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Italian FA chief hopes Serie A will return in ‘July or August’

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The president of the Italian FA (FIGC) is hopeful the Serie A season will return to action in July or August.

Gabriele Gravina revealed that he expects the suspension of Italy’s top-flight to last for at least another three months as the European nation has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic with over 7,000 deaths in Italy so far.

Speaking to Radio Marte, Gravina was adamant he will do everything in his power for the 2019-20 season to return but believes the suspension will continue a lot longer than most people anticipate as UEFA’s deadline of June 30 for the season to end seems increasingly unrealistic.

“For as long as I’m able to, I won’t lose hope of resuming the campaign. I’ll do anything to make that happen. I find giving up very difficult,” Gravina said. “I’m aware that it’s still too early to think of a date, but we must think positively. We’ll try our best to even play at the cost of asking for support from UEFA and FIFA to go beyond June 30, therefore also taking advantage of July and August.

“Right now, there’s no room for individual interests. I plead for common sense because, ultimately, it’s the FIGC that will have to decide. Tomorrow [Thursday], there will be a new appointment with the government to work on a series of proposals that concern some amendments, which the government will assess, but there are many other issues of our relevance. We don’t want to ask for money, but we’re denouncing a state of crisis. We ask the government to help us with a series of measures to help modernise our game. We’ll see them tomorrow, then we will meet again next week for a permanent and constant worktable, putting together indispensable ideas to form projects. I consider [cancelling the season] a defeat of mine and one that diminishes the value of the competition. It would lead to an unpleasant scenario.”

In essence the head of the Italian FA has vowed to finish the 2019-20 season and that falls in line with what Premier League clubs want as they announced last week that the current season had been “extended indefinitely” with a possible return date from April 30.

If Italy is predicting the Serie A season to return three months from now, the same resumption date is likely for England, France, Germany and Spain as Europe remains to be the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.

Transfer news: Tagliafico to Chelsea; Osimhen to Arsenal

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In the latest transfer news Chelsea have been linked with a move for Nicolas Tagliafico, while Arsenal are said to be keen on Victor Osimhen.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Starting in west London, Chelsea are said to be interested in Ajax left back Nicolas Tagliafico as the Argentine defender will be available this summer.

According to The Telegraph, Tagliafico, 27, will be available to buy for $28 million and he’s been linked with Arsenal in the Premier League and plenty of top clubs in Europe. Per the report, Tagliafico would be a much cheaper option than Leicester City’s Ben Chilwell.

Tagliafico is a solid, reliable defender who is calm on the ball and versatile. That is exactly what Frank Lampard wants at left back as his two current options Marcos Alonso and Emerson have been inconsistent with Alonso better going forward and Emerson slightly better defensively. Chelsea need to improve defensively and be it in a 3-4-3 formation or a 4-3-3 system, Tagliafico will slot in well.

At $28 million, Tagliafico would be a very shrewd signing and he’s been influential in the Ajax side which has impressed in Europe over the last two seasons, including in their run to the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League semifinals. With Ajax winger Hakim Ziyech already joining Ajax from Chelsea, the Blues could do a lot worse than picking up Tagliafico to solve their left back problem.

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Switching from west London to north London, Arsenal have been linked with plenty of attacking players in recent weeks, even though it appears Mikel Arteta will be strapped for cash in the upcoming transfer windows.

A report from La Replubblica says that Arsenal are battling with Napoli for 21-year-old Lille forward Victor Osimhen.

Osimhen has flourished at Lille over the past few years and Arsenal are looking to sign young, hungry, pacy forwards and the Nigerian international fits the bill.

Nicolas Pepe joined Arsenal from Lille last summer in a club-record deal of close to $88 million and per the report, Arsenal already owe Lille plenty of monthly payments on the deal for Pepe so maybe Osimhen’s transfer fee could be built into that payment plan?

Still, his price tag of over $60 million seems way too high for an Arsenal side who are looking at swap and loan deals galore, plus have agreed to a long-term wage cut with players and staff.

Is up front an area they are looking to strengthen? With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang maybe leaving, plus Alexandre Lacazette also said to be keen on a move, that leaves Arteta with youngsters Eddie Nketiah and Gabriel Martinelli who have both impressed. Osimhen scored 20 goals in all competitions last season and 18 this season and Lille are said to be willing to sell on some of their best young stars as they did not qualify for the UEFA Champions League next season due to the Ligue 1 season being canceled in France and a points-per-game model used to determine the final table.

Osimhen could be available but could Arsenal afford him? Surely only if Auba and Laca both leave.

Key issues ahead of Premier League restart

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The 2019-20 Premier League season will restart on June 17, the league confirmed Thursday, but there are still plenty of issues to sort out ahead of the resumption.

‘Project Restart’ still has a little way to go, but we now have a date.

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The Premier League held in-depth meetings with all 20 clubs and, among other matters, June 17 emerged as the date games will return. Due to the coronavirus pandemic the Premier League season was suspended on March 13 with 92 games remaining.

