Aston Villa closed their training ground on the eve of Friday's FA Cup third-round clash with Liverpool due to a "significant" coronavirus outbreak.

Villa on Thursday revealed a large number of first-team players and staff are isolating after testing positive for COVID-19 this week.

The first team did not train the day before they are due to face Premier League champions Liverpool at Villa Park and talks are being held over the scheduling of the tie.

"Aston Villa can confirm that the club has closed its Bodymoor Heath training ground after a significant coronavirus outbreak," a club statement said.

"A large number of first team players and staff returned positive tests after being routinely tested on Monday and immediately went into isolation.

"A second round of testing was carried out immediately and produced more positive results today.

"First team training ahead of tomorrow's FA Cup match with Liverpool was cancelled.

"Discussions are ongoing between medical representatives of the club, the Football Association and the Premier League."

Hansi Flick has ruled out Bayern Munich making any major signings in the January transfer window.

The head coach said on Thursday there was a chance of "one or two" players leaving the European champions.

But in terms of arrivals, Flick said it was important he did not press the club to bring in new faces during a "very difficult" period.

Like all clubs, Bayern's finances have taken a hit, largely because of the absence of supporters from stadiums during the COVID-19 crisis.

"Let me be very clear about this: the current situation affects all clubs in the world," Flick said.

"It's not an easy situation with corona. I'd like to be clear: I don't want to demand new players. I know the situation at Bayern Munich; I know it's very difficult at the moment.

"The squad we have here at our disposal is the squad we'll have until the end of the season.

"I'm not sure if one or two might still transfer. There are certain things that have been talked about, but currently we have very good quality in our squad and I don't think our goals are in jeopardy."

Speaking ahead of Friday's Bundesliga trip to face Borussia Monchengladbach, Flick claimed leaders Bayern "still have room for improvement".

"The team knows it and every single player knows it," Flick said.

Scoring 44 goals in 14 league games has pleased Flick but shipping 21 at this early stage of the campaign is a concern.

"We have to work on that," he said. "It's not about the defence in particular. It's conceding no goals, keeping clean sheets, defending.

"In order to do that you have to have a compact defence and order and organisation with which you pressure the opponent and that's what we have to improve on."

Flick was asked whether Joshua Zirkzee may be on the move, with the 19-year-old on the fringes of the Bayern squad.

He responded: "At the moment I am not aware of any departures, but everything can always go quickly.

"Zirkzee has tremendous qualities and can develop well. He was out of training for a few weeks. He will get games, also with the under-23s. He can take a lot from the professionals, but then he has to show what he can do with the under-23s and put himself at the service of the team. He is good in front of goal, has strong technique and good dynamics."

Bayern have a doubt over Serge Gnabry for the Gladbach game after he was substituted with a knock in the 5-2 win over Mainz on Sunday, Flick saying the forward is "still in pain".

Barcelona have ratified January 24 as the date for their presidential elections despite calls for it to be postponed amid rising cases of coronavirus.

The region of Catalonia has recently imposed new restrictions in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19 infections, with certain rules tightened for 10 days as of January 7.

While that does not interfere with the previously agreed date for the election, there had been increasing calls for it to be postponed due to fears certain members would not be able to vote as a result.

Former Barca vice-president Jordi Cardoner was among those in favour of issuing a delay, suggesting in an interview with Sport that to not postpone the election would be to show "a lack of respect and an attack on the health of our members".

But Barca confirmed on Thursday that the date of January 24 and "all procedures" have been accepted by the local authorities.

As part of a statement, Barca confirmed: "The board has also ratified January 24 as the date for the elections and that all procedures have been accepted by the Generalitat de Catalunya, in liaison with the Ministries for Health, the Interior, Sport and Procedure.

"All efforts have been made to ensure that the pre-candidates can collect support slips under the best possible conditions and with as much time as available."

The PFA has urged its members to remember the "vital importance" of following coronavirus and club protocols as the United Kingdom enters a third period of national lockdown.

On Monday, the UK government confirmed England would be placed under strict restrictions as COVID-19 infection rates and deaths continue to rise.

Though vaccines are starting to be rolled out to vulnerable groups, the UK recorded 62,322 new cases and 1,041 deaths on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the Premier League confirmed that 40 players and staff members – a new high – had tested positive for the virus over the most recent two rounds of testing, up from 18 the previous week.

Three matches in England's top flight were postponed over the festive period, while a number of EFL games have also been unable to take place.

With elite sport allowed to continue despite the new lockdown regulations, the Premier League has insisted it has full faith in its protocols, while the EFL announced on Wednesday it would introduce a twice-weekly testing regime, starting from January 11.

