Spanish football returns to action this weekend after the winter break amid a spike in COVID-19 cases amongst players and staff.
By Thursday, more than 90 positive cases were confirmed by teams and many players will miss the next round of La Liga games and possibly next week’s Spanish Cup round of 32 matches.
Among them are Real Madrid striker Vinicius Junior and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, Atletico Madrid forwards Joao Felix and Antoine Griezmann plus Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele, midfielder Gavi and defender Jordi Alba.
Atleti coach Diego Simeone and captain Koke are also among the five new cases the club announced on Thursday.
They will miss Sunday’s clash at home to in-form Rayo Vallecano, which is fourth in standings, one point ahead of Atletico and in the Champions League qualifying zone.
Atletico’s Simeone, Griezmann among five Covid cases at club
That is bad news for the champion as Simeone is facing increased pressure having lost four successive league matches for the first time since the Argentine took charge in 2011. His role has come under scrutiny from supporters and the media.
Barcelona also has problems ahead of Sunday’s trip to Real Mallorca with 10 players on its COVID-19 list. Midfielder Philippe Coutinho, defender Sergino Dest and winger Ez Abde are the latest to test positive, the club said on Thursday.
The Catalans had already been hit by a number of COVID cases including Ousmane Dembele, Samuel Umtiti, Gavi, Clement Lenglet, Dani Alves, Jordi Alba and Alejandro Balde.
Barca, which last played in the league in a 1-1 draw at Sevilla on December 21, is seventh on 28 points from 18 games.
It was a much-improved Barcelona after a month under the tutelage of new manager Xavi Hernandez that managed a point against second-placed Sevilla, which has 38, eight points adrift of leader Real Madrid but with a game in hand.
Sevilla will play at Cadiz on Monday with three positive cases confirmed, while Real makes the short drive to Madrid’s suburbs to face Getafe on Sunday with four new COVID-19 cases.
Federico Valverde and Eduardo Camavinga returned positive tests on Wednesday along with Vinicius Jr and Courtois.
Luka Modric, Rodrygo, Marco Asensio, Gareth Bale, Marcelo, Andriy Lunin, Isco and David Alaba have also tested positive this month.