Barcelona have announced their presidential election will take place on March 7.

The club had to postpone the vote to name Josep Maria Bartomeu's replacement, initially scheduled for January 24, due to coronavirus concerns.

The regional government of Catalonia declared it could not grant Barcelona's members permission to travel beyond their local areas to cast votes due to tightened restrictions aimed at controlling the spread of COVID-19.

Instead, Barca have agreed to hold the election in 40 days' time. Members will have the option to vote by mail, using their local post office or, for those over 65 or with medical conditions, via a home courier service.

Due to nationwide health protocols, Barca said only polling stations located in Catalonia or in Andorra will be open to members to vote in person.

The three remaining candidates for the election are favourite Joan Laporta, Victor Font and Toni Freixa.

Barcelona said in a club statement: "The managing commission would like to make it clear that during this period the club will continue to work closely with the Catalan government and the health and local authorities to best organise the elections so that they can be carried out in the best conditions possible."

The Premier League has announced eight new positive cases from its most recent two rounds of coronavirus testing, half the amount of players and club staff who tested positive the previous week.  

Testing was ramped up to twice a week earlier this month due to a rise in the infection rate across the league and the United Kingdom in general.  

A record 40 positives were identified between December 28 and January 3, with a further 36 cases confirmed the following week.  

However, the number dropped by 20 between January 11 and 17 and has seen another significant decrease this time around.  

Across the two rounds carried out between January 18 and 24, 2,518 players and staff were tested for the virus – eight returned positive results.  

The Premier League does not provide specific information over who the individuals are who test positive, nor which clubs they are associated with.

Matthijs de Ligt has been cleared to join up with his Juventus team-mates after recovering from COVID-19.

The centre-back tested positive on January 8 and went into isolation, meaning he missed the Serie A games against Sassuolo and Inter, as well as the Supercoppa Italiana clash with Napoli.

However, having returned two clear swab tests, De Ligt will be included in Andrea Pirlo's squad for Sunday's home fixture with Bologna.

"Matthijs de Ligt carried out, as per protocol, two controls of molecular test (swab) for Covid-19 with negative results," a statement from the club read. 

"Therefore, the player has recovered and is no longer subjected to the isolation regime.

"He will join the team at the J Hotel for the retreat this evening and will be included in the squad list for tomorrow's match."

De Ligt has started 12 games in all competitions so far in the 2020-21 season; Juve have only lost once when the defender has played in Serie A, a 3-0 home reverse to Fiorentina.

The Netherlands international missed the start of the campaign after undergoing shoulder surgery in August, returning to action in late November.

Juventus are chasing a 10th straight league title in Italy, though have found the going tough in Pirlo's first season in charge and go into the game with Bologna outside the top four in the table.

Andy Murray has withdrawn from the Australian Open a little over a week after testing positive for coronavirus.

Murray, a five-time finalist in Melbourne, went into isolation at home after returning a positive test on January 14.

The three-time major winner, ranked 123rd in the world, had hoped to compete at the first grand slam of the year after being granted a wildcard.

However, tournament organisers indicated it would be difficult for Murray to remain in the draw as he would be unable to travel via one of the official charter flights containing other players before going through the required period of quarantine.

On Friday, the 33-year-old confirmed he had been unable to come to a "workable" solution with authorities.

In a statement carried by The Guardian and other UK media outlets, Murray said: "Gutted to share that I won't be flying out to Australia to compete at the Australian Open.

"We've been in constant dialogue with Tennis Australia to try and find a solution but we couldn't make it work.

"I want to thank everyone there for their efforts, I'm devastated not to be playing out in Australia. It's a country and tournament that I love."

The build-up to this year's Australian Open has been impacted by players having to spend a two-week quarantine in their hotel accommodation.

A total of 72 competitors have been unable to leave their rooms after positive coronavirus tests among passengers on the chartered flights to Melbourne.

Players have been unable to access practice courts and many have complained on social media about sub-standard food and conditions, with Yulia Putintseva, the world number 28, sharing videos showing mice in her room.

The tournament is due to start on February 8.

Zinedine Zidane is in "good spirits" after testing positive for COVID-19 as Real Madrid get ready to take on Deportivo Alaves without their head coach.

The Spanish club confirmed on Friday that Zidane is isolating after contracting coronavirus, meaning he will not be present for Saturday's LaLiga fixture.

Having already lost to Athletic Bilbao in the semi-finals of the Supercopa de Espana, Los Blancos suffered a humiliating defeat to third-tier club Alcoyano to exit the Copa del Rey in midweek.

With their title defence also stuttering, the pressure has increased on Zidane, whose absence this weekend means assistant coach David Bettoni will be in charge.

