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Transfer Rumor Roundup: Juventus in for Torres, Upamecano to Arsenal

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The coronavirus shutdown across Europe and the world has given teams time to focus on improving their squads for the future. There’s no certainty about when the transfer window will take place as the 2019/20 season continues to be pushed back possibly bleeding into the summer or even the fall. But clubs will have no excuse not to be ready once the time comes for players to make moves.

Liverpool has been linked with Valencia winger Ferran Torres for some time now, with the 20-year-old seeing his contract with the Spanish side expiring in the summer of 2021. However, according to Italian publication Corriere dello Sport, the Reds will have competition for his signature.

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Juventus is reportedly interested in pursuing the Spaniard, which makes sense given the makeup of the Juve squad. On the flanks in Turin are 35-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo, 31-year-old Juan Cuadrado, and the oft-injured Douglas Costa. Only Federico Bernardeschi can be counted on long-term at Juventus, leading to rumors such as these.

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Elsewhere, Arsenal has been linked by tabloids in England to RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano, with the 21-year-old French youth international said to have asked to leave this summer – or whenever the upcoming transfer window takes place. Upamecano has started every single league match for RB Leipzig this season after missing the first four due to injury. He also played the full 90 minutes of the 3-0 win over Tottenham in the Champions League that sent RB Leipzig through to the quarterfinals.

Upamecano’s contract with the German club expires in the summer of 2021, so like Torres’ situation at Valencia, it would be in the club’s best interest to sell the youngster this coming transfer window to maximize his transfer value.

Finally, Chelsea is reportedly interested in bringing aboard a second Ajax player after already securing Hakim Ziyech. According to Italian publication Calciomercato, the Blues are looking into left-back Nicolas Tagliafico after their chase of Ben Chilwell was turned down by Leicester City. Tagliafico, a 27-year-old Argentinian international, has been a fixture in the Ajax side since joining in January of 2018 from Argentine club Independiente. His Ajax contract runs out in the summer of 2022, so while there isn’t as much urgency to sort out his situation as with Torres or Upamecano, it is still within range.

The Blues currently have both Emerson and Marcos Alonso at left-back, so they are also not necessarily looking to urgently bring someone aboard in his position, but Tagliafico is versatility, able to play in the middle as well, making him a potentially useful player in a three-center-back system.

Inter v. Getafe, Sevilla v. Roma postponed

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Two Europa League games on Thursday have been postponed due to concerns over coronavirus as Inter Milan v. Getafe and Sevilla v. Roma will not go ahead.

UEFA released a statement on Wednesday confirming the news as Getafe’s president had previously said they would not travel to Milan to play the Round of 16 first leg game, while Roma issued a statement saying the Spanish authorities would not allow their plane to land in Seville.

Here is the statement in full from UEFA on the postponements:

“The UEFA Europa League Round of 16 matches between Sevilla FC (Spain) – AS Roma (Italy) and FC Internazionale (Italy) – Getafe CF (Spain) will not take place as scheduled. As a result of the travelling restrictions between Spain and Italy imposed yesterday by the Spanish authorities, the following UEFA Europa League Round of 16 matches will not take place as scheduled tomorrow, 12 March 2020. Further decisions on the two matches will be communicated in due course.”

Wolverhampton Wanderers have also issued a statement criticizing UEFA after they wanted their game at Olympiacos to be postponed due to Olympiacos’ owner Evangelos Marinakis being diagnosed with coronavirus.

Olympiacos have since confirmed all of their staff and players have been tested and their tests have come back as negative and the game will be played in an empty stadium in Greece.

Coronavirus fears have also caused the postponement of Man City v. Arsenal, and the sequestering of several Arsenal players due to coming in close contact with Marinakis 13 days ago after a Europe League game against Olympiacos.

More coronavirus connections to soccer:

Roma will not travel to Sevilla for Europa League game

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AS Roma have confirmed they will not travel to Sevilla for their UEFA Europa League Round of 16 first leg game.

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The Italian side released a statement saying the plane they were flying on from Italy to the Spanish city of Seville was not allowed to land in Spain and they have no way of getting to the game.

“Roma will not travel to Spain for the Europa League match against Sevilla after the plane from Italy was not authorized to land in Spain. More details from UEFA soon.” 

This incident will also surely mean that UEFA will postpone any games involving Italian clubs in European competitions as Inter Milan host Spanish side Getafe on Thursday and Getafe’s president has already refused to take his team to Milan.

Wolverhampton Wanderers have issued a statement criticizing UEFA after they wanted their game at Olympiacos to be postponed due to Olympiacos’ owner Evangelos Marinakis being diagnosed with coronavirus. Olympiacos have since confirmed all of their staff and players have been tested and their tests have come back as negative.

Coronavirus fears have also caused the postponement of Man City v. Arsenal, and the sequestering of several Arsenal players due to coming in close contact with Marinakis 13 days ago after a Europe League game against Olympiacos.

More coronavirus connections to soccer:

Atalanta grateful to give Champions League joy to coronavirus-hit Bergamo

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Atalanta is dedicating its UEFA Champions League advancement to those suffering from the coronavirus scare back home in Italy.

Josip Ilicic scored four times Tuesday as La Dea outlasted Valencia 4-3 in Spain and 8-4 on aggregate to clinch its first berth in the tournament’s quarterfinals.

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Club vice president Luca Percassi has been enraptured with the club’s success, which has escalated along with COVID-19 fears back home.

From Football-Italia:

“We received so many messages from all over Bergamo and Italy, not just the football world. This is a difficult time for the city, the region and the country, so we are glad to have given people two hours of entertainment and spectacle.

“There are no secrets to our success, we simply dedicate so much passion, hard work and determination into this club, because the city deserves it. We wanted to thank the city and show them what can be achieved in this difficult moment.”

Atalanta manager Gian Piero Gasperini said the club was inspired by the support of those back home.

Bergamo isn’t even a Top-30 city in Italy by population, but 1,245 people — about 10 percent of its populace — have been diagnosed with coronavirus. This Sky report details how terrible it’s been in Bergamo.

“We know so many people were watching us from Bergamo and received many messages, including the director of the hospital, so we are glad that we gave them a moment of joy,” Gasperini said.

Atalanta has a hold on fourth place in Serie A in a bid to return to the Champions League, three points more than Roma with a match-in-hand.

Ilicic scores four, Atalanta advances past Valencia

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Atalanta negotiated Valencia and an empty Mestalla Stadium in Spain on Tuesday to advance to the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals with a 4-3 second-leg win and 8-4 aggregate score line.

La Dea entered with a 4-1 advantage and got four goals from Josip Ilicic in the second leg. They qualify for the quarterfinals for the first time in its history.

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Ilicic converted a third-minute penalty to insure its lead, though Kevin Gameiro leveled the leg 18 minutes later.

Ilicic added a second penalty before the break. He scored five goals over the two legs.

Gameiro got his second off a Ferran Torres feed in the 51st minute, but Valencia needed four more goals.

The La Liga mainstay got a Torres goal with 23 minutes to play, but that was it for the comeback bid thanks to Ilicic completing his hat trick in the 71st minute.