The regional government of Catalonia has called for the Champions League last-16 second leg between Barcelona and Napoli to be played behind closed doors.

Gerard Figueras, the secretary general of sport for the Generalitat de Catalunya, has recommended the game be held without fans present at Camp Nou on March 18 in a bid to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

The measure has already been implemented for Paris Saint-Germain's clash with Borussia Dortmund in the French capital, which takes place on Wednesday.

Speaking to RAC1, Figueras said: "The prudent course I would recommend is for the game to be played behind closed doors.

"The decision is not yet made. Between today and tomorrow, there will be meetings between different government departments and the club."

Figueras says LaLiga champions Barca have been kept in the loop by authorities since early on Monday.

"We talked this morning," he said. "We're trying to arrange the meeting between today and tomorrow, most likely tomorrow."

Italy has been more badly affected by the COVID-19 outbreak than other European countries, with 7,375 confirmed cases and 366 people killed.

Close to 16 million people have been ordered into effective quarantine in the northern areas of the country as the government attempts to control the spread of the virus.

All Serie A matches are being played behind closed doors until at least April, and Parma's match with SPAL on Sunday was delayed while a proposal to suspend the league was considered just minutes before kick-off.

France has 1,116 confirmed cases, while there are 589 in Spain. Next weekend's Barcelona marathon has already been postponed until October.

Barca and Napoli drew the first leg 1-1, Antoine Griezmann's goal having cancelled out an opener from Dries Mertens.

Parma's game against SPAL proceeded on Sunday despite confusion before kick-off, when it appeared Serie A could be suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Players from both teams were in the tunnel at the Ennio Tardini but were ordered back into the changing rooms to await a final decision over whether the match would go ahead.

Kick-off was initially delayed by half an hour before being rescheduled for 13:45 local time (12:45 GMT), over an hour after the intended start time.

The incident came about as Italian authorities apparently considered whether all Serie A matches should be cancelled amid the ongoing spread of the virus in the country.

Speaking on Sunday, Italy's minister for sport Vincenzo Spadafora confirmed he was recommending an immediate halt to the top-flight season.

He said: "It makes no sense right now, as we ask citizens to make huge sacrifices to prevent the spread of the disease, to put at risk the health of players, referees, coaches and fans, who will surely gather together to watch the games, just to protect the interests that revolve around the sport.

"Other federations have wisely decided to suspend football for the next few days. I think it is the duty of the FIGC [the Italian Football Federation] president, Gabriele Gravina, to reflect again, without waiting for the first case of a Serie A player to be infected, before taking on this very serious responsibility."

Authorities had already ordered all sporting events to be played behind closed doors until at least the start of April to limit the risk of infection.

On Saturday, the Italian government locked down the northern region of Lombardy in an attempt to contain the proliferation of COVID-19, which has infected 5,883 people in the country and claimed 234 lives.

People face fines if they are caught entering or leaving the region unless they have a serious reason to do so. All public events, including weddings and funerals, have been banned.

Valencia's Champions League last-16 second leg at home to Atalanta is due to be played on Tuesday without fans present at Mestalla, while traditional pre-match media duties have been cancelled.

Speaking last week, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin insisted it is not the right time to consider "dark scenarios" such as postponing domestic and European competitions or the Euro 2020 finals this year.

"We are dealing with it and we are confident we can deal with it," Ceferin said. "You don't know how many big concerns we have: we have security concerns, political instability and one is also the virus.

"Let's try to be optimistic, not think about dark scenarios – there's time for that later."

Manchester City could let Sergio Aguero leave at the end of the season, according to a report.

City were handed a two-season Champions League ban last month over Financial Fair Play (FFP) breaches, although they are appealing the ruling.

However, that could lead to a big-name exit at the end of the campaign.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY COULD LET AGUERO LEAVE AT END OF SEASON

Manchester City are willing to let Aguero go if they fail to overturn the European ban, according to The Sun.

The report says the 31-year-old Argentina forward would be allowed to leave if he indicated he wanted to do so despite being contracted until 2021.

Aguero is the Premier League club's all-time leading goalscorer and is enjoying another fine campaign, netting 23 times in 29 games.

 

ROUND-UP

- Luka Jovic has struggled at Real Madrid and could be set for a switch. AS reports Napoli are considering a move for the 22-year-old forward, who has scored just twice this season after joining Madrid for a reported €60million from Eintracht Frankfurt.

- Chelsea seem ready to move on from goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga. The Daily Express reports the Premier League club have been alerted to the potential availability of Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who is said to be weighing up his future at Barcelona. The Mirror reports Chelsea are monitoring Dean Henderson, who has impressed on loan at Sheffield United from Manchester United.

- Also at Stamford Bridge, The Mirror reports Tammy Abraham has rejected a contract offer from Chelsea. Abraham – who has 15 goals this season – has a deal until 2022 but reportedly wants fresh terms similar to the club's other stars before recommitting.

- Looking to strengthen their defence, Manchester City are prepared to spend £80m (€92.5m) on Inter centre-back Milan Skriniar, according to the Daily Express.

