Pep Guardiola and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have been handed a huge boost this weekend – even before kick-off in the Manchester derby on Sunday afternoon.
That’s because the CONMEBOL council have revealed that upcoming World Cup qualifiers in South America have been postponed amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Initially, clubs across the Premier League had outlined their decision not to release players at the end of March due to the current self-isolation rules that are in place in the UK.
Had the international fixtures gone ahead, Guardiola could have been without fit-again Argentine Sergio Aguero for the following fixtures in the Premier League, while Solskjaer had been openly critical of international schedule, which was set to run from March 22 to April 1.
“It doesn’t make sense to travel when we’re paying them if they have to come back and be away for ten days,” Solskjaer told Sky Sports. “It is a chat we will have with the players.”
A statement on social media read; “The CONMEBOL Council decided to suspend the double date of the Qualifiers for Qatar 2022 scheduled for March.
“The decision is due to the impossibility of having all the South American players in a timely manner. FIFA will analyse the rescheduling of the date, in coordination with CONMEBOL and the member associations.
“Soon, the different options for holding the matches will be studied.”
Under normal FIFA rules, clubs must release any players called up to represent their countries in competitive fixtures arranged in the agreed international calendar.
In early February, though, the governing body extended an exemption rule introduced in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic – until the end of April – which would have allowed Premier League clubs to keep their players within the UK.
As thing stand in the UK, anyone returning from coronavirus ‘red list’ countries, which includes Portugal, all of South America and parts of Africa, is required to quarantine for 10 days, without exception.
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Manchester United were held to a 0-0 draw by Crystal Palace on Wednesday night.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his players were frustrated for the third goalless game in succession, dropping more points to allow Man City to streak away at the Premier League’s summit, on a poor day for the forwards.
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For City, that could have seen the likes of Aguero, Gabriel Jesus, Ederson, Bernardo Silva, Joao Cancelo and Ruben Dias have to isolate and potentially miss fixtures against Leicester, Leeds and a Champions League quarter final first leg should City get there.
Guardiola previously said : “We wait this game, maybe next week we’ll talk about it. It’s no sense when players to go to international teams and come back and for ten days cannot play. It makes no sense.”
For United, they could have been without Bruno Fernandes, Edinson Cavani, Fred and Alex Telles for Premier League games against Brighton on April 3 and away to Tottenham on April 10 if they were called up and had to isolate.