Serie A and all other sporting events in Italy will have to take place behind closed doors until April 3 following a government decree amid concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

Prime minister Giuseppe Conte made the announcement on Wednesday after the coronavirus issue continued to cause havoc with the scheduling of Italian football.

Serie A matches have been called off over the past two weekends, along with the midweek Coppa Italia semi-finals.

A scheduled Lega Serie A emergency assembly on Wednesday failed to go ahead as only nine clubs were represented, with 14 required.

Rather than cancel all events, though, fixtures in regions not heavily affected by the virus can take place without members of the public in attendance for the next 30 days.

The decree stated: "Sports events and competitions of all kinds and disciplines, held in every place, both public and private, are suspended.

"However, in municipalities other than those listed in Annex 1 of the prime minister's decree of March 1, 2020, and subsequent amendments, the holding of the aforementioned events and competitions, as well as training sessions for competitive athletes, is still allowed inside sports facilities used behind closed doors, or outdoors without the presence of the public.

"In all such cases, associations and sports clubs, by means of their medical staff, are required to carry out the appropriate checks to contain the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus among athletes, technicians, managers and all accompanying persons who participate.

"Basic sports and motor activities in general, carried out outdoors or inside gyms, swimming pools and sports centres of all kinds, are allowed only on condition that it is possible to comply with the recommendation set out in Annex 1, letter D.

"The provisions of this decree have their effect from the date of publication in the Official Gazette of the Italian Republic and are effective, subject to different provisions contained in the individual measures, until April 3, 2020."

There are 2,502 confirmed cases of the virus in Italy, with 80 deaths.

There have been 3,199 fatalities worldwide.

Cristiano Ronaldo was back training with Juventus' squad on Wednesday, a day after he had returned to Portugal to be with his mother following reports she suffered a stroke.

The Bianconeri trained in the morning having seen their Coppa Italia semi-final second leg against Milan in Turin - which was scheduled to take place on Wednesday - postponed due to fears over the spread of the coronavirus.

Among the group that took part in the session was Portuguese forward Ronaldo, who just a day earlier had returned to his homeland to visit his mother, Maria, in hospital.

Ronaldo, who Maurizio Sarri revealed would have been a doubt to face Milan, said on Twitter on Tuesday that his mother was "currently stable and recovering in hospital".

Juve are due to face Bologna on Sunday but there remains uncertainty over the Italian football calendar after a scheduled Lega Serie A Emergency Assembly failed to go ahead on Wednesday.

Just nine top-flight clubs had officials in attendance, with 14 needed for it to be considered an Assembly.

Reports suggested that those who did meet decided the favoured approach is to play forthcoming fixtures behind closed doors.

A report from Italian news agency ANSA indicated the government is to impose a ban on sporting events for 30 days, although football matches may still take place without fans attending.

Following a separate meeting among officials, Italian sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora told reporters the government is leaning towards "this type of measure".

Giuseppe Marotta says Inter will adapt to whatever decision is made regarding their Coppa Italia semi-final with Napoli, while Serie A could be plunged into further chaos amid reports sporting events may be banned in Italy for a month as part of measures to tackle the spread of coronavirus.

Juventus' Coppa second leg against Milan, which was due to take place on Wednesday, has already been called off and Inter's fixture at Napoli's Stadio San Paolo on Thursday has also reportedly been postponed. 

Inter CEO Marotta, speaking prior to a Serie A assembly on Wednesday, said he was unaware of any official decision.

"We don't know anything yet," he said in quotes reported by TuttoMercatoWeb. "We will adapt to what they decide."

Italian news agency ANSA has reported government measures may include a ban on sporting events for 30 days, though football matches could potentially be played behind closed doors.

ANSA said there are now 2,263 positive cases in Italy, with 80 people in the country having died from coronavirus.

Serie A has already seen its schedule hugely affected, with several fixtures having been postponed over the past two weekends – including Juve's Derby d'Italia against Inter, which had been set to take place on Sunday.

An emergency assembly of the league began early on Wednesday with a view to determining fresh measures.

Juventus' Coppa Italia semi-final second leg with Milan in Turin has been postponed due to fears over the spread of coronavirus.

After a Prime Ministerial Decree outlined restrictions imposed on sporting events across the country until March 8 on Sunday, Juve v Milan had initially been set to go ahead on Wednesday without fans from the most affected regions.

However, following a meeting attended by Turin mayor Chiara Appendino, prefect Claudio Paolomba, club representatives and local ministries on Tuesday, the decision was taken to stop the match from going ahead altogether, with the two teams all square at 1-1 from the first leg.