- With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang perhaps set for an Arsenal exit, CalcioMercato reports Inter are considering a move for the forward, who played for AC Milan's youth team but never made an appearance for the senior side.

- Everton are eyeing a move for Newcastle United's Allan Saint-Maximin in the close season, according to The Sun.

A fax machine prevented Real Madrid from signing David De Gea from Manchester United in 2015.

Madrid have continued to be linked with a move for the Spain international, despite bringing in Thibaut Courtois from Chelsea in 2018,

And the LaLiga giants could revisit the idea of signing De Gea at the end of the season amid doubts over the United goalkeeper's future in Manchester.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID TO RELAUNCH DE GEA BID

Real Madrid are planning a fresh bid to sign Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea, according to The Sun.

De Gea, who almost joined Madrid in 2015 but a fax problem scuppered the deal, is under pressure at United and is facing an uncertain future.

With Dean Henderson – on loan at Sheffield United – looming as a serious threat to De Gea's position, Madrid are reportedly ready to prise the Spain international to the Santiago Bernabeu, despite Thibaut Courtois' presence.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Daily Mail says Juventus are willing to splash the cash to lure Zinedine Zidane back to Turin as head coach. Zidane – who won two Serie A titles among other honours during his five years at Juve – is in charge of Madrid but has been linked with Bianconeri in the past.

Madrid are lining up an €80m bid for Napoli and Spain star Fabian Ruiz, reports Mundo Deportivo. LaLiga rivals Barcelona are also reportedly interested.

Arsenal are resigned to losing star forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, claims the Daily Mail.

- FCInterNews.it says Inter could move for Napoli striker Arkadiusz Milik at the end of the season. Milik, who will become a free agent in June, has been negotiating a new deal with Napoli.

Borussia Dortmund are interested in Paris Saint-Germain full-back Thomas Meunier, according to Les Sports. It comes with Achraf Hakimi set to return to parent club Madrid following a two-year loan spell.

- L'Equipe revealed Mauro Icardi is unhappy at PSG. The Argentina striker is on loan from Inter, while Juve are reportedly eyeing a move for him at season's end.

United are open to Paul Pogba leaving the club as PSG and former club Juve plot moves, reports The Sun.

Barcelona know what they want to do with Philippe Coutinho should the attacker return to the club from Bayern Munich.

Coutinho is on a season-long loan at the Bundesliga club, who have an option to buy the Brazil international at the end of the campaign.

But Barca reportedly already have plans in place if the 27-year-old comes back to Camp Nou.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA PLAN TO USE COUTINHO AS MAKEWEIGHT IF HE RETURNS

Barcelona will use Coutinho as a makeweight in any of the huge deals they are planning in the close season, according to Sport.

The LaLiga giants are reportedly again targeting Neymar, who was linked with a return but ended up staying at Paris Saint-Germain last year.

PSG and Liverpool are rumoured to be interested in Coutinho, although Bayern have a €120million option to buy the playmaker.

ROUND-UP

- Juventus' interest in Mauro Icardi is ongoing. CalcioMercato reports Juve still want the forward, who is on loan at PSG from Inter, with the Ligue 1 club holding a €70m purchase option. Goal reports Juventus are also monitoring Santos teenager Kaio Jorge, who has a €50m release clause.

- Linked with a move to Bayern Munich, Leroy Sane may yet remain at Manchester City. The Telegraph reports the attacker, who has been sidelined with a serious knee injury, will consider staying at the Premier League club beyond this season.

- Hirving Lozano's Napoli stay may be short-lived. Corriere dello Sport reports Atletico Madrid have their sights set on the Mexico international, who is out of favour under Gennaro Gattuso in his first season at the Serie A club.

- Having dealt with defensive problems this season, Manchester City seemingly have a solution in mind. CalcioMercato reports the Premier League giants are ready to again make a move for Inter defender Milan Skriniar, a player they have been linked to previously.

- Already up to 15 goals this season, Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin appears set to be rewarded for his good form. The Times report the 22-year-old – apparently a target for Manchester United previously – is ready to sign a deal until 2025 with the Premier League club.

- Arsenal have started talks over a move for Feyenoord's 19-year-old playmaker Orkun Kokcu for £23m (€26.5m), according to the Daily Mail.

Inter's Coppa Italia semi-final, second-leg at Napoli has become the latest fixture to be postponed as a result of the coronavirus crisis engulfing Italian football.

Juventus' Coppa tie at Milan, which was originally due to take place on Wednesday, was called off and the fixture between Napoli and Inter scheduled for Thursday at Stadio San Paolo will now also not take place, according a report from Italian news agency ANSA.

Italian football is enduring chaos with its schedule due to the threat of the spread of coronavirus, of which there have been 2,263 confirmed positive cases in the nation with 80 people having died.

Several Serie A fixtures have been postponed over the past two weekends, including the Derby d'Italia between Juve and Inter, which was due to take place last Sunday.

ANSA reported the government will implement measures to cancel all sporting events for 30 days, although football matches may yet be allowed to take place behind closed doors.

Inter lost the first leg 1-0 at San Siro, with Fabian Ruiz scoring the winner for Napoli. 

#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.

