The problems caused by the Coronavirus are far greater and more important than causing a clogged football fixture list, but the public health concerns surrounding the crisis could have a significant impact on both the Serie A title race and Euro 2020.
Italy is currently the third-most affected country in the world by the virus, after China and South Korea, which has caused various sorts of public meetings to be shut down by the Italian government under emergency measures.
That meant four fixtures were postponed last weekend, most notably Inter’s game against Sampdoria in Milan, and now six games next weekend will be held behind closed doors. That includes the big one – Juventus v Inter, which will now take place in front of an eerily silent Allianz Arena in Turin.
“It’s a very complicated situation,” said James Horncastle on this week’s European edition of the Totally Football Show. “It’s unprecedented in many ways, because we’ve had individual games cancelled before because of a tragedy – the Morandi bridge disaster in Genoa, or the death of Davide Astori. But this reflects the uncertainty in Italy at the moment about whether this will stabilise: it may get better, it may get worse.”
The knock-on impact of the games that have now been postponed could be significant, for the title race and far beyond that.
“Inter have been holding talks with the Italian FA about when they can replay this game against Sampdoria that was due to happen on Sunday night, but they’re looking at their fixture list and saying: “we’re jam-packed. We’re still in three competitions, we have to honour those competitions, we can’t forecast how far we might go in those”, so at the moment the only prospect of rescheduling that Samp game is at the end of May, after the season has already finished and the European Championship is at the door.
“And that’s another thing to consider: some games in the Euros will be held in Rome, and we should pose the question that for the moment Italy is the most affected country after China and South Korea, but I wouldn’t expect that to remain a problem just for those countries. Having a truly continental competition in the summer is going to be a very complex situation, unless there is a very sudden solution, or a way is found of containing the coronavirus.”
In the games that did take place this weekend, Lazio beat Genoa 3-2 which extended their unbeaten run to a remarkable 20 games which took them to within just a point of Juventus at the top of the table, and Ciro Immobile scored his 27th league goal of the season.
“It matches the most prolific season by a player at this stage, which was Juan Antonio Angelino back in the late 1950s. Lazio just keep going: Simone Inzaghi isn’t hiding from the Scudetto talk. It’s not a forbidden word for him and his players.
“Andrea Agnelli the Juventus president said today that the fact Lazio didn’t expect to be in the title race and have no expectation around them, makes them dangerous. It’s a dream that these Lazio players believe in and they’re not weighed down by that expectation like Inter are, after appointing Antonio Conte and making the signings they did.”
Lazio’s form, combined with the scheduling issues, now puts Inter in a tricky position.
“I wonder about the psychology of the title race now, with Inter having not played at the weekend, they’re now six points behind Juventus and five behind Lazio. How will the Derbi d’Italia being played behind closed doors impact it? This is really having a huge effect on one of the most gripping title races. Public health comes first, because as Arrigo Sacchi said football is the most important of the least important things.”
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