coronavirus pandemic

Sheffield United boss Wilder readies for European fight (video)

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Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder has overseen one of the more incredible debut seasons for a promoted club in Premier League history.

His Blades are currently in a Europa League position and two points back of what will likely be a Champions League position if Man City’s European ban is upheld next month. They will also host Arsenal in an FA Cup quarterfinal if the tournament resumes this summer.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Wilder has been planning for the Blades return over the coronavirus pandemic, and admitted to NBC’s Arlo White that there are some odd moments when he considers their position on the Premier League table.

“There has been a time when the league table flashes up and you go, ‘What’s happened there? What’s that team doing right the way up there above some big hitters?’ But really what it does teach you in the game of football is that you have to live in the moment. We’ve enjoyed this season. We fully deserve our position. We believe (in) the points that we’ve gained and the points that we’ve produced. We want to carry on where we’ve left off.”

“I liken it to a Ford Fiesta in the Le Mans 24-hour race in super cars. Listen, we’re competitors. We’ve enjoyed it and I do 100 % percent believe deserve the performances we’ve got have been fully deserved. We’re going to have to do a lot just to maintain our position now.”

Blades remaining fixtures are far from easy, with Spurs, Manchester United, Wolves, Leicester City, and Chelsea still to come. They’ll have their say on the UCL and UEL and, almost regardless of how it goes, will have made a wildly strong impression on the PL.

PL ‘as confident as we can be’ about season return

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Premier League chief executive Richard Masters says the league is “as confident as we can be” about a June return from the coronavirus pandemic to the playing fields of England.

Speaking to the BBC’s Dan Roan, Masters said that the league is following all protocols to make a return safe and that there is “optimism” that fans could attend matches at some point next season.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

While acknowledging that curtailing the season is still a possibility, Masters stressed that the clubs would not have players back on the training ground if they were as soon as possible that a return to matches this season was possible.

From the BBC:

“We wouldn’t have taken the first step to get back to training if we weren’t convinced we had created a very safe environment for our players,” he said. “It is the first step and we have to be sure when we go to contact training we have completed those processes.”

He said he would be confident enough to return to a training pitch, but respects players who will stay away from the game due to the pandemic.

Masters also told the BBC that he’s confident they can run a successful to keep fans away from stadia, even if Liverpool is set to win its first ever title at Anfield.

“We’re talking to the authorities about that,” he added. “I do believe we can appeal to fans not to congregate outside football grounds or go to other people’s houses to watch football matches in contravention of government guidelines.”

Schalke director speaks on challenges of Bundesliga restart

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Getting prepared to be the first major league to return to football was a challenging endeavor for the 18 teams of the Bundesliga, and proves a fascinating story.

ProSoccerTalk had a chance to speak to one of Schalke’s directors about getting ready for the return of top-flight action and a top-six challenge. The Gelsenkirchen set sits two points back of sixth and plays sixth-place Wolfsburg and seventh-place Freiburg the final two matches of the season.

[ MORE: Bundesliga Week 27 preview and predictions ]

Alexander Jobst serves on the managing board at the club, where he’s been since 2011 when he arrived from FIFA, having previously worked for Real Madrid as its head of international development.

We spent some time with Jobst on how Schalke reacted to the coronavirus pandemic, preparing to become the first top European league to return from the pause, and what to expect moving forward.

Jobst said the club was ready to come back from the pause, but admitted he felt a surge of pride and responsibility when the government gave them the green light to return.

“I believe this process is a huge wakeup call for us,” he said. “Health is the most important thing and we need to protect our own health as well as the health of the people we love. We certainly are humbled by the process.”

That process meant empowering their players through sports psychologist Sascha Lense and head of support Massimo Mariotti, who not only communicated with Schalke players about their concerns; They took special care with younger, non-German players like Rabbi Matondo and Everton loanee Jonjoe Kenny who are alone in Germany.

