Barcelona have announced that defender Jordi Alba has tested positive for COVID-19.

The left-back must now self-isolate, making him unlikely to be able to travel to face Mallorca on January 2 for Barca's next LaLiga game.

The 32-year-old becomes the third Barca defender to be sidelined with COVID-19, joining fellow full-back Dani Alves and centre-back Clement Lenglet.

Barca's official statement read: "First-team player Jordi Alba has tested positive for COVID-19, ruling him out of Tuesday afternoon's training session at Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper from 6pm CET.

"The player is in good health and self-isolating at home. The club has reported the case to the relevant authorities.

"He joins Clement Lenglet and Dani Alves on the sidelines, who also tested positive for COVID-19."

Xavi must now consider how to replace Alba in the side as he looks to steer Barca out of seventh place in the table and into the Champions League spots, with Rayo Vallecano two points ahead of them in fourth.

Only Sergio Busquets, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Memphis Depay and Frenkie de Jong have played more minutes across all competitions than Alba's 1,526, highlighting his importance to the team.

The NBA has changed its health and safety protocols with players who test positive for COVID-19 now able to return to play in six days.

The change shifts the customary isolation period from 10 days to six, provided those players are asymptomatic and meet other testing standards.

Clubs were sent a memo by the league on Monday, coinciding with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cutting isolation restrictions for Americans who catch the coronavirus from 10 to five days.

Coronavirus numbers within the NBA has soared in recent weeks despite 97 percent of players being vaccinated.

Approximately 120 current NBA players were in protocols on Monday, with the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden, Kevin Durant and Jayson Tatum recently forced out.

The all-clear was given for day three of the Boxing Day Ashes Test to start on time after Australia and England players all tested negative for coronavirus.

There had been a scare ahead of the second day of the third Test in Melbourne when a member of the tourists' family group returned a positive COVID-19 result.

The England players and management were forced to remain at their hotel while they awaited their test results, before being given the green light to travel to the ground, with play starting half an hour later than scheduled.

Both sets of players took PCR tests after the second day of play and Cricket Australia on Tuesday confirmed all tested negative, meaning there were no delays for the third day.

The England team's support staff and the family members who tested positive on Monday – reportedly six people in total – are in isolation.

Australia were well on course to retain the urn after reducing Joe Root's side to 31-4 in their second innings after two days of play, with England trailing by 51 runs and 2-0 down in the series.

The NHL has postponed another three games this week as cases of COVID-19 continues to hit the league.

Games between the Chicago Blackhawks and Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday and a home-and-home set between the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday and Friday will not be played.

That takes the number of games the NHL has now postponed up to 67 this season; a situation that led to the decision not to take part in the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

The league had planned to pause the season in February to allow players to take part in the Games, but that period will now be used to play some of the postponed games.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said last week: "We obviously will work very close with the (NHL) Players' Association. I do think we'll have to build in some off time during that three-week period for the players as they had anticipated previously.

"There are a lot of boxes to check there, but I expect that we'll be able to portion some portion of that break period to various clubs to get their players rested, and I hope to make full utilisation of the period so that we can make up the games that we've missed."

There is a "good chance" Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant will leave the NBA's coronavirus protocols this week, according to head coach Steve Nash.

The 11-time All-Star entered the health and safety protocols on December 18, but he could be out and ready to face the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday.

Kyrie Irving, who went into protocols on the same day as Durant, is further away from a return to action.

"I think there's a good chance Kevin will be [fit for Thursday]," Nash told reporters.

"With Kyrie, I'm not so sure but it's coming. He's already been in protocols since December 18; he's got to be getting close."

Brooklyn earlier stated that Irving will re-join the NBA championship-chasing franchise for road games outside of New York and Toronto.

Irving is yet to play for the Eastern Conference-leading Nets this season due to his refusal to be vaccinated against coronavirus, which has prevented him from practising or playing with the team – New York has a mandate in place that states players must have had a COVID-19 jab.

At the start of the season, the Nets announced they would not accept Irving playing on a part-time basis and thus overlooked him for selection until he is vaccinated.

But due to injuries and a COVID-19 outbreak, Brooklyn have opted to bring Irving back.