However, amid the rise in cases and deaths, there have been high-profile examples of players breaking coronavirus rules over recent weeks.

Manchester City, who have been hit by an outbreak within their squad, launched an investigation into reports of Benjamin Mendy hosting a party on New Year's Eve that included guests from outside his household.

Meanwhile, Tottenham head coach Jose Mourinho was disappointed to learn of a Christmas gathering which saw Sergio Reguilon, Erik Lamela and Giovani Lo Celso breach regulations, with West Ham's Manuel Lanzini also in attendance.

The PFA has released a statement, which read: "Following the announcement of a third national lockdown, the PFA would like to reinforce the message that players must follow the current COVID-19 rules and club protocols as a matter of vital importance.

"In a close-knit football environment, the ramifications of any rule breaches are potentially hugely damaging for fellow players, clubs and the game as a whole.

"It is a testament to the hard work of everyone involved that the vast majority of matches have gone ahead as scheduled and the risks to players, staff and their families have been well managed and kept to a minimum.

"Although prospects are brighter due to the vaccine's imminent rollout, players must continue to take the lead and act responsibly and professionally.

"Between now and the end of the season, we ask that you continue to take personal responsibility and follow the lockdown rules, without exception.

"Throughout the pandemic, we have seen that players have a unique position to inspire and influence society positively.

"Your compliance with the national restrictions sets the right example to millions of fans and young people. Following the rules is also the best way to protect your loved ones, your colleagues and their families from harm."

Olympic athletes should be among those prioritised for a coronavirus vaccine so that the Tokyo Games can go ahead, according to International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Dick Pound. 

The rescheduled Games are set to get under way on July 23, a whole calendar year after the original starting date, despite concerns over rising COVID-19 cases in host country Japan.  

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will decide on Thursday whether to implement a new state of emergency in Tokyo amid growing calls to take action, which could again put the Olympics in jeopardy. 

IOC chief Pound, the organisation's longest-serving member, believes the best way of ensuring it goes ahead is to vaccinate all athletes beforehand.

"In Canada where we might have 300 or 400 athletes - to take 300 or 400 vaccines out of several million in order to have Canada represented at an international event of this stature, character and level - I don't think there would be any kind of a public outcry about that," Pound told Sky News. 

"It's a decision for each country to make and there will be people saying they are jumping the queue but I think that is the most realistic way of it going ahead." 

Costs for the Olympics have already increased by $2.8billion (£2.1bn) due to measures being put in place to stop the spread of coronavirus.

 

England's Test squad has been cleared to begin training ahead of next week's series opener with Sri Lanka after being retested for coronavirus.

Joe Root's travelling party had been isolating in their hotel rooms after all-rounder Moeen Ali returned a positive result from PCR tests taken upon arrival at the airport in Hambantota on Sunday.

Moeen will continue to observe a 10-day quarantine period, while team-mate Chris Woakes will isolate for a minimum of seven days after being deemed a possible close contact.

However, the latest round of results show Moeen to be the only positive case and the rest of the squad can begin restricted training on Wednesday. 

"All PCR tests from yesterday are negative, except for Moeen Ali, and we can start controlled training this afternoon," an ECB spokesman said.

"Close contact Chris Woakes tested negative but will continue to isolate in his room."

England's two-match series with Sri Lanka gets under way in Galle on January 14.

Milan pair Ante Rebic and Rade Krunic have tested positive for coronavirus ahead of Wednesday's Serie A meeting with Juventus.

Both players are asymptomatic and have begun a period of self-isolation at home, Milan confirmed on their official website.

The news comes on the back of Juve announcing that full-backs Alex Sandro and Juan Cuadrado had contracted COVID-19, also ruling them out of the crunch clash at San Siro.

Rebic has featured 14 times for Milan in all competitions this season, while Krunic has been used on 20 occasions.

The pair have appeared together in eight Serie A matches this season, Milan winning each of those games. On the seven occasions they have not featured, meanwhile, the Rossoneri's win rate drops from 100 per cent to 43.

Serie A leaders Milan are already without injured quartet Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Alexis Saelemaekers, Ismael Bennacer and Matteo Gabbia, while Sandro Tonali is suspended.

The club said in a statement: "AC Milan announces that Ante Rebic and Rade Krunic tested positive for a molecular swab carried out yesterday in anticipation of the match against Juventus.

"The players, asymptomatic, remained in isolation at home where a second control swab was taken today. The health authorities were promptly informed.

"All members of the team group underwent a further test today with negative results."

Speaking on Tuesday, doctor Roberto Testi, the director of the Department of Prevention at the Turin ASL, warned the high-profile contest may be called off if Juve report further positive tests on the day of the game.

