Barcelona ponder Messi rest as Madrid continue to wait on Hazard

Barcelona ponder Messi rest as Madrid continue to wait on Hazard
Argentina's Lionel Messi (C) drives the ball during the 2022 FIFA World Cup South American qualifier football match against Bolivia at the Hernando Siles Stadium in La Paz on Oct. 13, 2020, amid the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic. (AFP)
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Updated 16 October 2020

Barcelona ponder Messi rest as Madrid continue to wait on Hazard

Barcelona ponder Messi rest as Madrid continue to wait on Hazard

MADRID: Barcelona must weigh up the decision whether to rest Lionel Messi for Saturday’s trip to Getafe ahead of a congested run of fixtures, while Real Madrid are still waiting on the return of Eden Hazard from injury.
Messi played the full 90 minutes in Argentina’s World Cup qualifiers against Ecuador and Bolivia during the international break, the second of which was played at altitude in La Paz.
The Barca captain has not missed a single minute for his club since football resumed in June following the coronavirus shutdown.
However, with seven games in the space of 21 days awaiting Barca, coach Ronald Koeman could elect to give Messi a breather before the start of the team’s Champions League campaign.
Barca host Hungarian side Ferencvaros on Tuesday and then face sworn enemies Real Madrid four days later behind closed doors at the Camp Nou.
The Catalan club head to Italy for a Champions League clash with Juventus on October 28 before games against Alaves and Real Betis either side of the visit of Dynamo Kiev.
Leaders Madrid are unbeaten in La Liga since March, winning 13 of their past 15 games, and welcome Cadiz to the capital this weekend.
Zinedine Zidane could also opt to rotate some players but Thibaut Courtois, Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior are in line to play after resting while others were away on international duty.
Courtois left the Belgium squad with a back injury and while he is fit to return, compatriot Hazard is not yet ready for action.
The 29-year-old has yet to feature this season having picked up a muscle injury as he worked his way back from an ankle problem.
He is also expected to miss next weekend’s Clasico, but Courtois believes Hazard will come good after scoring just once in an injury-plagued first season in Spain.
“I have no doubt we are going to see the best of Hazard,” Courtois told Cadena Ser radio.
“He is more desperate than anyone to show it. He’s coming along well and hopefully soon he can prove it.
He added: “I am sure that in no time he will explode and will give many joys to the team.”
Atletico Madrid visit Celta Vigo in their first game since the sale of Ghana midfielder Thomas Partey to Arsenal on transfer deadline day.
Partey made 188 appearances for the Atletico and was part of the sides that reached the 2016 Champions League final and beat Arsenal on the way to winning the Europa League in 2018.
The Dutch-born Morocco international could make his Sevilla debut at Granada after joining the club on a five-year deal from AZ Alkmaar.
Idrissi, 24, scored 13 goals in 25 games in the Eredivisie last season before it was declared over in March due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Julen Lopetegui’s Europa League winners are one of four undefeated teams in La Liga this term, with seven points from their first three matches.
12 — goals scored by Sergio Ramos since the start of the 2019/20 season, more than any other defender in Europe’s top five leagues.
250 — goals scored by Karim Benzema for Real Madrid. The Frenchman is only the fifth player to reach the mark in club history

Saturday (all times GMT)
Granada v Sevilla (1100), Celta Vigo v Atletico Madrid (1400), Real Madrid v Cadiz (1630), Getafe v Barcelona (1900)
Sunday
Eibar v Osasuna (1000), Athletic Bilbao v Levante (1200), Villarreal v Valencia (1400), Alaves v Elche (1630), Huesca v Real Valladolid (1630), Real Betis v Real Sociedad (1900)


COVID-19 problems mount for Australian Open as four more participants test positive

COVID-19 problems mount for Australian Open as four more participants test positive
Updated 18 January 2021

COVID-19 problems mount for Australian Open as four more participants test positive

COVID-19 problems mount for Australian Open as four more participants test positive
  • Officials said more cases may come to light as testing continues
  • ‘It’s time to be selfish, time for Victoria to put ourselves first’

MELBOURNE: More players were forced into hard quarantine ahead of the Australian Open with officials confirming on Monday that four additional participants, including an athlete, tested positive for COVID-19 among those arriving in Melbourne.
Health authorities in Victoria state have now reported nine infections among passengers who arrived on charter flights for the Feb. 8-21 Australian Open and officials said more cases may come to light as testing continues.
“All four are associated with the tennis, and they’re all tucked away safely in hotel quarantine,” Victoria state premier Daniel Andrews told reporters of the new cases.
Passengers on three Australian Open charter flights were sent into hard quarantine, including over 70 players who will be unable to train for 14 days ahead of the year’s first Grand Slam.
Players have come up with unique ways to pass time and stay fit in isolation with some hitting balls against a mattress and running sprints in corridors.
Others are allowed five hours outside their hotel rooms each day for preparation, in line with arrangements made by organizers Tennis Australia with health authorities.
But several among those, including Australia’s top-ranked player Alex de Minaur, were unable to train on courts on Monday due to logistics issues with transport.
De Minaur, who returned home after winning an ATP title in Turkey last week, posted a video on Instagram of himself sitting at the front door of his hotel room dressed fully in his practice attire.
“It’s been a challenging few days as we’ve worked with the relevant authorities managing the logistics to ensure everyone is safe as practice begins,” TA said in a statement, adding that transport issues were later sorted out.
“Our team is continuing to work with the authorities to help in any way we can. We understand this has been frustrating for the players and apologize.”
The growing infection count has sparked calls from pundits to cancel the Grand Slam.
“It’s time to be selfish, time for Victoria to put ourselves first,” 3AW radio broadcaster Neil Mitchell said.
“Call off the Australian Open. It’s not worth the risk.”
Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley said on Sunday the tournament would start as scheduled.
Many Australians have questioned the decision to host the tournament with organizers flying in 1,200 tennis players and their entourages Down Under when thousands of citizens are stranded overseas due to the pandemic.
Andrews said the government still supported holding the Grand Slam and backed health officials to deliver it safely.
“We think we’ve struck the appropriate balance,” he said.
“If there was a sense from the public health team that that balance could not be struck, that it was too high a risk, well then we wouldn’t have had the event.”
Some players complained about quarantine conditions and said they had not been advised that they would not be allowed to train if there were cases on their flights.
Frenchwoman Alize Cornet, however, apologized after social media users hit out at her for criticizing the strict health protocols.
Two-time men’s wheelchair Grand Slam champion Gordon Reid said those “kicking up a fuss” are in a minority.
A Spanish tennis website reported that world number one Novak Djokovic had written to Tiley asking that quarantine restrictions be eased for players, including reducing the mandatory 14 days of isolation and having players moved to “private houses with tennis courts” so they could train.
The report drew a backlash from Australians on social media, with Djokovic and players told to check their “privilege.”
Andrews said the biosecurity protocols would not be changed.
“It doesn’t mean that everyone likes them, but that’s not the world we’re in,” he said. “This is a wildly infectious pandemic. There are rules that need to be followed.”
Tennis Australia and Djokovic’s team did not respond to request for comment.
Australia’s biggest outbreak of COVID-19 started from returned travelers infecting staff at quarantine hotels in Melbourne last year but border closures and speedy tracking systems helped keep numbers relatively low.
The country has reported a total of more than 28,600 cases and some 909 deaths since the pandemic began.