Saturday’s Merseyside derby between bitter rivals Liverpool and Everton will not be affected by the government’s decision to place the city into its new Tier Three lockdown amid rising coronavirus cases.
Negotiations between the Liverpool City Region and central government have continued overnight and into today, but Sportsmail understands elite football has not formed part of the lockdown discussions.
Everton are due to host Liverpool at 12.30pm on Saturday at Goodison Park in what is an even more eagerly-awaited contest than usual. Carlo Ancelotti’s men are top of the Premier League table after four straight wins, while champions Liverpool suffered a spectacular 7-2 stumble at Aston Villa last time out.
It appears the game has been saved by the absence of fans, the strict measures in place to control the spread of coronavirus within clubs, and perhaps the government’s desire to retain some form of entertainment at a time when many social outlets may be closed.
Pubs, gyms and casinos are among the businesses expected to be impacted by the top-level restrictions, with new curbs to be reviewed after a month.
‘Given the intensive testing program, the training bubbles and the extensive protocols we have in place – both at the training ground and on matchdays – at this stage we are not anticipating any impact on Saturday’s game from any increase in local restrictions that may be implemented,’ said Scott McLeod, head of communications at Everton.
Mr McLeod confirmed the club does not expect future fixtures to be affected either.
While football clubs and players are not insulated from the virus, the testing regime and protocols they follow gives them a better chance of controlling transmission.
However, four Liverpool players, have contracted coronavirus, the latest to be reported being Naby Keita.
It is yet another blow for the Premier League champions, who have already had to confirm positive Covid-19 tests for new recruit Thiago Alcantara, star forward Sadio Mane and Switzerland winger Xherdan Shaqiri in the past fortnight.
Liverpool sit fifth in the Premier League with nine points from four games, whereas Everton are unbeaten and top with 12 points.
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Liverpool City Council confirmed the authority did not expect elite sport to be affected by the new restrictions, although discussions with government are going to the wire.
‘As far as we’re aware sporting fixtures are not affected by the new rules which are set to be enforced so there are no changes to the derby this weekend,’ she said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson was due to make a statement to the House of Commons at 3.30pm on Monday with a news conference planned for 6pm. However, local authorities in the northwest, including the city council and the Liverpool City Region, are yet to see the full details.
The cabinet at Liverpool City Council is expecting to be briefed on the details of the lockdown at teatime.
Merseyside Police said it did not expect to change its approach to policing the fixture, given the ongoing absence of fans.
The Government’s new ‘three-tier’ system will classify regions as being on ‘medium’, ‘high’ or ‘very high’ alert.
Liverpool recorded 600 cases per 100,000 people in the week ending 6 October. The average for England was 74.
The Liverpool City Region includes the local authority districts of Halton, Knowsley, Sefton, St Helens and Wirral, as well as Liverpool.