Celtic without 14 players after coronavirus case, Dubai trip

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GLASGOW, Scotland — Celtic will be without 14 players for its Scottish Premiership match against Hibernian on Monday after defender Christopher Jullien tested positive for the coronavirus upon the squad’s return from a training camp in Dubai.

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Thirteen of Jullien’s teammates have been deemed as close contacts and must also isolate, the defending champions said.

Celtic manager Neil Lennon and his assistant, John Kennedy, will also be absent because they came into contact with Jullien.

Second-place Celtic pledged to fulfill its game against Hibs despite the spate of absentees, with the team 22 points behind fierce rival Rangers in the standings. Celtic has four games in hand.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has questioned the purpose of Celtic’s trip to Dubai and whether social-distancing measures were followed after photos were published from the training base.

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The Scottish government announced on Jan. 3 that travelers from Dubai arriving from early on Jan. 4 must quarantine. Celtic’s squad arrived back four days later.

“As we have already stated, Celtic’s decision to travel to Dubai for a training camp was for performance reasons,” the club said. “Whilst we were in Dubai, the announcements made on Jan. 4 significantly changed the COVID landscape.

“The reality is that a case could well have occurred had the team remained in Scotland, as other cases have done in Scottish football and across UK sport in the past week.”

Minutes before Celtic’s announcement, the Scottish Football Association said the professional game below the top two divisions was being suspended for three weeks because of an escalation in coronavirus cases in the country.

The suspension applies to the men’s leagues below the Championship, the leading two women’s leagues, and the men’s Scottish Cup.

The Scottish FA said the top-flight Premiership is exempt from the suspension “provided it continues to adhere to the stringent testing protocols.”

A national lockdown is in place in Scotland until the end of January at least.