Jayson Tatum has entered NBA health and safety protocols and will miss the Boston Celtics' game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday.

Tatum joins eight fellow Celtics players on the list after 13 were sidelined due to COVID-19 protocols recently.

Players must wait 10 days or return two negative COVID-19 tests within 24 hours of each other before they are allowed to return to action.

Tatum contracted COVID-19 in January and was out of action for a short period before returning, when he explained he was suffering long-term effects of having the virus, requiring an inhaler for some time.

The forward leads the Celtics in scoring (25.6) and rebounds (8.6 – level with Robert Williams) per game and is also averaging 3.8 assists and 1.0 steals in a strong season for the 23-year-old.

His absence for the Timberwolves game was announced by the Celtics on their official Twitter page.

The Celtics are ninth in the Eastern Conference with a record of 16-17 and have lost six of their last nine games ahead of their clash with the Timberwolves, who are ninth themselves in the Western Conference.

Lonzo Ball joined the long list of Chicago Bulls players to enter the NBA's health and safety protocols ahead of Sunday's game against the Indiana Pacers.

Ball will not face the Pacers and the guard faces at least 10 days out of action unless he records two negative COVID-19 tests.

The 24-year-old is the 13th man on the Bulls roster to enter the protocols this month.

Three of Chicago's matches have been postponed in December due to the squad being so severely depleted.

Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan have since been given the green light to return, while Ayo Dosunmu, Matt Thomas, Alize Johnson, Devon Dotson, Coby White and Javonte Green have also cleared protocols.

Tony Bradley, Alfonzo McKinnie, coach Billy Donovan and now Ball are absent.

Chicago Bulls' head coach Billy Donovan has reportedly entered the NBA's COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

The Bulls saw two of their games postponed earlier in December after 10 of their players had entered the protocol.

Donovan, who has cold-like symptoms according to ESPN, told the media on Thursday that all the players had been cleared, and they are expected to be available for Sunday's game against the Indiana Pacers.

He will apparently now miss that game, with Bulls assistant Chris Fleming acting as head coach.

The 56-year-old would become the fourth NBA head coach to enter into protocols, joining Sacramento's Alvin Gentry, the Lakers' Frank Vogel, and Indiana's Rick Carlisle.

Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo has reportedly been cleared from the NBA's health and safety protocols.

Finals MVP Antetokounmpo entered the league's COVID-19 protocols on December 15 and has missed five games. 

According to ESPN, he will decide on Friday whether he is fit enough to feature in the Bucks' clash with the Boston Celtics on Christmas Day.

Antetokounmpo has been averaging 27.0 points, 11.6 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game for the defending champions this season.

He is shooting 53.0 per cent from the field – his lowest number since the 2017-18 season, and 28.0 per cent from three-point range.

The Bucks (21-13) are third in the Eastern Conference, behind the Brooklyn Nets (21-9) and Chicago Bulls (19-10).

Brooklyn Nets trio James Harden, Paul Millsap and Jevon Carter have cleared COVID-19 protocols ahead of their Christmas Day game against the struggling Los Angeles Lakers.

Harden entered protocols early last week, leaving the Nets depleted with Kevin Durant also among those sidelined, leading to three Brooklyn games being postponed.

Nets head coach Steve Nash revealed that Cam Thomas, Kessler Edwards and David Duke Jr had all entered protocols, totalling 13 Brooklyn players since 13 December, but added they would have enough to face the Lakers on Saturday.

"James Harden, Paul Millsap and Jevon Carter are out of protocols," Nash told reporters on Thursday. "The plan is to fly to Los Angeles tomorrow and play on Christmas.

"There were a few days we had to shut everything down out of precaution. It's started back up yesterday and today with guys back on the court in isolation.

"It's tricky, we haven't been able to do a lot. We'll continue to adapt as the rules and mandates come in."

The Nets have a 21-9 record to be top of the Eastern Conference but have not played since 18 December.

Alexander Zverev believes he will form a big three with Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev in 2022 but hopes he will not get the chance to become world number one at the Australian Open.

The German is knocking on the door near the top of the rankings after a fine year that saw him win six titles, including the season-ending ATP Finals in Turin and an Olympic gold medal in Tokyo.

