UEFA chiefs are under increased pressure to cancel the rest of this season’s Champions League and Europa League because of the coronavirus.
And a statement to confirm the inevitable is now expected in the coming hours.
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The news that Juventus and Italy centre-back Daniele Rugani is the first Serie A player to test positive for the virus appears to make Uefa’s current position untenable.
Juve players have now gone into quarantine, as did the Inter Milan squad after they played each other – with Rugani in the home side – last weekend.
It means the Italian giants’ Champions League last 16 second tie with Lyon next week cannot go ahead.
With the Spanish government having already imposed a ban on flights from Italy, there seems no way that Barcelona’s tie with Napoli can be completed in the Nou Camp either.
Uefa’s scheduling problems are magnified by the limited number of midweek dates left between now and the end of the season – and the proximity of Euro 2020, which is still set to go ahead at this stage.
The priority for most countries will be finishing their domestic leagues, to avoid chaos, confusion and potential legal suits ahead of next term.
But that will be impossible if the outstanding Uefa fixtures are shoehorned into what is already a crowded fixtures calendar in April and May.
Uefa was due to play the last eight and semi-final stages between April 7 and May 6, with just one spare midweek between the rounds.
But with at least two Champions League last 16 ties unlikely to be completed and the risk of more players contracting the virus and sending extra clubs into lockdown, with similar issues in the Europa League, Uefa is left in an impossible position.
The latest development comes as basketball’s NBA season in the US was placed on hold after Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tested positive for COVID-19, while President Donald Trump has banned all flights into the States from mainland Europe from Friday.
At this stage, the weekend Premier League games are still due to go ahead with fans as scheduled.
So are England’s Wembley friendlies against Italy and Denmark, although the Rugani news is almost certain to have an impact on the March 27 date against Roberto Mancini’s side.
But PM Boris Johnson is expected to confirm after a meeting of the government’s emergency committee COBRA this morning that Britain is officially entering the “delay” period which could see large public gatherings – including football matches – banned as a safety measure.
The international players’ union FIFPro has urged football authorities to listen to the concerns of players and cancel matches now.
And Leicester and Denmark keeper Kasper Schmeichel added to that pressure on Premier League chiefs with a social media post in which he praised the “incredibly brave and strong leadership” of his country’s PM Mette Fredericksen after she imposed a lockdown on the nation.
Schmeichel added: “We need to stick together and help each other without actually being together to try to avoid the spread and help each other through this.
“I hope the rest of the world takes this pandemic just as seriously.”