Juve v Inter in doubt with Italian PM considering postponing Week 26 Serie A fixtures due to coronavirus

By Sports Desk February 23, 2020

Italy prime minister Giuseppe Conte revealed all of Serie A's Week 26 fixtures, including the blockbuster showdown between Juventus and Inter, could be postponed due to coronavirus fears.

The outbreak of coronavirus in Italy forced four top-flight matches to be postponed over the weekend, including Sunday's clash between Scudetto hopefuls Inter and Sampdoria.

Italy's move came as part of preventative measures against the spread of the coronavirus, officially named COVID-19 which originated in China, after two people died and dozens more reportedly tested positive.

Now, upcoming fixtures across Italy's leagues are in doubt, with Serie A leaders Juve scheduled to host Inter in Turin on March 1.

"I don't think that in just one week we'd be able to slow down the contagion so much that we could resume sporting events," Conte told Rai.

"We are constantly monitoring the situation and will evaluate. We'll see the evolution of the contagion and evaluate postponing all next week's matches."

Juve are a point clear atop the table following Saturday's 2-1 victory away at bottom side SPAL.

Cristiano Ronaldo marked his 1,000th career appearance with a goal, scoring in an 11th consecutive top-flight match – matching a feat previously achieved by Gabriel Batistuta and Fabio Quagliarella.

In-form Lazio were also in action on Saturday and edged Genoa 3-2 to extend their unbeaten streak to 20 games, while Inter are six points off the pace with a game in hand.

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    Lautaro Martinez is "very happy" at Inter amid links to LaLiga giants Barcelona, according to his agent Beto Yaque.

    Martinez has been tipped to leave Inter for Barca at the end of the season, though the Italian side have regularly insisted they have no plans to sell the star forward.

    The 22-year-old's €111million (£98.8m) release clause expired in July and Yaque played down the prospect of a transfer from San Siro to Camp Nou.

    "Lautaro's transfer is more in the media than real life," Yaque told La Figura de la Cancha.

    "Lautaro has three years on his contract with Inter and is very happy where he is.

    "He's had a very good season, still has the Europa League to play for and I hope Inter can go all the way in that competition."

    Yaque added: "I've never needed to give him advice and I don't need to now either. He's always been a complete player and has matured over the years."

    Martinez scored 14 Serie A goals as Antonio Conte's Inter finished second and a point behind champions Juventus in 2019-20.

    The Argentina international has managed 19 goals across all competitions ahead of Inter's Europa League quarter-final against Bayer Leverkusen on Monday.

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    Former Juve midfielder Pirlo, who was only recently named the Under-23s boss in Turin, will surprisingly have his first taste of senior coaching with the Bianconeri.

    Zola worked as an assistant to Sarri at Chelsea in 2018-19 and he told Sky Sport Italia: "I'd be lying if I said I wasn't surprised by this.

    "It's fascinating and if the project works, it'll go down as a huge success story for the club. It's not an easy job, though, as Juventus are asking to win in a certain way.

    "This is a courageous move from the club and based on the quality of the man, but Pirlo will need their support going forward. It's not simple, but I do think he can have real success."

    Pirlo left Juve in 2015 after the Bianconeri, who had been chasing the treble, were beaten 3-1 in the Champions League final by Barcelona.

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    The 2006 World Cup winner is a six-time Serie A champion, having won two Scudetti with Milan and four with Juve. He twice triumphed in the Champions League as a Rossoneri player, in 2003 and 2007.

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    Antonio Conte is eager for Inter to "give everything" in the last eight of the Europa League, even if only to ensure they have no regrets should they be beaten.

    The Nerazzurri have advanced to the quarter-finals, where they will face Bayer Leverkusen on Monday in their first match of an eight-team finals tournament in Germany.

    Inter have long been among the favourites to win Europe's secondary club competition and got past Getafe in the last 16.

    But while Conte is optimistic heading into the Leverkusen game, he suggests Inter could still go away content if they performed to the best of their ability and fell short.

    "We must be positive," Conte told a pre-match news conference on Sunday. "We work hard to achieve the goal, which must be the maximum possible.

    "To get from here to the end, we will have to prove it on the pitch. We cannot have complaints. We will have to give everything.

    "If it is enough to get to the semi-finals, or the final, or to raise the cup, we will all be happy - or we will go out where it is right to go out but without having complaints."

    The coach acknowledged a tough schedule had taken its toll on his side, but Inter are still raring to go.

    "We come from playing many games in a row in harsh weather conditions," he said. "But there is enthusiasm and desire to face this challenge and go to the semi-finals.

    "I think we are all trying to work to bring Inter back to where they belong, to be a team who are capable of winning trophies."

    However, to get past Leverkusen, Inter will have to find a way to stop Kai Havertz, the talismanic forward who has been heavily linked with Chelsea.

    "Havertz is a player who has great qualities," said former Chelsea coach Conte.

    "He has great technique and has what it takes to have a great career, but we hope he won't show it tomorrow."

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