A Juventus statement read: "The game has been postponed to a date yet to be confirmed, as announced by Lega Serie A, after taking action from the order of the Prefecture of Turin n.14801 / 2019 / Area1 of 3 March 2020, which was issued after today's [Tuesday] meeting came to a conclusion."

The Serie A champions' Derby d'Italia against Inter was one of five Serie A fixtures postponed over the weekend, with the games having originally been scheduled to take place behind closed doors before being moved to May 13.

Media reports now claim the Italian government is considering postponing all sporting events for a month to mitigate the impact of coronavirus' in Europe's worst-affected country.

The virus has reportedly infected more than 2,500 people in Italy, with 79 having died.

Cristiano Ronaldo has confirmed his mother is "stable and recovering in hospital" following reports she suffered a stroke.

The Juventus forward did not train with the Serie A champions on Tuesday and was said to have returned to Madeira due to his mother falling ill.

Coach Maurizio Sarri confirmed Ronaldo could miss Wednesday's Coppa Italia semi-final second leg with Milan due to a "personal problem", but he did not offer any further information.

But Ronaldo has since addressed the situation on his official Twitter account, thanking fans for messages of support as he confirmed his mother is in hospital.

"Thank you for all your messages of support for my mum," Ronaldo's tweet read. "She is currently stable and recovering in hospital.

"Me and my family would like to thank the medical team looking after her, and kindly ask that we are all given some privacy at this time."

Cristiano Ronaldo could miss Juventus' Coppa Italia semi-final second-leg tie against AC Milan due to a "personal problem".

The Portugal star did not train with his team-mates on Tuesday amid reports he has flown home to Madeira as his mother has suffered a stroke.

Juve coach Maurizio Sarri said his availability for the game with Milan at Allianz Stadium is still unknown, while admitting there is "no substitute" for the superstar forward.

"Cristiano is experiencing a personal problem and his availability tomorrow depends on this," head coach Sarri told a news conference. 

"It is clear that the possible absence of Cristiano can change the tactical plans: there is no substitute in the world for him."

Sarri added a further squad update, saying: "We don't have any big problems with regards to injuries but only small ailments: Chiellini went through a personal programme and Gianluigi Buffon trained as normal.

"Sami Khedira is progressing and if he is to take to the field, it will be for a small portion of the game. 

"Douglas Costa could also play a part as his condition is improving."

Milan, who drew the home leg 1-1 after Ronaldo scored a last-minute penalty, did not include goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma in their squad list, with the Italy international reportedly out with an ankle injury.

"We are not interested in who Milan have or don't have. If we step out there and prove our worth, we won't have any problems reaching the final," Sarri said.

"You can see they are a solid squad and ready to sacrifice themselves for the collective. Milan are not an easy team to face."

Lautaro Martinez is a wanted man and his future could become clearer.

The Inter star has dazzled in Italy this season, alongside team-mate Romelu Lukaku.

And Barcelona are reportedly keen to tie up a deal for the Argentina international.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA TABLE MARTINEZ BID

Barcelona have made their first offer to Inter for star forward Lautaro Martinez, according to FCInterNews.it.

Martinez has reportedly been identified as a long-term replacement for Barca veteran Luis Suarez, while the likes of Real Madrid, Manchester City and Manchester United are interested.

According to the report, LaLiga champions Barca have tabled a €70m bid for Martinez plus two players – Arturo Vidal and Nelson Semedo.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Telegraph says United are favourites to sign Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho at the end of the season. Liverpool and Chelsea have also been linked with moves for the 19-year-old.

Athletic Bilbao are interested in Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuain, reports Marca. Bilbao have a Basque-only transfer policy, however, Argentina international Higuain qualifies due to the Basque-French origin of his grandfather.

- Amid doubts over Martinez's future in Milan, Calciomercato says Inter are eyeing Atalanta forward Duvan Zapata.

- According to Goal, Manchester City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo is considering a move to MLS outfit and sister club New York City. The 36-year-old is out of contract at the end of the season.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic faces an uncertain future at Milan amid doubts over directors Zvonimir Boban and Paolo Maldini, claims Tuttosport. Boban and Maldini had reportedly been seeking to extend Ibrahimovic's contract until 2021 but the pair are reportedly set to leave San Siro following a row with Elliott Management.

#POGBACK?

That was the hashtag used for Paul Pogba's high-profile return to Manchester Untied from Juventus in 2016 – a world-record transfer at the time.

The hashtag could be recycled as Pogba reportedly nears a return to Turin.

 

TOP STORY – JUVE 'FAR AHEAD' FOR POGBA

Juventus have stepped up their interest in wantaway Manchester United star Paul Pogba, according to Tuttosport.

The reports says Juve are already "far ahead" with Pogba in terms of contract talks as the Serie A champions look to start negotiating with United.