As per the agreement, the two games in hand, Man City v. Arsenal and Aston Villa v. Sheffield United, will be played on June 17 so all teams are on 29 games played when then the rest of the games resume on June 19-21.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters confirmed the restart date of June 17, as long as everything goes as planned with a return to contact training and COVID-19 tests among Premier League staff and players.

There is still plenty to sort out though, so here’s a look at the key questions and issues which remain between now and the Premier League restart on June 17.


Will teams play games at home stadiums?

Some reports state that Liverpool will play home games at a neutral venue due to concerns from police about fans congregating outside Anfield considering their impending title victory. Other high-profile games such as Tottenham against Arsenal may not be played at home stadiums either as reports state that neutral stadiums such as Wembley may be used to host some of the higher profile matches. Simply put, the only thing we know about stadiums is that they will be empty for all of the remaining 92 games of the season.


What happens if there is a second wave of COVID-19 in the UK or within Premier League clubs?

The key part of Richard Masters’ statement was the first few sentences: “Today we have provisionally agreed to resume the Premier League on Wednesday 17 June. But this date cannot be confirmed until we have met all the safety requirements needed, as the health and welfare of all participants and supporters is our priority.” The Premier League have to first and foremost make sure there is no rise in the number of COVID-19 positive tests among its players and staff.

Staff and players are all tested twice per week and 60 tests will be available to each club. So far, out of 2,752 tests from three batches, there have been 12 positive COVID-19 tests. If those numbers stay that way, or fall, the Premier League will be in good shape to return, as planned, on June 17. If they rise, the date will have to be pushed back. There can be no room for complacency from clubs and players over safety protocols during the next three weeks and beyond. That said, the situation in the UK has been the worst in Europe in terms of the death toll and if a second spike arrives in England, the plan for the Premier League restart would be put in jeopardy.


If the season is delayed further and the games cannot be finished, then what?

It has been reported, but not confirmed, that clubs agreed that an unweighted points-per-game model will be used to decide the final table if the season is curtailed. That means that the average number of points teams have won during their games played so far will be calculated in accordance with their remaining games to play. The Premier League have admitted they will have to come to a curtailment plan just in case the situation worsens in the UK or within their clubs.


Using five substitutes per game?

This is something the Premier League can do as the IFAB rules allow it and have been modified during the pandemic. Clubs will be able to use five substitutes per game, up from three, but subs can only be used in specified windows such as half time so the flow of the game isn’t disrupted. This has worked well in the Bundesliga and it is expected it will also work well in the Premier League, especially with so many games being played in a six-week period.


What about players out of contract?

This is something the Premier League clubs have already agreed on. With most player contracts running until June 30, we now know that the 2019-20 season will run beyond that date. Up until June 23, clubs and players can agree to extend the contracts until the end of the 2019-20 season as a short-term measure. However, players and club do not have to do this so some players may be out of contract and free to move on from July 1.

Spadafora: Coppa Italia, Serie A can return June 13

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Italian football can return June 13 with the second legs of the Coppa Italia semifinals and perhaps the final, followed by Serie A the next weekend.

Italian sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora made the announcement Thursday, bringing calcio back to a country that’s been ravaged by the coronavirus.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

In addition to stringent testing protocols and quarantine for club members who test positive, Serie A has plans in place for another wave of the coronavirus should it rear its ugly head. From Football-Italia.com:

“The FIGC also assured me that the Plan B (play-offs and play-outs) and Plan C (using the existing table) can be adopted in case of suspension. It is not up to me as Minister to decide, as that will be done by the FIGC. In the light of all those events, we can today say that the season can resume from June 20.”

Spadafora said he was hopeful the entire Coppa Italia could be completed before June 20, which would be a heavy burden on two of the following semifinalists: AC Milan, Inter Milan, Juventus, and Napoli.

The winners could face three matches inside of eight or nine days.

Napoli leads Inter after one leg in Milan, while Milan and Juve drew 1-1 at the San Siro.

Juve had its four Coppa run broken by Lazio last season. The Old Lady leads Lazio by one point in the race for a ninth-consecutive scudetto.

MLS announces return voluntary small group training

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Major League Soccer’s long road to returning from the coronavirus pause has hit another mile marker with the return of voluntary outdoor small group training.

The full team training moratorium remains in place through at least June 1.

MLS made the announcement Thursday and there are several stipulations given the size of our country and the variables in how it’s governed at the state and local level.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The voluntary sessions will be held “in compliance with detailed health and safety protocols that were created in consultation with medical and infectious disease experts.”

Perhaps most notably:

The sessions must not conflict with local public health official or government policies and provide the ability for players to step up their training while maintaining physical distancing protocols.

The league has been under a mandatory training moratorium since the league suspended its season on March 12.

MLS is also making sure to cover every base imaginable, healthwise and legal, by making public and transparent its demands of its clubs.

It’s been a busy break for MLS, which has canceled three major events but also taken hold of the boys youth soccer landscape.