Juventus and Inter aim for Italian Cup glory amid virus concerns - GulfToday

Juventus and Inter aim for Italian Cup glory amid virus concerns


Juventus goalkeeper Carlo Pinsoglio attends a training session ahead of their Italian Cup match. Reuters

Inter Milan and Juventus will look to get their faltering campaign back on track, when thy take the field for their Italian Cup semi-final return-legs midweek fixtures amid coronavirus chaos.

The two top contenders for the league title have been overtaken by a resilient Lazio, who surprised everyone with an astounding performance to go on top.

Lazio are perched atop with 62 points, while Juventus remain second two points adrift and Inter third with a deficit of six points.

Despite the Italian football has been badly hit by coronavirus, which claimed around 50 lives in the country, Rome remains largely untouched by the deadly disease.

Inter, who travel to Napoli on Thursday hoping to overturn a 1-0 deficit from the first leg at the San Siro, haven’t played in Italy since being beaten at Lazio on Feb. 16 as the virus concentrated in the Lombardy and Veneto regions.

 Their home match against Sampdoria and the weekend’s schedule title clash with Juve were both postponed, provoking a furious reaction from the club’s CEO Beppe Marotta, who wanted the match played behind closed doors.

 Two Europa League last 32 matches against Ludogorets is all Inter have had for preparation in that time, and their disrupted schedule comes in the midst of a dip in domestic form that has left the former league leaders third behind Lazio and traditional rivals Juve.

They face stiff opposition in Napoli, who look a side reborn since Gennaro Gattuso replaced Carlo Ancelotti as coach in December.

 They have surged up the Serie A table into sixth and impressed when they held Barcelona to a draw at the Stadio San Paolo in midweek.

The reigning league champions meanwhile host AC Milan in the other semi-final on Wednesday in a match that will be open to the public, or at least a portion of it.

 The Italian government decreed a halt to sports events in the regions of Lombardy, Veneto, Emilia Romagna and provinces in Liguria and Le Marche badly hit by the virus until March 8, unless the event is held behind closed doors.

 The decree also bans fans from those areas from making away trips.

 Juventus announced that only fans from from areas not named by the government would be able to travel to Turin (in Piedmont) to watch the match.

 They face a Milan side whose only defeat in 2020 so far came against Inter in a thrilling derby last month and who were unlucky to come away from the first leg with only a 1-1 draw.

 However Maurizio Sarri’s side will be favourites despite ropey recent form that has seen them lose to Napoli and Hellas Verona and scrape past relegation fodder Brescia and SPAL.

 Their 1-0 defeat to Lyon in the Champions League led to questions over Sarri’s future on the Juve bench, and should Milan reach the final with a first ever win at the Allianz Stadium the calls for his dismissal will only become louder.

Meanwhile, Italy’s football schedule has been thrown into disarray by the new coronavirus and its bosses are taking out their frustrations via social media and calling each other names.

The football-mad Mediterranean country has borne the European brunt of the COVID-19 disease now sweeping across much of the world.

More than 2,000 people have tested positive and 52 have died from the virus in Italy since Feb.22.

The big problem for football is that the Italian epicentre of the outbreak is in the northern part of the country where many of the big teams play.

Milan’s Lombardy region has recorded 38 deaths and its western neighbour Piedmont — home to Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus — has also been heavily hit.

Now the bosses of Inter Milan are lashing out at league president Paolo Dal Pino for what they view as completely random scheduling decisions that favour specific teams.


Fixtures (times GMT; first leg scores in brackets):
Wednesday: Juventus vs AC Milan (1945) (1-1)
Thursday: Napoli vs Inter Milan (1945) (1-0)

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