Pogba – valued at €100m (£86m) – left Juve for United in 2016 and the French midfielder has also been linked to Real Madrid.

 

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato claims Arsenal are eyeing Sassuolo forward Domenico Berardi as star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang continues to be linked with an exit via Barcelona.

Milan remain interested in Juventus' Federico Bernardeschi despite failing to sign the Italy international in January, says Calciomercato.

Dries Mertens has been linked to Inter and Chelsea but the soon-to-be free agent is set to sign a new two-year deal at Napoli, according to widespread reports in Italy.

- According to La Gazzetta dello Sport journalist Nicolo Schira, Arsenal are working on extending Bukayo Saka's contract until 2025. The 18-year-old has been linked to the likes of Liverpool and United.

United are plotting a move for Stoke City's 18-year-old defender Nathan Collins, says The Sun.

Italian football is set for another weekend of uncertainty due to fears over the spread of the coronavirus.

A Prime Ministerial Decree on Sunday outlined restrictions imposed on sporting events across the country until March 8, with a knock-on effect for Serie A and the Coppa Italia.

The decree extended the ban on "sporting activities" in the regions of Lombardy, Veneto and Emilia Romagna, along with the provinces of Savona and Pesaro-Urbino, with Serie A announcing earlier on Sunday that an emergency assembly has been called for Wednesday to discuss the ramifications.

Juventus confirmed their Coppa Italia semi-final second leg against rivals Milan will go ahead but fans from the aforementioned regions are not permitted to attend.

The champions' Derby d'Italia against Inter was one of five Serie A fixtures postponed over the weekend, with the games having originally been scheduled to take place behind closed doors before being moved to May 13.

However, that decision has since been cast into doubt with the clubs seemingly not having agreed to the scheduling. 

A sixth game, Sampdoria's clash with Hellas Verona, which was due to take place on Monday was also called off, while the Coppa Italia final was moved back by a week to May 20.

The virus has reportedly infected more than 1,600 people in Italy, with 34 having died.

Inter "categorically refused" a proposal to play Juventus on Monday with a crowd present, according to Lega Serie A president Paolo Dal Pino.

The derby d'Italia, scheduled to take place behind closed doors on Sunday, was one of five top-flight fixtures to be postponed in Italy due to the spread of the coronavirus.

Instead, the games will be played on May 13, meaning the Coppa Italia final – which the Nerazzurri could yet be involved in – has been pushed back to May 20.

Inter director Beppe Marotta criticised the timing of the decision taken by officials, saying the championship had been "distorted" while raising concerns over whether upcoming domestic fixtures will go ahead.

"Is the league at risk of not ending? Yes, if more matches were to be postponed, then yes. And then I ask myself - why was the Juve-Inter date decided before the Inter-Sampdoria date? On what basis?" Marotta said to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"The league is distorted. It is altered in its balance. Just think of the injuries and disqualifications. And then there is the psychological aspect. Again, Inter are damaged, our schedule in May is incredible."

Speaking to the same outlet, Dal Pino revealed how the Lega Serie A had offered to push back the derby by 24 hours, allowing supporters to watch proceedings at the Allianz Stadium, but that plan was rejected by Inter.

"On Friday, CEO [Luigi] De Siervo and I proposed to Inter the idea of moving the game with Juventus to Monday evening so that it could be played with a crowd present," Dal Pino told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"Inter categorically refused to take the field, so they should take responsibility for their decisions and not talk of unsporting situations or a distorted league.

"Marotta represents the needs of Inter, I have to look after the general interests of an entire Serie A division, which unfortunately means daily conflicts of interests tied to each and every club.

"My job is to promote Italian football and its image to the world, so transmitting games in empty stadiums would’ve been a terrible calling card for the country.

"The decision was down to me, but the clubs involved were contacted by telephone, so we know that they all had positions which were difficult to reconcile."

Inter are due to play Napoli on Thursday in the second leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final, having lost the first meeting 1-0 at San Siro.

Juventus have quarantined their entire Under-23 squad and ceased the team's training after players of recent opponents Pianese tested positive for the illness.

The Bianconeri's second team faced Serie C rivals Pianese in Turin on February 23 and since then the club from Piancastagnaio, Tuscany has confirmed four players have tested positive for the virus that emerged in China's Hubei province towards the end of last year.

As such, Juve have taken preventative measures, but insist none of their players have shown symptoms.

"The training activities of the Juventus Under 23 team are temporarily suspended," a statement read on Saturday.

"The preventive measure was decided upon indication, and pending further official communications, by the health authorities of Alessandria (Hygiene and Public Health Service - SISP), with whom the Juventus health personnel are in constant contact.