"If there should be more positive tests and the evidence of an uncontrolled breakout within the squad, that would become a problem of safety for the other players," he told Corriere della Sera.

"Clearly, at that point, the ASL would be forced to intervene, isolating everyone and blocking Juve's departure towards Milan."

Milan enter the game 10 points better off than reigning champions Juventus having played a game more.

Stefano Pioli's men won the most recent encounter between the sides 4-2 last July and are seeking successive league wins in this fixture for the first time since 2010.

It will mark the first time Milan have faced Juve sitting ahead of their rivals in the table since November 2015, when losing 1-0 through a Paulo Dybala goal. 

Alex Morgan and her family are fighting back after catching COVID-19 in California over the festive season, the United States women's football superstar has revealed.

The 31-year-old, twice a Women's World Cup winner, left Tottenham last month after a three-month playing spell in England.

Although London has become a coronavirus hot spot, Morgan says she was back in the USA when the virus struck.

She wrote on Twitter: "Unfortunately, my family and I closed out 2020 learning that we had contracted Covid while in California over the holidays.

"We are all in good spirits and recovering well. After our isolation is completed, I will follow US Soccer's return to play guidelines to ensure my body is fully recovered and I can join my team-mates back on the field soon. Be safe and happy new year."

Morgan is married to former LA Galaxy and Orlando City footballer Servando Carrasco, and they celebrated a sixth wedding anniversary on December 31. Their first child was born last May.

The USWNT great signed for Spurs in September, having not played since August 2019 due to pregnancy and the disruption caused by the pandemic.

She made five appearances for Spurs in all competitions, scoring two goals. Morgan is a two-time Women's World Cup winner and has scored 107 goals in 170 appearances for the USA.

Morgan is expected to resume her club career with the Orlando Pride in the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL), ahead of playing at the Tokyo Olympics.

Orlando retained the 31-year-old forward's NWSL rights when she made the short-term move to Tottenham.

Formula One rising star Lando Norris has tested positive for COVID-19 while holidaying in Dubai.

The McLaren driver, who had a first career podium among seven top-six finishes last season, said he was largely asymptomatic but had lost his sense of taste and smell.

Norris, 21, was taking a break in the United Arab Emirates and will be confined to his hotel room for two weeks as a result.

On Tuesday, he wrote in a message posted to Twitter: "Hi everyone, hope you are all keeping well. Yesterday I lost my sense of taste and smell so immediately self isolated [sic] and took a test.

“It's come back as positive, so I've told everyone that I’ve been in contact with and will be self isolating for the next 14 days.

“I feel alright and have no other symptoms but I just wanted to let you all know. Take care.”

McLaren confirmed the positive, saying it came before Norris was due to join the team for pre-season preparations.

The team said in a statement: "McLaren can confirm that Lando Norris tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday in Dubai, where he is currently on holiday ahead of a planned training camp."

The 2021 Formula One season is scheduled to start in Australia with a March 21 race; however, reports have indicated that grand prix is likely to be pushed back until later in the year due to Melbourne's quarantine restrictions.

That would mean the campaign getting under way a week later in Bahrain, with pre-season testing switching to Bahrain from Barcelona also reported to be a possibility.

Barcelona were boosted on Tuesday as Ronald Koeman's squad received the COVID-19 all-clear in the wake of two members of staff testing positive.

A morning training session was called off as players underwent tests to determine whether the virus may have spread among the group.

But there were no positives detected and that meant Koeman's charges could train in the evening, ahead of playing Wednesday's match against Athletic Bilbao.

A club statement read: "In accordance with LaLiga protocol, the FC Barcelona first-team squad undertook PCR tests on Tuesday morning. All tests came back negative."

The Camp Nou giants said on Monday that two members of the first-team staff had returned positives for coronavirus, and sports and health authorities were informed about those results.

Koeman's team sit fifth in LaLiga ahead of their trip to the Basque Country to play Athletic, who are ninth.

Barcelona, who are 10 points off the top of LaLiga, have won the previous two matches on their travels after going four away league games without a win.

Juventus wide player Juan Cuadrado has tested positive for coronavirus and will miss the clash with Serie A leaders Milan on Wednesday.

The Colombia international is asymptomatic but has begun a period of self-isolation, the Italian champions confirmed.

The news comes just a day after left-back Alex Sandro was ruled out after returning a positive test for the virus.

It means head coach Andrea Pirlo will be without two of his first-choice full-backs for the game at San Siro against Stefano Pioli's side, who are the only unbeaten team in Europe's top five leagues in the 2020-21 season.

The club said in a statement: "Juventus Football Club announces that, during the checks provided for by the protocol in force, Juan Cuadrado has emerged positive with COVID-19. The player has already been placed in solitary confinement and is asymptomatic."

