LONDON, Dec. 17 (Xinhua) -- The Premier League has been thrown into chaos by a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases, with only five of this weekend's fixtures surviving.
After midweek games between Brentford and Manchester United, Burnley and Watford, and Leicester and Tottenham were postponed, the weekend matches between Manchester United and Brighton, Southampton and Brentford, Watford and Crystal Palace, West Ham and Norwich, and Everton and Leicester have all fallen by the wayside.
Despite calls from some coaches such as Brentford's Thomas Frank to postpone the full weekend fixture list to provide a 'firebreak' ahead of the busy Christmas period, the Premier League has said the surviving weekend fixtures will go ahead.
The five matches to have survived are Aston Villa v Burnley and Leeds United v Arsenal on Saturday, and Sunday's fixtures between Newcastle United and Manchester City, Wolves and Chelsea, and Tottenham and Liverpool, although with Liverpool, Chelsea and Burnley all reporting cases of COVID-19, more changes can't be ruled out.
Aston Villa have won four games out of six since Steven Gerrard took over as coach and will be a tough rival for Burnley, who need a win to climb out of the relegation zone.
Leeds United have to bounce back from their 7-0 thrashing to Manchester City, but have a difficult rival in Arsenal, who will once again be without captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but are flying with players such as Emile Smith Rowe in exceptional form.
Newcastle United performed well at Anfield despite a 3-1 defeat to Liverpool, but will have to maintain their defensive organization against Pep Guardiola's side.
Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea look to be running out of gas with a draw, a win and a defeat in their last three games, and Tuchel will be looking for his forwards to show more effectiveness in front of goal against a rival that is tough to score against.
Tottenham will be at least rested for the visit of Liverpool after a COVID-enforced fortnight without a game, but Antonio Conte may worry about a lack of match fitness against a rival that is currently flying with eight consecutive wins in all competitions, even though they are likely to be without Virgil Van Dijk, Fabinho and Curtis Jones, who have tested positive for COVID-19. Enditem