"The reason is the new cases of contagion of COVID-19, which have emerged in the last few hours among the players of the US Pianese, who the Bianconeri faced on February 23 at the Moccagatta in Alessandria.

"It is specified that, six days after the game, the Juventus players remain asymptomatic and are under medical supervision. Juventus is in constant contact with LegaPro."

Coronavirus' spread to Italy has wreaked havoc on sporting events, leading to postponements at all levels, including Serie A.

Top-flight matches have been postponed for a second successive weekend, with Sunday's Derby d'Italia among those to be called off and rescheduled.

Lazio went top of Serie A for the first time in a decade on Saturday, leapfrogging Juventus with a 2-0 victory over Bologna.

Luis Alberto and Joaquin Correa scored within three first-half minutes as Lazio's unbeaten run was extended to 21 league matches.

Bologna had two goals disallowed by VAR but Lazio would not be denied as they moved top of the table for the first time since 2010-11, when they led after 10 games.

Simone Inzaghi's men will end the weekend at the summit too after Juventus' clash with Inter, which was due to take place on Sunday, was postponed amid ongoing fears over the spread of the coronavirus in Italy.

Lazio have not won the league title in two decades and the last time anyone other than Juve lifted the Scudetto was in 2010-11 when Milan finished top.

Cristiano Ronaldo insists he has no desire to seek a move away from Juventus despite speculation linking him with a move to David Beckham's MLS franchise Inter Miami.

Miami are set to play their first ever MLS match on Sunday when they go to Los Angeles FC, finally completing a process Beckham and MLS began in 2013.

Beckham bought the club in February the following year and in January 2018 his team was awarded the 25th MLS franchise for the 2020 season.

Having built the squad from scratch, few players can be considered household names, but Beckham has ambitions to bring recognisable "big-name players" from European leagues to Florida.

Beckham even namechecked Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, with both mentioned as possible future targets that could elevate the club's reputation, but the latter is in no rush to leave Juventus while they are successful.

"I'm happy," Ronaldo told Sky Sports News. "I'm in the best club in Italy.

"I'm playing alongside the best players, happy we won trophies last year, and this year I hope to win as well.

"As an individual I am happy. I went to Juventus to score goals and do my best and I am very happy."

The Portugal icon made his 1,000th career appearance last weekend and, although he is 35, he still plans to play another few hundred before calling it quits.

"It's a good achievement," he added. "One thousand games means that dedication, hard work and talent pays off.

"It is not easy to do 1,000 games at 35 years old. I'm so happy. It's nice but I hope to play hundreds of games more."

Ronaldo will not be adding to that figure this weekend, however, as the Derby d'Italia clash with Inter that was scheduled for Sunday has been postponed due to the state of emergency in northern Italian regions relating to the spread of coronavirus.

Juventus' derby d'Italia against Inter is among five Series A fixtures to be postponed this weekend due to ongoing fears over the spread of the coronavirus in Italy.

The matches were initially due to be played behind closed doors, as was the case with Inter's Europa League victory over Ludogorets at San Siro on Thursday.

But Lega Serie A revealed on Saturday that the clash in Turin, along with Milan v Genoa, Parma against SPAL and Sassuolo versus Brescia would not go ahead on Sunday.

Udinese's encounter with Fiorentina on Saturday has also been called off.

The matches will instead be played on May 13, with the Coppa Italia final pushed back a week to May 20.

Former Milan striker and Netherlands head coach Marco van Basten said anyone who believes Cristiano Ronaldo is better than Lionel Messi does not understand anything about football.

Ronaldo and Messi are considered as two of the greatest players of all time, though who exactly stands alone as the best is often debated.

Barcelona captain Messi has won a record six Ballons D'Or, compared to Juventus superstar Ronaldo's five, while the pair have claimed numerous other club and individual honours.

Dutch great Van Basten, however, weighed in on the debate and made it clear who he thinks is the superior footballer.

"Cristiano Ronaldo is a great player, but those who claim that he is better than Messi don't understand anything about football or say it in bad faith," Van Basten told Corriere della Sera.

"Messi is unique, inimitable and unrepeatable.

"Players like him appear every 50 or 100 years.

"As a child he fell into the pot of football genius."

Ronaldo is enjoying another fine season, with the 35-year-old's goal tally already at 25 across all competitions.

The Portugal captain scored 21 Serie A goals in his first campaign in Turin, and he has already matched that figure through 21 matches this term.

Messi, meanwhile, has scored 23 goals in all competitions for LaLiga champions Barcelona in 2019-20.

Ahead of Sunday's Clasico against bitter rivals Real Madrid, Messi has managed 18 league goals in 20 appearances.

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