THE spread of the coronavirus is having a growing impact on football with various matches being played behind closed doors or postponed.

But playing in front of no supporters is a prospect Middlesbrough head coach Jonathan Woodgate wants to avoid if possible, though he and the Championship club are taking their lead from the relevant governing bodies in combating the spread of the virus.

Manchester City's Premier League match with Arsenal, scheduled for last night, was postponed as a "precautionary measure", with several Gunners players put into self-isolation.

Tonight’s Europa League ties between Sevilla and Roma in Spain and Inter Milan's against Getafe have been postponed, while Rangers' Europa League game at Bayer Leverkusen next week will be behind closed doors.

Middlesbrough's pre-match weekly press conference yesterday was moved to the Riverside Stadium in order to cut down on the number of people visiting the club’s Rockliffe Park training ground in Hurworth.

Woodgate said: “We won’t be having visitors at the training ground, the press conference is at the Riverside, there’s hand sanitiser everywhere, we won’t be doing personal appearances, autographs won’t be getting signed.

“We have to be vigilant, really.

“It’s something big happening all over the world and we’re going to follow government guidelines, the FA and the EFL. We’re doing what we can.”

Boro are at home to Swansea City on Saturday, and Woodgate added: “The last thing I want is to play behind closed doors.

“I want our fans there when we’re playing home and away, and I don’t think it’d be right to do that [play behind closed doors]. If it comes to that then I wouldn’t be an advocate.

“We don’t want it to happen, but it’s up to the government the EFL, the FA, let’s see what happens. We’ll just follow guidelines.

“I’m just trying to win football matches at the end of the day, I’ll let other people deal with it.”

It is an issue affecting all levels of the game, Hartlepool United manager Dave Challinor admits the “bigger picture” must be considered in attempts to control the virus.

He said: “In terms of the situation, you have to let professionals deal with it and if we are told to do certain things then we will.

“You like to hope football won’t be that affected by it, but look at the bigger picture and the important thing is controlling the virus and it doesn’t become as serious as it has in other countries.

“I suppose there are people much higher up the pay scale who deal with things than us and they will come up with the best solutions so everyone is as safe as they can be.

"None of our lads shake hands anyway! The way it is you can think and overthink things. As much as possible, we all read the news and see what’s happening, I see more spray around the ground on Saturday than soap.

"I've been shopping and there wasn’t much toilet roll and hand spray and people are going nuts for it! Be sensible and washing your hands is what you should do anyway."

Woodgate will have Patrick Roberts and Dael Fry available on Saturday, both returning from injury as relegation-threatened Boro bid to build on last Saturday’s win at Charlton Athletic.

However, the head coach was unable to report a clean bill of health.

He said: "Patrick (Roberts) and Dael Fry are back, I'm really pleased with that. But George (Friend) (Dani) Ayala and Anfernee Dijksteel aren't in contention.

"Hayden Coulson is 50-50. He has a slight problem but I'm hoping he should be OK. He has been very, very good for us. Don't forget he was on loan at Cambridge only last season. He’s done very so well and I’m really pleased for him.

"Rudy Gestede is touch and go as well, but I think Rudy will be fine.

“George Friend is still struggling with a little niggle that he’s got. Hopefully he will be back soon because he’s a vital part of the team and squad.”

Ayala remains sidelined too, and Woodgate added: “I haven’t got a fate on Dani’s return. He’s started doing a bit of work on the grass. We’ll take it day by day and see how he does.”