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Dublin: 9°C Thursday 22 October 2020

Serie A to learn season's fate in meeting with Italian government tomorrow

It is expected that the resumption of action will be greenlit, but Italy boss Roberto Mancini is among those who hopes otherwise.

Cristiano Ronaldo leaps for a header against Napoli earlier this season.
Cristiano Ronaldo leaps for a header against Napoli earlier this season.
Image: Fabio Sasso

SERIE A’S HOPES of following Germany and Spain back onto the pitch will be decided on Thursday in a meeting with the Italian government which will determine the fate of the season in Italy.

Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora will tell representatives from the Italian football federation and Lega Serie A whether or not the health conditions are right to return to action after nearly three months.

The season has been on hold since 9 March when it was halted as coronavirus infections spread rapidly in Italy. The pandemic has killed just over 33,000 people in the country, the second-highest fatality rate in Europe after the UK.

Clubs returned to group training on 19 May but competitive action remains suspended until mid-June at the earliest.

The indications are that Spadafora and the government’s Scientific Technical Committee will agree to both implementing a health protocol and to resuming the season.

If there is a green light on Thursday, Lega Serie A will meet Friday to examine “the different calendar hypotheses” for the remaining Serie A and Italian Cup matches.

The league wants competition to resume on the weekend of 13-14 June starting with four postponed fixtures — Atalanta-Sassuolo, Verona-Cagliari, Inter-Sampdoria and Torino-Parma.

They hope the season will resume fully on 20 June, with the goal of awarding the league title, defining promotions and relegations, before playing Italian Cup semi-finals, with the final in early August.

The closing stages of the European club competitions could also be played in August. Three Italian clubs are still in the Champions League and two in the Europa League.

But not everyone agrees with a return to the pitch and the packed schedule required with teams needing to play three matches a week, in hot summer conditions.

Brescia and Torino, situated in the northern regions of Lombardy and Piedmont respectively, which accounted for nearly 60% of Italy’s COVID-19 deaths, have consistently opposed to a return.

“To finish this championship is forcing it in my opinion,” Brescia captain Daniele Gastaldello said this week.

“It’s risking the safety of the players.”

Brescia are sitting last in the league, and have nothing to gain by concluding this nightmare season.

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Torino president Urbano Cairo, whose club are 15th, would also gladly abandon the season.

“I bow to the majority choice,” said Cairo, voicing his concerns over “the short time between the end of this season and the start of the next one,” scheduled for 1 September.

AC Milan’s Swedish forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic, one of the big stars of the championship, has already suffered a calf injury in training, and could be out for a month.

“I think it’s chaos,” said Italy coach Roberto Mancini.

If I were to speak only as a coach, I would prefer it to stop and start calmly next season.

“There is going to be an endless series of matches and I don’t know what state the players will be in.”

On Friday, the ‘Plan B’ will also be analysed at the Lega Serie A meeting, a format with short playoffs to determine the title, European places and relegation, if the season is again suspended, or all the matches not played.

Another issue to be solved is that of players’ contracts and whether they can be extended to complete the season beyond its natural expiration.

The issue of wage cuts also remains unresolved and liability in the event of illness remains complex.

But one team who have been anxious to return to the pitch are Lazio.

The Roman club were just one point behind leaders Juventus when the season was suspended, and within touching distance of the third Scudetto in the club’s 120-year history.

“We miss football, I don’t speak only for myself or for our team. We hope that the right decision can be made soon to complete this championship,” said captain Senad Lulic.

© – AFP, 2020

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