PREM bosses face Covid-19 D-Day today as they discover how many of their returning international stars are available for this weekend.
It threatens to disrupt preparations for the start of the most intensive period of action of the entire season, with 10 Prem rounds scheduled between this weekend and January 2.
Even before the round of tests, Liverpool are definitely without Mo Salah for their game with Leicester, Arsenal lost both Mohamed Elneny and Sead Kolasinac, with doubts over Willian, while Spurs cannot field Matt Doherty against Manchester City.
But League chiefs are privately more concerned about how many players could be ruled out for the next two weekends – as any infected cases that go undetected initially emerge in the coming days.
Every player coming back to their clubs from their national team duties must test negative for the virus before being allowed to meet or train with their club-mates.
The FA allowed clubs to test their England players before they left Wembley after last night’s win over Iceland.
By using the LAMP test, which turns around the results of the nasal swabs within 30 minutes, the players and their clubs were informed of the outcomes before they arrived back home.
While some overseas stars were tested at airports on their arrival back in the UK and others at their homes, the remainder will have to provide samples when they turn up in the club training ground car parks.
But even if the initial results are negative, that will not mean the end of the situation.
Prem chiefs confirmed late on Monday that 16 positive tests had been returned from the 1207 players and staff sampled, only two fewer than in the previous FOUR weeks combined.
And that was before those away on international duty returned to their clubs.
Spurs defender Doherty, remember, had tested negative before the game against Wales but positive 48 hours later.
Time in which the virus was spreading through his body and able to infect others.
Tottenham also had major concerns over Heung-min Son.
Nine of Son’s South Korea team-mates, including Hee-chan Hwang, who hugged the Spurs ace after netting inside 16 seconds of the friendly win over Qatar in Austria, tested positive this week.
It is also more than likely that some players who return negative samples over the next couple of days and then play at the weekend will be positive by the start of next week. The tests do not boast 100 per cent success rates.
That raises the prospect of infections spreading even in the bio-secure Prem bubbles, with fears that next weekend could be a bigger issue than this one.
Prem clubs agreed in the summer that, as long as 13 senior players were Covid-free, games would have to go ahead – unless all the senior goalkeepers were infected.
So far, the Prem show has gone on.
But, if it is ever going to be derailed, that will come over the next fortnight.
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