Cuadrado, 32, has made 13 appearances in Serie A this term, scoring once.

Juve head into the Milan contest with a 10-point deficit to the league leaders, albeit with a game in hand.

While they have lost only once in 14 matches, Juve have won just seven times, leaving them in fifth place with 27 points.

They are hoping to avoid losing back-to-back league games against the Rossoneri for the first time since 2010, having been beaten 4-2 in the previous meeting last July.

The last time they faced Milan when behind them in the table was in November 2015, when a Paulo Dybala goal secured a 1-0 victory.

Kevin Durant is out of the Brooklyn Nets' contest against the Utah Jazz on Tuesday and could reportedly miss the team's next four NBA games as he follows the league's health and safety protocols.

Reports in ESPN stated Durant was exposed to someone who has tested positive for coronavirus and is facing a seven-day quarantine period.

That would see Durant also sit out against the Philadelphia 76ers and the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday and Friday, as well as Sunday's showdown with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

After opening the season with back-to-back wins, the Nets have lost four of their past five to sit 10th in the early throes of the Eastern Conference standings.

Durant missed the entirety of the disrupted 2019-20 campaign due to a ruptured Achilles and is averaging 28.2 points, seven rebounds and 4.8 assists for the Nets this term.

Juventus defender Alex Sandro has tested positive for coronavirus, the Serie A club announced on Monday.

The Brazil international - who played in Sunday's 4-1 league victory over Udinese in Turin - underwent a test after displaying what Juve described as "mild symptoms". 

Alex Sandro is self-isolating after it was confirmed he has contracted COVID-19, a concern for his club ahead of Wednesday's huge showdown with Milan.

"Juventus announces that following the appearance of some mild symptoms, a check was arranged for the player Alex Sandro, which revealed his positivity to COVID-19," a statement read.

"The player has already been placed in isolation. 

"The club is in contact with the health authorities for the definition of an effective implementation of the protocols needed to allow the training and competition activities of the team."

Alex Sandro featured for 83 minutes against Udinese before being replaced by Gianluca Frabotta, at which stage the hosts were 3-0 up in the game.

The 29-year-old has made seven league appearances under Andrea Pirlo during the 2020-21 campaign, as well as featuring three times in the Champions League group stage.

Juve travel to San Siro to face Milan - the unbeaten Serie A leaders - in midweek, followed by a home game against Sassuolo on Sunday.

Moeen Ali has tested positive for coronavirus upon arrival in Sri Lanka, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has announced.

Ali and the rest of the England Test squad were checked at the airport in Hambantota on Sunday after flying in ahead of the two-match series, which gets underway on January 14.

The all-rounder will now observe a 10-day period of self-isolation, while team-mate Chris Woakes will isolate for a minimum of seven days after being deemed a possible close contact.

Further testing of the rest of the party will be carried out on Tuesday, with England's players then due to begin training the following day.

"Ali will now observe a period of 10-days self-isolation, in accordance with the Sri Lanka government's protocol on quarantine," a statement from the ECB read.

"Chris Woakes has been deemed as a possible close contact, and he will observe a period of self-isolation and further testing.

"The touring party will be PCR tested for a second time on Tuesday morning. At this stage, the team will train for the first time on Wednesday."

England selected a 16-man squad for the series in Sri Lanka, though seven reserves were also announced for the trip to help cover for potential absences.

The white-ball tour to South Africa in December was cut short due to a number of COVID-19 cases within the bubble shared by the two teams.

While the three-match Twenty20 series against the Proteas was completed, the one-day games scheduled had to be cancelled.

Crowd capacity for the Sydney Test between Australia and India starting on Thursday has been reduced to 25 per cent.

Questions were raised over the venue of the third Test after a coronavirus outbreak in New South Wales.

The clash will go ahead at the SCG, but on Monday it was announced the crowd capacity had been cut from 50 per cent to 25.

"In response to the public health situation in NSW, we are working closely with Venues NSW and NSW Health to put appropriate biosecurity measures in place for our staff, players, match officials, broadcasters and fans to ensure we play the third Test at the SCG safely," Cricket Australia (CA) interim chief executive Nick Hockley said.

"Reducing the capacity of the venue is crucial in achieving social distancing requirements, and we sincerely thank ticketholders for their patience, as we process refunds today, reconfigure the SCG seating plan to deliver these social distancing measures and go back on sale."

The four-Test series is locked at 1-1, with some doubts now over the venue for the final match – due to be held in Brisbane.

Meanwhile, Australia paceman James Pattinson has been ruled out of the Sydney Test due to bruised ribs suffered in a fall at home.

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