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Five Serie A games off as coronavirus brings chaos to Italian sport

Milan (AFP) – Five matches in Italy’s Serie A, including the heavyweight duel between champions Juventus and Inter Milan, were postponed on Saturday due to the spread over the coronavirus.

Sunday’s clash between Juventus and third-placed Inter in Turin was among those fixtures to be called off and rearranged for May 13. 

It had originally been scheduled to be played behind closed doors. 

The decisions also mean the Italian Cup final, initially scheduled for May 13, has been pushed back to the following week on Wednesday, May 20.

Juventus also announced that they are temporarily suspending the activities of their Under-23 squad after the team had played a third division fixture against Pianese who have several players affected by coronavirus. 

“The reason for this decision is the appearance of new cases of COVID-19 in recent hours among players of US Pianese that the Bianconeri faced on February 23,” the club said in a statement. 

Juventus said that “six days after the match, the Bianconeri players showed no symptoms but remain under medical supervision”. 

However, the team will not practice until further notice. The club said that four Pianese players have now tested positive for coronavirus.

On Saturday, it was revealed that the number of cases of the new coronavirus in Italy had exceeded 1,000 with the death toll rising by eight to 29 in the past 24 hours.

The number of cases has reached 1,128 since the start of the epidemic a week ago, up from 888 on Friday.

The decision to postpone the five Serie A games had been taken in response to the “exceptional circumstances concerning protection of public health and security”, the Italian league said.

– Hard hit –

Lazio, meanwhile, did play on Saturday and moved top of Serie A with a 2-0 victory over Bologna.

First-half goals from Luis Alberto and Joaquin Correa sent Lazio two points clear of Juventus and extended their unbeaten league run to 21 matches.

Bologna had two second-half goals disallowed following VAR reviews.

Lazio have played a game more than Juventus while Inter, who are eight points adrift, have two matches in hand on the leaders after their fixture with Sampdoria last weekend was also postponed.

That was one of four games cancelled. Two of those fixtures — Hellas Verona v Cagliari and Torino against Parma — have already been rescheduled to March 11.

But Inter v Sampdoria and Atalanta at home to Sassuolo have yet to be given a new date.

Inter are also still involved in the Europa League, where they face Getafe at home on March 12 with the return on March 19 in Spain. 

On Thursday, their last 16 game against the Bulgarians of Ludogorets was played behind closed doors at the San Siro. 

Antonio Conte’s team also face Napoli this Thursday in the Italian Cup semi-final second leg in Naples, a region not currently affected by the measures introduced to counter the spread of the virus in the country.

Italian sport has been hit hard by the spread of the virus.

A Six Nations rugby match between Italy and Ireland in Dublin on March 7 has been called off, and the alpine skiing World Cup Finals — due to take place in Italy next month — will be held without any fans on the slopes.

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