"I spoke to him this morning, he's feeling fine," Bettoni told the media ahead of a trip to an Alaves side that won 2-1 in Madrid last season.

"He's in good spirits. He won't be with us in person but we know he'll be supporting us. The important thing is that everyone knows he'll be there in spirit.

"We're just finalising how we're going to do things."

Zidane insisted he remained calm about his own future in the aftermath of the defeat to Alcoyano, having seen a strong Madrid side let slip a 1-0 lead to lose 2-1 after extra time.

Bettoni insists the squad remain united with the focus now shifting back to LaLiga, where they quickly need to make up ground on leaders Atletico Madrid.

"At Real Madrid, every defeat brings criticism, but we have enough experience to know we've got a chance against Alaves to show everyone we're a unit," he said.

"We're all together in this and we're going to do all we can to take the three points. We work hard every day towards just that and we have another chance to show it."

Sergio Ramos did not feature in the cup tie on Wednesday and will once again be absent this weekend, while fellow defender Dani Carvajal is not yet ready to make a return.

"With Sergio Ramos, he is in his recovery process and he won't be with us tomorrow," Bettoni confirmed.

"Dani Carvajal trained a little with us, but he won't be with us either and will be able to train normally from Monday."

Madrid have lost just one of their previous 15 away games in LaLiga but have found goals hard to come by this season, managing 30 in 18 games. That is their second-worst tally at this stage in the past 14 campaigns.

Olympic chiefs have been joined by the Japanese government in denying a report that the Tokyo Games is poised to be called off for a second time.

The delayed Tokyo 2020 event is due to officially open on July 23 and close on August 8, having been put back by a year because of the COVID-19 health crisis.

However, with the pandemic still causing devastation in countries across the globe, there have been concerns that staging an Olympics in 2021 may be impractical.

British newspaper The Times quoted an unnamed senior Japanese government source as saying: "No one wants to be the first to say so but the consensus is that it’s too difficult. Personally, I don't think it's going to happen."

That is a perspective that is hotly disputed, with International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach telling Kyodo News: "We have at this moment, no reason whatsoever to believe that the Olympic Games in Tokyo will not open on the 23rd of July in the Olympic stadium in Tokyo.

"This is why there is no plan B and this is why we are fully committed to make these Games safe and successful."

Japan has strict border controls in place in an attempt to prevent travellers spreading coronavirus and bringing new strands of the virus into the country.

The IOC executive board is due to meet on January 27, when it is set to receive updates from the Tokyo organising committee.

A recent poll of Japanese public, conducted by broadcaster NHK, found there was widespread opposition to the Olympics going ahead this year.

The Times said Tokyo would look to host the 2032 Olympic Games.

Yet Australian John Coates, an IOC vice-president and chair of the Tokyo Coordination Commission, says the plan remains for the Games to be held in its current slot.

"There has been no discussion on cancellation," Mr Coates told The Ticket, an ABC radio show.

"At the end of the day, politicians do have to take into account the feelings of those inside their party and the general public.

"But this is not the message we are getting from Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga or the president of the Tokyo Organising Committee Yoshiro Mori, himself a former Prime Minister."

In Japan, deputy chief cabinet secretary Manabu Sakai told media that the prospect of a Games cancellation was not under consideration.

He said: "There is no such fact. I would like to deny it. The government is working as one to prepare for the success of the event this summer."

The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) said it is continuing to plan for the Olympic Games, despite reports the rescheduled showpiece event in Tokyo could be cancelled amid the coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-19 forced the 2020 Games to be postponed, with the Olympics now due to held in Tokyo from July 23 to August 8 this year.

But with coronavirus continuing to wreak havoc globally, there are reports claiming Japan has privately concluded the Olympic Games will have to be called off.

The AOC responded to the reports in a statement on Friday, which read: "Both Japanese prime minister Suga and IOC president Bach have this week strongly reaffirmed their commitment to the Tokyo Olympic Games going ahead in July this year. 

"The AOC is continuing its planning to ensuring the Australian Olympic Team arrives in Tokyo, competes and returns home safe and COVID-free.

"The AOC, Federal Government, Queensland Government and Brisbane City Council are continuing to progress the candidature for the Olympic Games to be held in Queensland in 2032 – and that process continues."

International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach also insisted the Games will take place this year, despite surging COVID-19 cases in Tokyo.

Amid growing doubts, Bach told Kyodo News on Thursday: "We have at this moment, no reason whatsoever to believe that the Olympic Games in Tokyo will not open on the 23rd of July in the Olympic stadium in Tokyo.

"This is why there is no plan B and this is why we are fully committed to make these Games safe and successful."

"You may not like it but sacrifices will be needed. This is why I'm saying, safety first, and no taboo in the discussion to ensure safety," added Bach after hinting at the possibility of reduced spectators.

