Wolfsburg - RB Leipzig

Germany: Bundesliga
Wolfsburg W. Weghorst (22), R. Steffen (35)
RB Leipzig N. Mukiele (5), W. Orban (54)

Glasner says Pongracic is fully fit:
"We've checked him all over from toenail to hairline"

By Peter Vice

At his Thursday press conference, VfL Wolfsburg head-coach Oliver Glasner insisted that club doctors have done all that they can for Marin Pongracic. The Croatian has even been cleared to play in this weekend's encounter.

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It is not a story any football lover enjoys reporting on. In point of fact, the prolonged fitness issues plaguing VfL Wolfsburg defender Marin Pongracic remain quite scary. The cases raises serious issues about the long-term-complications facing footballers who have contracted COVID-19. While literally hundreds of players have suffered no discernible lasting adverse consequences after their own bouts with the virus, slow-recovery cases continue to give cause for concern.

After a visibly exhausted Pongracic had to be subbed off after only 45 minutes in the VfL's most recent league encounter, team doctors subjected him to a full battery of tests over the past three days. Trainer Oliver Glasner went into further detail when speaking to members of the assembled press on Thursday.

"We've checked him all over from toenail to hairline," Glasner reported to the media, "Blood values, stress EKG, Spiroergometrie, and lung function. Everything is normal. Our doctors have done everything and are also working in conjunction with the DFB doctors."

Glasner indicated that the 23-year-old Croatian had been given the green light to resume full training with the team and had done so on Wednesday. His status for the weekend encounter was listed as "fully available". The same applied to fellow defender Maxence Lacroix, who had been rested last week after experiencing post-COVID breathing issues.

The VfL trainer relayed some of the speculations of the medical staff. It's not inconceivable at all that players can suffer psychosomatic stress symptoms after dealing with illnesses such as influenza. Moreover, athletes' bodies take time to re-orient themselves to strenuous physical activity after long periods of immobilization.

Though Lacroix and Pongracic have been cleared to resume their full program, the club is far from finished with the issues associated with its pre-round-13 COVID outbreak. Team doctors have absolutely ruled out any sort of return for left-back Jerome Roussillon; also recovering from infection.

"We can't subject him to intensive strain yet," Glasner reported, "It's going to take a while."

Wolfsburg opponents RB Leipzig have also had to deal with their own highly concerning case of COVID infection. Korean striker Hwang Hee-Chan required nearly six full weeks away from strenuous exercise before the team could begin to slowly build his fitness back up.

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