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Liverpool facing fixture pile-up after League Cup semi-final with Arsenal is postponed

The EFL accepted Liverpool’s appeal for a postponement due to lack of players and staff.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Chris Bascombe & Sam DeanTelegraph Media Group Limited

Liverpool face fixture chaos after their plea to postpone the first leg of their League Cup semi-final with Arsenal was granted due to the seriousness of their Covid outbreak.

The EFL accepted Liverpool’s appeal for a postponement due to lack of players and staff. It was originally due to be played at the Emirates tonight but has been pushed back a fortnight until January 20. The first leg will now take place at Anfield next Thursday.

The knock-on repercussions for Jurgen Klopp’s side mean they now have five fixtures in a 14-day period, taking in both legs of their tie with Arsenal, two Premier League fixtures and the FA Cup third round. Sunday’s meeting with Shrewsbury is expected to go ahead as planned despite Liverpool closing down their training ground until tomorrow amid rising cases. Liverpool postponed tomorrow’s FA Youth Cup tie with Burnley because they anticipate many of their academy players will be required to step up to first-team duty.

The situation has deteriorated at Anfield. Klopp has been in isolation since Saturday when he tested positive ahead of the final training session before Liverpool played Chelsea.

Goalkeeper Alisson Becker, Roberto Firmino and Joel Matip had delivered positive tests a day earlier. Providing they test negative before the weekend, they should be out of isolation by Sunday.

However, the daily testing at the AXA training centre in Kirkby delivered further bad news through the week, and yesterday Klopp’s assistant, Pep Lijnders, and several more players and staff were forced into self-isolation.

Liverpool announced the temporary shutdown of all first-team operations. The flurry of new positive tests came after Liverpool had made their approach to the EFL warning they would not have the players and staff to meet the necessary criteria for their semi-final, first leg. With so many unavailable, the EFL board had no option but to rearrange the dates.

“The EFL has been in regular dialogue with the club (Liverpool) over the past 48 hours in an attempt to understand whether the tie could proceed,” read an EFL statement.

“Having now fully reviewed the circumstances, 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.”

There are also repercussions for Arsenal. The rescheduling means that Arsenal’s crucial north London derby with Tottenham will now fall between the two semi-final legs.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta was expected to rotate his team this weekend, when they face Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup, but will be far more reluctant to do so for a league game of such importance. Arsenal’s Premier League match against Burnley, originally scheduled to be played on Saturday January 22, has subsequently been moved to Sunday January 23.

Meanwhile, Arsenal have been charged by the FA for failing to ensure their players “conducted themselves in an orderly fashion” following a controversial red card in their match against Manchester City last weekend.

The club has until tomorrow to respond to the charge, which centres on the red card shown to Gabriel Magalhaes in the 59th minute of City’s 2-1 victory at the Emirates. Gabriel was shown a second yellow card for a foul on City forward Gabriel Jesus, just a few minutes after he had been booked for dissent in the aftermath of a penalty scored by Riyad Mahrez.

The Brazilian, and a number of his Arsenal team-mates, reacted furiously to the decision and immediately surrounded referee Stuart Attwell.

Arsenal have been charged with a breach of FA Rule E20.1, which states that clubs are responsible for ensuring their players “conduct themselves in an orderly fashion and refrain from any one or combination of the following: improper, violent, threatening, abusive, indecent, insulting or provocative words or behaviour”.

Crystal Palace and Aston Villa were both fined earlier this season for breaching the same rule, with Palace fined £45,000 for two breaches and Villa fined £20,000 for one breach.

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