carabao Cup semi-final first leg at Arsenal on Thursday amid an escalating Covid outbreak at the club.

Liverpool submitted the request on Tuesday on the grounds of player availability and a rising number of positive tests among the squad and staff. The assistant manager, Pepijn Lijnders, who has been in interim charge of the first team while Jürgen Klopp is in isolation, subsequently tested positive along with more players and staff. The club closed their first-team training facility on Wednesday after consultation with the relevant public health authorities.

The EFL said the postponement was down to “a severe outbreak of Covid infections” among Liverpool’s staff and players. The first leg of the tie will be played at Anfield next Thursday, when the second leg was due to take place, and the return leg the following Thursday.

“The EFL has been in regular dialogue with the club over the past 48 hours in an attempt to understand whether the tie could proceed but significant developments over this period have resulted in the club reporting an ever-increasing number of Covid cases,” the league said.

“Having now fully reviewed the circumstances involved, the league has accepted Liverpool’s request after determining, albeit reluctantly, that a postponement was the only option as the club looks to mitigate against the further risk of infection amongst its squad and staff alongside ensuring public health was protected by not travelling from Liverpool to London.”

Liverpool’s first-team training facility is expected to be closed for at least 48 hours, which would affect preparations for the FA Cup third‑round tie at home against Shrewsbury on Sunday. The club’s development squads have separate facilities at Kirkby and could be utilised against the League One side in the event of Liverpool being short of first-team players.

Aston Villa were forced to resort to similar measures for last season’s third-round tie against Liverpool after their entire first team “bubble” was placed into isolation.

Nine Liverpool players were missing at Chelsea last Sunday, and Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané and Naby Keïta have subsequently reported for the Africa Cup of Nations. In addition to Lijnders, who received his result on Tuesday night, the club have reported further positive tests for Covid among players and staff overnight and on Wednesday morning.

“Liverpool Football Club would like to place on record its thanks to the EFL and Arsenal for their understanding, as well as supporters of both clubs, as we continue to navigate through this challenging period,” the club said.

Harrogate had to forfeit a first‑round match against Rochdale this season after a Covid outbreak in their squad. Under EFL rules any rearranged game must take place before the next round starts and whereas Harrogate were unable to manage that, there has been scope for Liverpool to fit in both legs before the final. When Leyton Orient forfeited their third-round tie against Tottenham last season a different set of rules were in operation.

The Premier League is to end mandatory PCR testing for players and staff, with the changes coming into effect from Thursday. Clubs will be expected to conduct lateral flow tests every day in training and the day before matches, with a positive result requiring confirmation from the more precise PCR.

Last month the league introduced a twice weekly PCR regime, then added daily lateral flow testing in response to the Omicron variant of Covid. But despite record levels of infection and 94 positive cases in the last round of testing completed over the new year weekend, the changes do conform with current government guidance on testing, which is placing more emphasis on LFTs for individuals without symptoms.