The club also had to worry about keeping the club afloat in these uncertain times which are set to challenge even the most well-known and supported clubs in Europe… especially when ghost games take matches behind closed doors. He was quick to stress that every idea started with the safety of fans, players, and staff before moving onto the games.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Gyau on his remarkable career in Germany ]

“Football is our main focus, having a stadium filled with more than 60.000 fans is our main focus – when you don’t have that, you enter a quite critical fairway,” Jobst said. “That’s the reason why we took crucial matters to save the club and secure its future. We installed short-time work for some of our employees, the players waived parts of their salary for the time being, we put some larger projects within the club on hold. We work hard to keep our employees safe and the club secure. That’s our priority.”

We also asked Jobst how Schalke is preparing for the possibility of another flare-up of the virus.

“We take the situation day by day, or rather match by match,” he said. “We and every other team in the league are all running on sight. We are humbled that we get the trust by the people to return to the pitch. We know that we need to have a strong sense of responsibility. But we are ready to follow through.”

As for what’s next for Schalke given the uncertainty of the world right now and the ambition of the club, Jobst spoke with pride on the club’s spirit and plans.

“Schalke 04 was established 116 years ago by coal miners and workers in a city that quickly lost momentum once coal mining was slowly being terminated. What never left was the strength, the passion and the love of the people for the club. They always drew from the history and tradition of the club and still do to this day. That’s what we are trying to do as well, keeping the flame of our history and the soul of our ancestors alive while moving on to the future. We are proud that we consider ourselves as pioneers in the digital field with for instance expansions into eSports. But above all that, football is still our number one priority. Everything we do, we do to strengthen our core market: football. And we want to be as successful as possible. Before this season we expanded our football division. Jochen Schneider built a capable and competent team with smart people, who have the power and knowledge to make us better, build a stronger team so that we can be successful not only in the league but also in Europe.”

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The Bundesliga announced the remaining fixtures for the 2019-20 season on Wednesday, with plenty of exciting games leading up to the final matchday on June 27. Our lead writer Joe Prince-Wright has five players to watch this weekend here.

MLS, Liga MX cancel three major events including MLS All Star Game

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Major League Soccer and Liga MX have canceled three major events as both outfits focus on the possibilities of league play after the coronavirus pandemic.

The MLS All-Star Game against the Liga MX All Stars joins The Leagues Cup and the Campeones Cup in being canceled. All three events were set for July or later on the calendar.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

MLS announced that the Leagues Cup and Campeones Cup will return in 2021, and that it is hopeful of hosting the Liga MX All-Stars for the 2021 All-Star Game in Los Angeles.

The league stopped short of guaranteeing the matchup, but said it’s expecting to see the same showcase.

MLS played two match days in March before suspending the season over the coronavirus pandemic, while Liga MX played 10 rounds of its Clausura season before stopping for the same reason.

The CONCACAF Champions League is the next big shoe to drop, as the entire competition was set to finish by May 7. Three of the four quarterfinal first legs were played, with four MLS teams, three Liga MX sides, and Honduras’ Olimpia still in the competition.

It’s by far the most important competition of the four above, as the winner represents CONCACAF in the Club World Cup and there will be two Club World Cups within six months: December 2020 in Qatar and June 2021 in China.

Serie A team training will resume May 18 with strict quarantine protocol

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Italian sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora announced that team training will resume on May 18, though there will be plenty of oversight.

Clubs could be sent to quarantine for 14 days if a player tests positive for coronavirus, challenging the players and staff to remain home and play by the rules. Football-Italia notes that this differs from the Bundesliga policy, which merely isolates those who teste positive.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

The clubs will have to pay for their own medical testing and not tax the medical system. Football-Italia also says that the clubs will be responsible should their players test positive.

So what does this mean about on-field action? From

“When will the season be able to resume? The line of prudence is the right one. It’ll take at least another week to understand the contagion curve and then make a decision on the campaign. All team training will start again on May 18 and I’ll present the document tomorrow to ensure that all sports complexes safely reopen, starting with gyms, by the end of May.”

Spadafora said that the path to Serie A resumption had “narrowed” late last month, and reports say the league had previously targeted June 2 for a restart.