Bach said: First of all, let me be clear that you cannot compare March 2021 with March 2020 because there is such great progress in science, medicine, vaccination and [virus] tests.

"All this was not available in March last year. Nobody knew yet how really to deal with the pandemic, and now we know much more."

The NBA has announced the Memphis Grizzlies' next three games have been postponed in accordance with COVID-19 protocols.

Memphis had already seen Wednesday's scheduled meeting with the Portland Trail Blazers called off, the Grizzlies not having the league-required minimum of eight players available for action.

The same teams had been due to meet on Friday, however that clash will no longer be going ahead as planned.

Back-to-back games with the Sacramento Kings, set to take place on Sunday and Monday, are also postponed due to the combination of unavailable Grizzlies players and contact tracing for others on the roster. 

"The Memphis Grizzlies' next three games - Friday, January 22 at Portland and Sunday, January 24 and Monday, January 25 vs Sacramento - have been postponed in accordance with the NBA's health and safety protocols," the NBA said in a statement.

"The games are being postponed due to unavailable players for the Grizzlies and contact tracing for other players on their roster, and in order to ensure the health and safety of players on both teams."

In total, 20 games have been postponed during the NBA regular season as the competition deals with the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Grizzlies are 7-6 on the season and on a five-game winning streak. Following the postponements, they are next due to be in action on January 27, when they host the Chicago Bulls.

Sergio Aguero has confirmed he is self-isolating after returning a positive test for coronavirus.

The Manchester City striker has missed four straight games after coming into contact with another person who had contracted COVID-19.

Aguero announced his result on Twitter and it is not known when he will be free to return to training.

"After a close contact, I've been self-isolating and the latest test I took was positive for COVID 19," Aguero wrote.

"I had some symptoms and I'm following doctor's orders for recovery. Take care, everyone."

Aguero has played in just five Premier League games and nine matches in all competitions in a stop-start campaign.

Gabriel Jesus, Kevin De Bruyne and Ferran Torres have all been utilised as a central attacking option at times this term.

City are unbeaten in their past 16 matches in all competitions and are just two points off leaders Manchester United in the Premier League with a game in a hand.

Pep Guardiola's men face Cheltenham Town in the FA Cup this weekend and also have league matches with West Brom and Sheffield United within the next 10 days.

Ante Rebic, Rade Krunic and Theo Hernandez have been cleared to return to action for Milan.

It was confirmed prior to Milan's game with Juventus on January 6 that Rebic and Krunic had tested positive for coronavirus and they have not played since.

Hernandez and Hakan Calhanoglu returned positive results from tests administered last Saturday, ruling them out of the game with Cagliari on Monday.

However, Milan revealed on Thursday that Hernandez's result was a "false positive", while Rebic and Kurnic have now tested negative.

A club statement read: "Milan announces that both Ante Rebic and Rade Krunic underwent a molecular swab test with negative results and this morning had the medical exams required to resume professional activity.

"Further examinations have shown that Theo Hernandez was a 'false positive'. The documentation has been provided to the health authorities and the player can now resume training."

Milan sit top of Serie A with a three-point advantage over local rivals Inter, who they face in the Coppa Italia next week.

Before that, though, they entertain Atalanta in a league clash at San Siro on Saturday.

The Washington Wizards will get more preparation time before their return to NBA action after the team's clash against the Milwaukee Bucks was postponed.

Washington last played on January 11 and finally returned to practice on Wednesday following a coronavirus outbreak.

The Wizards (3-8) were due to face the Bucks (9-5) on Friday, but that clash was postponed by the NBA.

"The game is being postponed due to the number of available players for the Wizards, contact tracing for other players on their roster, and the length of time preceding the game during which the team was unable to practice," an NBA statement read.

Wizards star Bradley Beal said earlier on Wednesday his team were pushing for the game to be postponed.

"We weren't able to get into a gym for a week," Beal said, via ESPN.

"That alters guys' rhythm, shape. That is just like a recipe for injury, honestly. I think we are fighting the league on it."

Washington's next scheduled game is against the San Antonio Spurs (8-6) on Sunday.

Nacho Fernandez was ruled out of Real Madrid's Copa del Rey game at Alcoyano due to COVID-19 protocols.

Madrid defender Nacho was deemed a close contact of someone who tested positive for coronavirus and was subsequently cut from Zinedine Zidane's 20-man group for the game in Alicante.

The 31-year-old has reportedly tested negative himself but was unable to travel as he awaited the result of a second PCR test.

With Raphael Varane rested and Sergio Ramos absent due to injury, Eder Militao and Victor Chust of Castilla are the only centre-backs left in Zidane's squad.

