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Sarri calls for calm as coronavirus fears surround Juventus Champions League tie

Lyon (AFP) – Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri rejected suggestions that supporters of his side should not be allowed to attend Wednesday’s Champions League clash with Lyon in France due to the coronavirus outbreak in Italy.

The virus had claimed 11 lives in Italy by Tuesday evening, with 322 confirmed infections, and authorities have said upcoming matches in Serie A will be played behind closed doors to combat its spread, as well as Thursday’s Europa League game between Inter Milan and Ludogorets of Bulgaria.

The mayors of the two towns in the Lyon suburbs across which the Groupama Stadium, the venue for Wednesday’s game, is situated have called for away fans to be banned from attending as a result. However, close to 3,000 fans from Italy are expected at the game.

“In my opinion it is a European problem, not an Italian problem,” said Sarri, as the first question at Tuesday’s press conference before the Champions League last 16, first leg focused on the coronavirus outbreak.

“In Italy we have done 3,500 tests and we have a certain number of positive cases. In France about 300 tests have been done, so probably if they had done as many tests as us there would be as many positive cases.

“It is a European problem so I believe that our supporters have every right to be here.

“Obviously we have to confront the problem and the authorities need to firstly contain it.”

Serie A leaders Juventus are heavy favourites to beat a Lyon side struggling domestically and who only just scraped through their group.

The visitors will also be able to call on a Cristiano Ronaldo in splendid form, with the Portuguese star having scored 19 goals since the start of December.

Juventus are hoping this will be the year they finally claim a first Champions League crown since 1996.

“I feel the weight of responsibility much more in Italy, where we are the favourites,” said Sarri when asked about the pressure on him.

“In Europe there are teams who are at least as strong as us. We are one of 10 or 12 teams with that objective, that dream.

“We are very lucky to be able to chase the Champions League dream, because if we achieve it, it will be bliss, and if we don’t the journey will have been beautiful.”

Meanwhile, Lyon’s aim is to ensure they keep the tie alive heading into the return in Turin next month.

Last season they held Barcelona to a goalless draw at home at the same stage of the competition, although they were beaten 5-1 in the second leg.

“I don’t think many people expect us to win over two legs,” admitted coach Rudi Garcia.

“Juve is a great institution. Lyon’s goal is to have a good season every year and win trophies.

“We are not at the point where we can win the Champions League, even though you never know in football, but that’s the objective for Juve.”

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