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Atalanta-Valencia match labeled ‘Game Zero’ by some medical experts

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They’re calling it Game Zero when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic, but could a Champions League match in Italy really be the “biological bomb” that sent COVID-19 through two countries?

Associated Press writers Tales Azzoni and Andrew Dampf wrote a sprawling story of Atalanta’s Round of 16 first leg against Valencia in Milan last month.

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Atalanta is from Bergamo and the match was widely considered the biggest in club history. Around one-third of Bergamo’s population traveled to Milan’s San Siro to catch the event, won 4-1 by the hosts.

Now authorities are wondering whether the match, with thousands of Italians and a number of visiting Spaniards, helped send the virus back west.

From The Associated Press:

“We were mid-February so we didn’t have the circumstances of what was happening,” Bergamo mayor Giorgio Gori said this week during a live Facebook chat with the Foreign Press Association in Rome. “If it’s true what they’re saying that the virus was already circulating in Europe in January, then it’s very probable that 40,000 Bergamaschi in the stands of San Siro, all together, exchanged the virus between them. As is possible that so many Bergamaschi that night got together in houses, bars to watch the match and did the same. Unfortunately, we couldn’t have known. No one knew the virus was already here. It was inevitable.”

Atalanta won the first leg and then dedicated the second leg to medical workers and suffering people back home, which by then was dealing with an escalating crisis.

A journalist in Valencia attended the game and later became the second person to test positive for COVID-19 in Spain. Valencia center back Ezequiel Garay was one of five club members to test positive for coronavirus as well.

It’s certainly no one’s fault, but the validity of the hypothesis alone shows why experts are begging everyone to abide by social distancing measures.

Atalanta remains hopeful of competing in its first ever UCL quarterfinals should the competition continue later this year.

UCL, Europa League finals postponed

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UEFA have announced the the finals for the men’s Champions League and Europa League and the women’s Champions League have been postponed.

In a statement on their website European soccer’s governing body said they will “rearrange their showpiece fixtures due to the ongoing health crisis in Europe” as the coronavirus epidemic continues to hit the vast majority of Europe hard each and every day.

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All three finals were due to be played in May and this update was expected following UEFA’s previous announcement that it would extend its season until June 30 and canceled EURO 2020 to allow domestic leagues to finish play.

No details where given on whether the Champions League and Europa League finals will still take place in Istanbul, Turkey and Gdansk, Poland respectively for the men’s game or in Vienna, Austria for the women’s UCL final. This decision was taken by the new working group set up to manage UEFA’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and it suggests that domestic leagues and UEFA competitions will not be ready to return by the start of May when most have suggested that would.

Below is the statement from UEFA in full:

As a result of the COVID-19 crisis in Europe, UEFA has today formally taken the decision to postpone the following matches, originally scheduled for May 2020:

  • UEFA Women’s Champions League Final
  • UEFA Europa League Final
  • UEFA Champions League Final

No decision has yet been made on rearranged dates. The working group, established last week as a result of the conference call among the stakeholders of European football, which was chaired by UEFA President, Aleksander Ceferin, will analyse the options available. The group has already begun its examination of the calendar. Announcements will be made in due course.

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Mini tournament for Champions League, Europa League?

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One option merging to try and finish the UEFA Champions League and Europa League tournaments is to host a mini-tournament held over a few days.

UEFA’s videoconference meeting takes place on Tuesday as European soccer’s governing body is expected to postpone EURO 2020 to 2021 as they remain eager to help European leagues finish their domestic seasons.

Invited to the meeting are UEFA’s 55 member associations, the boards of the European Club Association and the European Leagues and a rep from FIFPro.

The general plan for this tournament is to play it over a few days in one or two cities, potentially Istanbul and Gdansk where the Champions League and Europa League finals are due to be held respectively, which would minimise travel and any disruption to leagues.

Other options include having one leg for the UCL quarterfinals and semifinals this season as European games would likely coincide with extended league seasons.

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Man City v. Real Madrid, Juventus v. Lyon postponed

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UEFA have confirmed that two UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg games have been postponed due to coronavirus.

Man City v. Real Madrid and Juventus v. Lyon will not take place next week in Manchester and Turin respectively as players from both Real and Juve have been placed in self-isolation.

Real Madrid players and staff have been placed in self-isolation for 15 days due to fears over coronavirus as a player on Real’s basketball team tested positive for coronavirus and therefore the entire soccer team could have come into contact at team venues.

Juventus defender Daniele Rugani has tested positive for coronavirus and the Serie A side are in lockdown.

Here is the statement from UEFA on the Champions League games being postponed due to coronavirus:

Following the quarantine imposed on players of Juventus and Real Madrid CF. The UEFA Champions League Round of 16 matches between Manchester City FC – Real Madrid CF and Juventus – Olympique Lyonnais will not take place as scheduled.”

UEFA issued another statement saying that they will host a meeting next week to discuss the future of soccer in Europe amid the coronavirus outbreak.

With Champions League and Europa League games already impacted, plus the upcoming international break this month and EURO 2020 on the horizon this summer, there is plenty of the European soccer’s governing body to discuss.

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UEFA announce meeting to discuss coronavirus plan

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UEFA has issued a statement saying that they will host a meeting next week to discuss the future of soccer in Europe amid the coronavirus outbreak.

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With Champions League and Europa League games already impacted, plus the upcoming international break this month and EURO 2020 on the horizon this summer, there is plenty of the European soccer’s governing body to discuss.

Below is the statement in full from UEFA:

“In the light of the ongoing developments in the spread of COVID-19 across Europe and the changing analysis of the World Health Organisation, UEFA has today invited representatives of its 55 member associations, together with the boards of the European Club Association and the European Leagues and a representative of FIFPro, to attend meetings by videoconference on Tuesday 17 March to discuss European football’s response to the outbreak.

“Discussions will include all domestic and European competitions, including UEFA EURO 2020. Further communication will be made following those meetings.”

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