Tuesday 1 December 2020 14:27, UK
Newcastle United are in dialogue with the Premier League over the potential postponement of their match against Aston Villa this Friday after their squad was told to stay away from their training ground following an outbreak of coronavirus.
Over the weekend it emerged that five individuals within the first team bubble had tested positive for Covid-19 and, following a further round of testing on Sunday, additional players have also returned positive tests.
Newcastle have been unwilling to reveal the exact numbers or identities of those affected.
The club's training ground has been closed since the weekend and players have not trained since last Thursday - the day they travelled to London for their match with Crystal Palace.
The first team squad has been told to stay at home until further notice. Another round of testing is due to take place on Wednesday.
Sky Sports News has been told the Premier League now deal with each situation on a case-by-case basis, following on the back of earlier guidance in the pandemic that said a team would be forced to play unless they had 14 players unavailable.
At this stage Newcastle are yet to officially appeal to have the match postponed - but high-level talks are taking place.
Newcastle are concerned about the lack of preparation time the squad will have and feel that will give them a disadvantage.
They also have concerns over travel to a different area of the country and further potential infections.
If postponed, Aston Villa versus Newcastle would be the first Premier League match to be so as a result of the pandemic following Project Restart.
Speaking after Friday night's 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, Newcastle manager Steve Bruce said: "It is a concern and difficult to manage. We are trying our utmost to make sure we try and stay as safe as we can.
"Of course my concern is not just the welfare of the players, which is vitally important, but my members of staff too. We will do our best but it is difficult at the moment."
Newcastle are due to face Aston Villa at Villa Park live on Sky Sports Premier League on Friday night as they seek to continue their impressive away form in the Premier League, having lost only once on their travels this season.
Newcastle are one of 10 clubs that fall in tier 3 of the government's new coronavirus restrictions, which come into effect on December 2 and will deny supporters the opportunity of attending matches at St James' Park.
Bruce says the return of fans is a "step in the right direction" but questioned why larger stadiums are not able to host larger numbers of socially-distanced fans.
"I can understand 4,000 fans [returning] if there's an 8,000-seated stadium, but what I can't quite digest at the moment is why it's only 4,000 or 2,000 when we've got the capacity to comfortably put somewhere in the region of 15,000 to 20,000 people in," he said.
"It's a step in the right direction and a small gesture. For the smaller clubs, 4,000 or 2,000 is welcome relief because they live off that."
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