Zverev, currently ranked third, could go top of the rankings if he wins the Australian Open, which starts next month, but that is only possible if current world number one Djokovic does not play.

And Zverev is hopeful the Serbian will take part despite continued uncertainty over his participation in the tournament amid intense debate over his COVID-19 vaccine stance.

Djokovic, a nine-time Australian Open winner, is yet to disclose his vaccination status.

Tournament chief Craig Tiley said this week he is still hoping to see the tour's top player participate if he meets the required conditions, which are either being vaccinated or having a medical exemption.

"The situation with Novak and Australia is still a big question mark," Zverev said in a podcast appearance with Eurosport Germany. 

"Of course, I hope that he will be allowed to play, that is very clear.

"There are thousands of mathematical calculations, if he doesn't play Australia and I win the Australian Open, then I'm number one in the world and so on and so forth.

"At the end of the day, now is not the time to think about [being world number one]. Now is the time to prepare as best as you can so you're physically able to play for it."

As well as his silverware, Zverev made the last four of the French Open and US Open, and the 24-year-old believes his experience has begun to come to the fore.

Zverev had a 59-15 record this season and recorded at least one victory against every other player inside the top 10 of the ATP year-end rankings.

"I've become much calmer and I'm also getting older," he added.

"I'm not 18 or 19 anymore. I understand maybe a bit more things about life and understand that you just have to keep calm in important situations. That has had its effect on me this year.

"I think next year could be very similar to the last six months from this year.

"Before, there used to be always talk about Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic – now the big titles were the Olympics, US Open, Turin and Wimbledon, and they were all won by Medvedev, Djokovic and me. 

"I don't expect it to be any different next year."

Alexander Zverev believes he will form a big three with Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev in 2022 but hopes he will not get the chance to become world number one at the Australian Open.

The German is knocking on the door near the top of the rankings after a fine year that saw him win six titles, including the season-ending ATP Finals in Turin and an Olympic gold medal in Tokyo.

Zverev, currently ranked third, could go top of the rankings if he wins the Australian Open, which starts next month, but that is only possible if current world number one Djokovic does not play.

And Zverev is hopeful the Serbian will take part despite continued uncertainty over his participation in the tournament amid intense debate over his COVID-19 vaccine stance.

Djokovic, a nine-time Australian Open winner, is yet to disclose his vaccination status.

Tournament chief Craig Tiley said this week he is still hoping to see the tour's top player participate if he meets the required conditions, which are either being vaccinated or having a medical exemption.

"The situation with Novak and Australia is still a big question mark," Zverev said in a podcast appearance with Eurosport Germany. 

"Of course, I hope that he will be allowed to play, that is very clear.

"There are thousands of mathematical calculations, if he doesn't play Australia and I win the Australian Open, then I'm number one in the world and so on and so forth.

"At the end of the day, now is not the time to think about [being world number one]. Now is the time to prepare as best as you can so you're physically able to play for it."

As well as his silverware, Zverev made the last four of the French Open and US Open, and the 24-year-old believes his experience has begun to come to the fore.

Zverev had a 59-15 record this season and recorded at least one victory against every other player inside the top 10 of the ATP year-end rankings.

"I've become much calmer and I'm also getting older," he added.

"I'm not 18 or 19 anymore. I understand maybe a bit more things about life and understand that you just have to keep calm in important situations. That has had its effect on me this year.

"I think next year could be very similar to the last six months from this year.

"Before, there used to be always talk about Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic – now the big titles were the Olympics, US Open, Turin and Wimbledon, and they were all won by Medvedev, Djokovic and me. 

"I don't expect it to be any different next year."

Celtic's clash with Rangers on January 2 has been postponed by a month after Scottish Premiership clubs voted in favour of bringing forward the mid-season break.

Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon announced on Tuesday that all outdoor events in the country would be limited to 500 spectators for at least three weeks from December 26 amid a rise in coronavirus cases.

That would have meant the first Old Firm derby of 2022 practically being held behind closed doors, but there is hope that restrictions will be eased – or entirely lifted – by the time the Glasgow rivals meet in the rescheduled fixture on February 2.

