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FFF president rips Lyon leader: ‘The only enemy today is the virus’

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The French Football Federation’s president isn’t holding back when it comes to the thoughts of Lyon president that the Ligue 1 season should be “null and void” due to the coronavirus.

Well, if he is holding back, then we’d love to hear his unobstructed takes on the matter.

Lyon boss Jean-Michel Aulas claimed earlier this week that the Ligue 1 season should be annulled and that European qualifiers would remain the same as 2018/19 while no teams would be relegated to Ligue 2.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

It should, of course, be noted that Aulas is acting only out of self-preservation. Lyon qualified for the Champions League last season but is nine points back of the top four.

See-through stuff, and Marseille president Jacques-Henri Eyraud called the comments “the selfishness of someone whose only compass is his participation in the Champions League.”

Marseille, you could probably guess, sits in a UCL place after failing to qualify last season.

French football president Noel Le Graet took it even further, blasting Aulas for his comments and taking aim at Eyraud for the response.

From the AFP, via France24.com:

“I don’t want any controversy. It’s the French Football Federation that will decide if it continues or not, the only enemy today is the virus,” he said.

“I find it quite ridiculous, stupid, clumsy and inappropriate to what’s happening,” he added, asking the two club presidents “to calm down and be dignified in their statements, which make no sense and don’t make them any bigger.”

He’s right, even if his past resume is far from unimpeachable. The Lyon president is acting foolishly, and Eyraud would’ve done better to hold his tongue.

More coronavirus connections to soccer:

Lyon scores memorable win over misfiring Juventus

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Lucas Tousart’s first-half goal led Lyon to a 1-0 defeat of visitors Juventus in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie. (video)

Juve had 14 shots but failed to put one on target in the loss.

The second leg is March 17 in Turin.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Tousart opened the scoring when he leapt to smack a Houssem Aouar cross past Wojciech Szczesny in the 31st.

Karl Toko Ekambi blazed a shot over the bar later in the half to let Juve off the hook.

As the match passed the hour mark, it was going according to Lyon’s plan. Juve had 62 percent of the ball but Lyon had double its visitors’ chances (12-6). None of Juve’s efforts were on target.

The Old Lady was much better in the latter stages, but Lyon still managed to hold Cristiano Ronaldo without a shot on target. Lyon was whistled for four fouls against the Portuguese.

Juve had a goal late, but the flag was up.

UCL, Live: Real Madrid v. Man City; Lyon v. Juventus

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Finally, after months of waiting, the tie of the 2019-20 UEFA Champions League round of 16 is set to kick off.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

Real Madrid, who have won Europe’s most coveted prize in four of the last six seasons, will host Manchester City, the two-time reigning Premier League champions and arguably this season’s favorites, in the first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday. Pep Guardiola will be reacquainted with the Madrid faithful, and Man City will take the next step toward winning the Champions League — at least, they hope so — before they are currently set to be banned from the competition for the next two seasons.

Guardiola has thrown a massive curveball by dropping Sergio Aguero to the bench and electing to start Gabriel Jesus instead. Raheem Sterling, who was deemed “fit and ready” to return to action from a hamstring injury, is also on the bench.

In the day’s other game, Lyon will host Juventus.

Below is the full schedule for the two UCL last 16 first leg games on Wednesday, with both games kicking off at 3 p.m. ET. You can follow the action live by clicking on the link above.


Wednesday’s Champions League action

Real Madrid v. Manchester City
Lyon v. Juventus

Champions League preview: Real Madrid renews rivalry with Pep; Lyon hosts Juve

UEFA Champions League preview
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The final two ties of the UEFA Champions League’s Round of 16 begin Wednesday when Manchester City and Juventus head to Spain and France.

The focus for many will be on the former, as City continues to weather UEFA drama while its manager prepares for his fiercest foe as a player and manager.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Pep Guardiola has managed against Real Madrid 17 times and boasts a 9-4-4 record between Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

The Catalan wizard has lost his last three versus Real, two with Bayern and once in his final El Clasico as Barca boss.

Even as Guardiola stresses preparation and plan, he knows there will be bounces and that both teams will have to cope with them.

“We have to be strong, have quality and need to have luck,” he said, via The Manchester Evening News. “At this stage, it’s important but we cannot control that. We can control what we can control and we will see. This competition, last season, against Liverpool, there are decisions. You have to overcome. You need incredible concentration in our game and game plan plus try to be a little lucky.”

Real Madrid living legend Sergio Ramos has earned the ire of Guardiola on plenty of occasions, one of the few things Liverpool and City fans have in common.

Ramos wouldn’t get drawn into rivalry talk, sying the stage somewhat negates the opponent.

“I have a lot of respect for him,” Ramos said via the club’s web site. “I think he’s a fantastic coach, with loads of experience, and his numbers speak for themselves. We’re motivated by the Champions League, regardless of the players or coaches who may have been rivals in the past. We’re up for the Champions League and our next task is to beat City. From a personal point of view, I’m just focused on making the next round.”

[ MORE: Key battles for Real-Man City ]

Wednesday’s other match sees a club long linked with Guardiola, as Juventus will play the role of heavy favorites against Lyon.

Maurizio Sarri‘s side is to bidding to win what’s eluded all Juve bosses since Marcello Lippi beat Ajax in 1996. If they succeed, it will be by going down a different path than it’s traveled in recent years.

Here’s Leonardo Bonucci, via Football-Italia:

“What the coach asks of us now is basically the opposite of what the previous coach did,” Bonucci mused. “It was usually individual against individual, now it’s more about organized team movements. Obviously, you need to train consistently to get that down and playing every three days makes it difficult. But we started this journey well aware of the positives it could bring and the difficulties of getting there.”

Lyon has been maddeningly inconsistent this season, sitting seventh in the Ligue 1 table, but has the tools to surprise if Juve doesn’t bring its best. That starts in France on Wednesday.

Lyon-Juventus gets green light despite virus concerns

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LYON, France — French club Lyon says its sold-out Champions League home game against Juventus will go ahead as planned on Wednesday despite the coronavirus outbreak in nearby Italy.

Lyon said in a statement on Tuesday it received the go-ahead from French authorities for the match to take place “in its initial configuration.”

Up to 3,000 Juventus fans coming from different regions of Italy are expected to attend Groupama Stadium for the last-16, first-leg match.

The fast-spreading virus from China has led to the postponement of Serie A games in northern Italy, where a cluster of the COVID-19 disease has caused seven deaths and towns to be locked down.

Health Minister Olivier Veran told RTL radio on Tuesday that France is not considering closing its border with Italy, nor banning big gatherings of people because it would not make sense.

Asked specifically about the Lyon-Juventus match, Veran said: “Should we ban gatherings? Should we stop the (Paris) Fashion Week? Should we stop matches? Should we close universities? The answer is no.”