Covid-hit Chelsea were held to a goalless draw by Wolves on Sunday after the Premier League rejected their request to postpone the game as Manchester City put struggling Newcastle to the sword. Just four games were left on the schedule this weekend out of the original 10 as Britain’s worsening coronavirus crisis took its toll on the English top flight. Clubs will meet on Monday to discuss what action to take, with growing questions over the integrity of the competition as the busy festive period looms. Stumbling Chelsea, who have struggled with illness and injuries in recent weeks, were only able to name four outfield players on the bench for their match at Molineux.
The visitors, who have now won just two of their past six league games, enjoyed the bulk of possession but mustered just one shot on target and are now six points behind leaders City.
Thomas Tuchel was without Romelu Lukaku, Timo Werner and Callum Hudson-Odoi, who have all tested positive for Covid-19. Jorginho, Kai Havertz and Ruben Loftus-Cheek were also not in the squad.
Chelsea earlier confirmed that their request to have the game called off been turned down.
The European champions’ appeal is understood to have been rejected because the Blues were deemed to have had enough players to fulfil the fixture.
“I gave my opinion and you can do with it what you want,” a frustrated Tuchel told the BBC after the match. “I can’t compare to other games, it is just our situation.
“It is not safe. We talk about protecting players and a safe environment but it is not safe. I would not be surprised if the next test shows up and we have more positives.
“How should it stop if we sit in the bus and have dinners and just stay together like nothing happened?”
Defending champions City crushed Newcastle 4-0 to confirm their position at the top of the table at Christmas.
Eddie Howe’s side shot themselves in the foot in just the fifth minute, when calamitous defending handed City the lead after goalkeeper Martin Dubravka had carelessly conceded a corner.
The defence only half-cleared and Joao Cancelo hooked the ball back into the six-yard box. Newcastle appeared to be in little danger but Ciaran Clark inexplicably chose not to make a simple headed clearance and Ruben Dias headed the loose ball into the net.
The home side rallied and Joelinton went close to equalising with a stinging shot from distance that flew just wide of Ederson’s right-hand post.
But City silenced the passionate crowd at St James’s Park shortly before the half-hour, when Cancelo jinked his way past Joe Willock and Isaac Hayden before smashing a right-footed shot past the helpless Dubravka from the edge of the area.
City maintained their firm grip on the match in the second half, with Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling doubling their lead.
City manager Pep Guardiola was surprisingly harsh on his team, saying their first-half performance was one of the worst of the season before an improved showing after the break.
“Records show consistency we have as a team — it is not winning titles or finals but it is winning and winning,” he said. “Records are there to be broken and happy to have them.”
City have now won eight league games in a row to move four points clear of second-placed Liverpool, who are in action at Tottenham later on Sunday.
But relegation-threated Newcastle remain three points from safety having now played two games more than Watford, who are just outside the drop zone.
The Magpies’ wealthy new Saudi-backed owners have indicated they will invest significantly in the squad but before the January transfer window opens they have fixtures against Manchester United and Everton.
Liverpool’s preparations for their Premier League visit to Spurs were hit after Thiago Alcantara became the latest of Jurgen Klopp’s players to return a suspected positive test for Covid.
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