Scottish Premierships teams will now start their three-week break after the Boxing Day round of fixtures, rather than on January 3, and the league will resume on January 17.

Games that were due to be played on December 29 and January 2-3, which also includes the Edinburgh and Dundee derbies, have been moved to January 17-18 and February 1-2 respectively.

Neil Doncaster, SPFL chief executive, said in a statement released on Wednesday: "We have had intense and positive discussions with all cinch SPFL clubs over the past 24 hours, since the announcement by the Scottish government of a three-week period of restrictions on fans attending matches. 

"We have advised our clubs that any postponements increase the risk of further disruption to an already highly congested fixture calendar.

"There are mixed views amongst cinch Premiership clubs about what to do for the best. However, a majority favour the postponement of fixtures to give a chance for games scheduled to be played over the festive period to be played in front of fans, once the three-week period of restrictions comes to an end. 

"The SPFL Board has agreed to postpone the 29 December and New Year Premiership fixture cards.

"Championship, League 1 and League 2 clubs voted to continue playing through the government restrictions and we look forward to their festive fixtures over the next fortnight.

"We would like to place on record our sincere thanks to Sky Sports and Police Scotland for their flexibility in accommodating these changes and to all cinch SPFL clubs for their clear, positive and constructive feedback as we work together to get through the challenges posed by COVID-19."

Australian Open chief Craig Tiley wants Novak Djokovic to participate in Melbourne but will not ask the world number one to disclose any medical reason he has for being unvaccinated against COVID-19.

The first grand slam of 2022 begins on January 17, but it is unclear if reigning champion Djokovic will be competing.

The Serbian, a nine-time Australian Open winner, is yet to disclose his vaccination status.

Following guidance from the Victoria state government, all players, staff and spectators at Melbourne Park must have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus or hold a medical exemption.

Djokovic has been named on the list for the draw and is also due to represent Serbia at the ATP Cup in Sydney, which runs from January 1 to 9.

"If Novak shows up, he'll be vaccinated or have a medical exemption," Australian Open chief executive Tiley told the Australian Associated Press.

"If any player, fan [or] workforce is on site here, you're either vaccinated or you have a medical exemption that's approved and you're on the Australian Immunisation Register.

"That provides us with safety and an extra level of comfort on site.

"We want to have the best players here; I'd love to have Novak here. If he meets those conditions then great, if not, it's disappointing."

Tiley added he does not expect Djokovic to reveal any medical reason for which he may not have received the vaccine, should he receive a medical exemption to feature in the tournament.

"Medically, he doesn't talk to anyone about it. I'm not going to ask Novak that, it's none of my business," Tiley continued.

"[It's] his choice on his medical condition, it's his choice to keep personal and private like all of us would do with any condition we may or may not have. We are not going to force him or ask him to disclose that.

"[If he is here] I will know that he fulfils one of those conditions."

Rafael Nadal is set to play in Melbourne, though that is in doubt after the Spaniard tested positive for COVID-19 this week, following his appearance at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Dubai.

Tiley, however, believes Nadal will have recovered in time.

"I'm confident Rafa will be here," said Tiley. "Players that are testing positive now will complete a period of time until they are no longer infectious and they will be fine.

"If you are going to test positive and you want to play the Australian Open, your timing would be now."

Tokyo Olympics gold medalist Belinda Bencic has tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of next month's Australian Open and is experiencing "severe" symptoms.

World number 23 Bencic returned a positive test, along with Ons Jabeur, after competing at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi.

The pair are the third and fourth players to have tested positive after travelling to the Abu Dhabi event, following 2021 US Open winner Emma Raducanu and 20-time major winner Rafael Nadal.

Bencic wrote on Twitter: "Unfortunately and even though I am fully vaccinated, I recently tested positive for Covid-19.

"I am currently isolating and taking all precautionary [measures] to get through this as best as possible as I am experiencing quite severe symptoms (fever, aches, chills)."

The Mubadala World Tennis Championship typically serves as a warm-up event prior to the Australian Open which is due to begin on January 17 in Melbourne.

World number 10 Jabeur, who defeated Bencic in Abu Dhabi, is experiencing "strong symptoms" and isolating in her native Tunisia.

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