Madrid did not clarify when Nacho will be able to return to action.

Following their clash with Alcoyano, LaLiga's champions are scheduled to face Deportivo Alaves and Levante in the next 10 days.

Victoria Azarenka called for greater understanding from players stuck in hotel quarantine ahead of the Australian Open.

After being exposed to coronavirus on flights, 72 players – including Azarenka – have been forced into a two-week quarantine ahead of the tournament beginning on February 8.

Novak Djokovic reportedly made several requests, which were rejected, of officials for players in quarantine, while Roberto Bautista Agut compared the conditions to prison.

But amid complaints on social media, two-time Australian Open champion Azarenka pleaded for players to be more understanding in a measured statement.

"Dear players, coaches, entourage and Australian community. I would like to take a moment and address some of my colleagues as well as the media around the world," the Belarusian wrote on Twitter.

"This has been a very difficult time for a lot of us that did not expect to end up in the situation we are in today, myself included. To be in a 14-day hard quarantine is very tough to accept in terms of all the work that everyone has been putting in during their off-season – to be prepared for playing our first grand slam of the year. I understand all the frustration and feeling of unfairness that has been coming and it is overwhelming.

"We have a global pandemic, nobody has a clear playbook of how to operate at full capacity and without a glitch, we all have seen it last year. Sometimes things happen and we need to accept, adapt and keep moving.

"I would like to ask all my colleagues for cooperation, understanding and empathy for the local community that has been going through a lot of very demanding restrictions that they did not choose, but were forced to follow.

"I would like to ask to be sensitive as well to the people who have lost their jobs and loved ones during this horrible time for all of us around the world. I would like to ask all of us to have respect for people who work tirelessly to try to make our lives easier.

"I would like to ask the media to please have consciousness on the impact and influence you bring to this situation and to the community. I would like for the people in the community to know and understand that we have it as our top priority to ensure the health [and] safety of all the people.

"Lastly, I would like for us to please try to support each other as much as someone can or is willing to. Things are always easier when you have a compassionate environment and work together."

Victoria endured tough restrictions after a second coronavirus wave last year.

On Tuesday, the state recorded its 13th consecutive day of no locally acquired cases of COVID-19.

Roberto Bautista Agut labelled the quarantining of players ahead of the Australian Open a "complete disaster", comparing it to prison.

After being exposed to coronavirus on flights to Australia, 72 players are in hotel quarantine for two weeks ahead of the tournament starting on February 8.

Players have hit out at the conditions, although tournament director Craig Tiley insisted on Tuesday most were happy to be in Australia.

But world number 13 Bautista Agut slammed the position players had been put in.

Told he looked like he was in prison, the Spaniard told Sport5: "It's the same, it's the same, with Wi-Fi.

"These people have no idea about tennis, about practice courts, has no idea about anything, so it's a complete disaster because of that, because the control of everything.

"It's not Tennis Australia, it's the people from the government."

Victoria on Tuesday recorded its 13th consecutive day of no locally acquired coronavirus cases, with three of the four in hotel quarantine linked to the Australian Open.

Bautista Agut, a 2019 quarter-finalist at Melbourne Park, said two weeks in quarantine would be difficult.

"I did work in the room but it's not the same," he said.

"I was feeling very, very tight and I cannot imagine staying two weeks like this. It's really, really tough."

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley defended Novak Djokovic, saying the world number one had provided "suggestions", not demands.

With 72 players forced into quarantine for two weeks after being exposed to coronavirus on flights, Djokovic reportedly made demands regarding their conditions.

Among them, the eight-time Australian Open champion reportedly asked for players to be moved to private houses with tennis courts, with his requests rejected.

But Tiley played down the reports, saying Djokovic had simply made suggestions.

"Novak wrote a note, these weren't demands, these were suggestions," he told Channel 9 on Tuesday.

"But he too is understanding what two weeks of lockdown means."

Tiley also backed the players despite reports and social media posts suggesting they were unhappy about being forced into quarantine.

"Last night we spent quite a bit of time with the playing group going through a number of different items because they've just been here for a few days getting used to this quarantine environment," he said.

"I have to say on that call there were about 500 players and the vast majority are happy to be here, pleased to be here and really getting ready in the next two weeks to be able to get out and play in the lead-in events and then play the Australian Open on February 8.

"I think the reports we're reading and the things we're seeing doesn't represent the entire playing group. For the most part, they've been pretty good."

With the preparations of 72 players so far impacted by quarantine, there have been suggestions the Australian Open be changed to a best-of-three sets format in the men's draw.

But Tiley said he had no plans to make such a drastic change.

"We're a grand slam at the end of the day and right now three out of five sets for the men and two out of three sets for the women is the position we plan on sticking to, starting February 8," he said.

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