Coronavirus: How Everton are keeping their players fit during the shutdown

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - It was supposed to be a packed Goodison Park and the frenzied atmosphere of a Merseyside derby against title-chasing Liverpool for Everton’s players this week. Then, after sessions at their deluxe Finch Farm training complex, they were due to go to Carrow Road to take on a Norwich team trying to escape relegation.

Suffice to say an extreme change of circumstances caused a rapid change of plans. Rather than being cheered on by 40,000 at Goodison Park and watched on by millions, Carlo Ancelotti’s players have been training alone. Finch Farm was closed on Friday for at least a week. Ancelotti called the decision to shut down the Premier League “the right decision. Health is the most important thing.”

Football is off until at least April 3, though probably far longer. It has been replaced by individual gym programmes and guided aerobic work. Instead of a crowd, Everton’s players are working out alone, in home gyms or gardens. “We have given them their usual gym programmes added to aerobic work they can do at home with a bike or treadmill, or in a safe outside space,” said Danny Donachie, Everton’s director of medical services.

A priority for the club was to give them conditioning work, focusing on general fitness. None of it is based on football, but much of it had already been tailored to suit them.

“The players follow individual gym programmes during the season, so the work they are doing is a continuation of that,” added Donachie, the son of the former Everton assistant manager Willie, Joe Royle’s No. 2 when they won the FA Cup in 1995.

The current manager, Ancelotti, is in daily contact with his backroom team and Donachie added: “Everything they are doing is as safe as possible in terms of avoiding injury. Motivation is never an issue and there is some novelty for the players, they are at home and in their own gyms, so that benefits us in the short-term.”

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Football stars to test positive for Covid-19

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta tested positive on March 14. Staff who had been in contact with him were self-isolating. AFP

Chelsea's Callum Hudson-Odoi was the first Premier League player to test positive. He said on Twitter on March 13: "As you may be aware I had the virus for the last couple of days which I have recovered from. I am following the health guidelines and self-isolating myself from everybody for the week. I hope to see everybody soon and hopefully will be back on the pitch very soon. Reuters

Valencia's Ezequiel Garay was the first La Liga player to test positive on March 15. "I tested positive for coronavirus, I feel very well and now all that's left is to do what the health authorities say, which is to isolate myself," he said on Instagram. All football is suspended in Spain. EPA

Valencia's Eliaquim Mangala, left, was one of five players and staff at the club to test positive. "I'm feeling good and I have no symptoms associated with the virus. However, I am confined in house and separated from my family," he said on Twitter. AP

Juventus confirmed that French midfielder Blaise Matuidi had become the second player from the club to test positive for the coronavirus. Italian defender Daniele Rugani was the first player to play in Serie A to test positive last week. EPA

Juventus' Italian defender Daniele Rugani was confirmed to have the virus on March 12. "You've read the news, so I want to reassure everyone who's worried about me, I'm fine," Rugani said on Twitter. The entire Juventus squad is to spend two weeks in quarantine. AP

Manolo Gabbiadini of Sampdoria is one of five players to have tested positive at the club. "I still want to tell you that I'm fine, so don't worry. Follow all the rules, stay at home and everything will work out," said Gabbiadini on Twitter. PA

Albin Ekdal of Sampdoria tested positive. Italy is one of the worst affected countries. Getty Images

Sampdoria's Omar Colley, right, was confirmed to have coronavirus. AP

Fabio Depaoli, left of Sampdoria, said on Instagram that he was "fine" after testing positive. Getty Images

Fiorentina foward Patrick Cutrone, on loan from Premier League Wolves, is one of three players to test positive at the club. EPA

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Everton would normally use GPS trackers to monitor distances covered. That is not an option but the club’s head of physical conditioning Francesco Mauri, who worked with Ancelotti at Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Napoli, has looked to use technology to keep their players in shape.

He said: “It is a strange and difficult situation but we tried to react immediately. We decided to prepare a programme where the players have different training sessions for one week, but they can repeat those routines during subsequent weeks.

"We used our technology to send a programme with videos and descriptions of activities to the players. The training is focused on aerobic conditioning, strength and mobility. Our goal is to avoid loss of physical condition and some of the exercises are centred on injury prevention. I am sure that the players understand how it is important to move and to keep the body in good shape. We trust them and know they are professionals.”

Donachie takes heart from pre-seasons when Everton’s players have returned from summer breaks in good shape. “We trust the players to maintain their fitness,” he added. “In the summer we give them programmes and they can go for four-to-six weeks with no monitoring. But as soon as they come back you can see they have done the work.”

The challenge can be to stop the modern footballer doing too much work. They rarely need coaxing into the gym, Donachie added: “I encourage them to have at least two weeks off but it is a challenge… they are keen to improve and not lose anything and you have to admire that.”

Updated: March 18, 2020 06:50 PM

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