Virus restrictions causing teams issues ahead of EPL return

Coronavirus restrictions are causing issues for clubs in the Premier League ahead of the first round of games.

Everton is the most affected, with manager Rafa Benitez without five players for the match against Southampton on Saturday because they are in isolation. Among them is Colombia playmaker James Rodriguez.

“We have to be very careful,” Benitez said. “Some players have to be at home.”

Everton will be playing in front of a full capacity at Goodison Park for the first time since a 1-1 draw with Manchester United on March 1 last year. Spectator limits were enforced last season, and at the end of the 2019-20 season, amid the pandemic but they were lifted by the British government on July 19.

United and Norwich will also have COVID-related absences for home games this weekend.

Uruguay striker Edinson Cavani is one of three United players having to isolate after returning from abroad. He has had extra time in his native country “for personal reasons,” United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said.

Eric Bailly and Amad Diallo are waiting to get the all-clear to join the squad again after competing in the football tournament at the Tokyo Olympics. United hosts Leeds on Saturday.

Norwich has had a COVID outbreak ahead of Liverpool’s visit on Saturday and Poland winger Przemyslaw Placheta is not yet fully fit after struggling with the consequences of a positive test.

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