While all eyes are on El Clasico, Real Madrid and Barcelona are considering their number nine options ahead of next season.

The LaLiga giants, who meet at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday, appear set to strengthen their options up front ahead of 2020-21.

And both Madrid and Barca are linked with similar names as they look to add forwards.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID, BARCELONA CONSIDER WERNER, MARTINEZ AND HAALAND

With Luka Jovic so far unable to make an impact at Real Madrid, they are considering Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland, Inter striker Lautaro Martinez and RB Leipzig's Timo Werner, according to Marca.

Haaland is top of Madrid's wish list, the report says, having scored 12 goals in nine games since arriving at Dortmund in January.

For Barcelona, meanwhile, Mundo Deportivo says their focus is on Martinez or Werner, who has been linked with Liverpool.

While Martinez may be their preference, Werner would cost just €60million compared to the €111m likely to be needed for the Argentina international.

 

ROUND-UP

- Another club likely to be busy during the close season are Manchester United. The Sun reports United are ready to offer Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish £150,000 per week – triple his current pay.

- Jonathan David's prolific season with Gent is leading to increasing interest. The Daily Express reports Chelsea are the latest club to join the race for David, who has 23 goals in 38 games this season. Liverpool, United, Tottenham and Leicester City are also reportedly interested in the 20-year-old Canada international.

- Nuno Espirito Santo's work at Wolves is catching the eye. The Sun reports Nuno is top of Atletico Madrid's list to replace Diego Simeone if the Argentinian takes over at Paris Saint-Germain.

- Heavily linked with a move to Milan last close season, Atletico Madrid attacker Angel Correa remains a target for the Serie A club, according to CalcioMercato.

- Having impressed in Serie A, Chris Smalling could be set for a return to the Premier League. The Daily Express reports the defender, who is on loan at Roma from Manchester United, is a target for Tottenham, although the Serie A club are in advanced talks with the centre-back.

- With his contract expiring in 2021, Arkadiusz Milik's future at Napoli is uncertain. CalcioMercato reports the striker, who has 12 goals in 22 games this season, and the club are distant over a new deal.

If you want to sign Kalidou Koulibaly, prepare to splash the cash.

Koulibaly is one of the most sought-after defenders in Europe and clubs are expected to come calling at the end of the season.

Teams from Spain, England, Germany and France are queuing up.

 

TOP STORY – NAPOLI SET KOULIBALY FEE

Napoli are ready to accept €99million (£85m) for star defender Kalidou Koulibaly, according to Corriere dello Sport.

Koulibaly is reportedly wanted by Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Manchester City.

Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis is apparently unwilling to accept anything less than the price mentioned.

 

ROUND-UP

United are monitoring Fiorentina and Italy star Federico Chiesa, reports the Daily Mail. The 22-year-old winger has previously been linked to Juventus and Inter.

- Calciomercato journalist Fabrizio Romano says Juventus are set to meet with striker Gonzalo Higuain to discuss his future in Turin. The 32-year-old is out of contract in 2021.

- The Suns says Arsenal's Europa League exit has jeopardised their transfer plans. Mikel Arteta and the Gunners had reportedly lined up moves for RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano, Bayer Leverkusen centre-back Jonathan Tah and Gent striker Jonathan David. However, the loss of income could damage Arsenal's plans.

- Fiorentina midfielder Gaetano Castrovilli is being pursued by Serie A rivals Inter, reports Calciomercato.

Atletico Madrid are eyeing a surprise swoop for Chelsea's Willian, claims Tuttomercatoweb. Willian will be available on a free transfer when his contract expires at the end of the season. The Brazilian is yet to recommit to Chelsea. Barcelona, Tottenham and Russian outfit Lokomotiv Moscow have been credited with an interest.

Everyone wants a piece of Erling Haaland.

The Norwegian teenager has taken Europe by storm this season. First with Salzburg and now with Borussia Dortmund.

Haaland's exploits have reportedly alerted Real Madrid.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID MAKE CONTACT FOR HAALAND

Real Madrid have held talks with Borussia Dortmund over the signing of star striker Erling Haaland, according to Radio Marca.

Haaland has enjoyed a record-breaking start to life at Bundesliga outfit Dortmund after arriving from Salzburg in January, having turned down Manchester United.

But the 19-year-old's time with Dortmund could be brief as LaLiga giants Madrid reportedly circle amid their goalscoring woes.

 

ROUND-UP

- La Gazzetta Dello Sport journalist Nicolo Schira claims Paris Saint-Germain are interested in Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly. With veteran centre-back Thiago Silva out of contract at the end of the season and facing an uncertain future, Ligue 1 champions PSG are set to turn to Koulibaly, who has been linked to the likes of United, Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham. Napoli are reportedly set to demand at least €100-110million.

Madrid are also reportedly interested in Koulibaly, while El Desmarque says Zinedine Zidane is tracking Inter defender Milan Skriniar.

Tottenham are monitoring Manchester United defender and Roma loanee Chris Smalling, reports Calciomercato. Roma want to sign Smalling permanently.

- According to Football Insider, City have identified Everton defender Mason Holgate as a primary transfer target. Pep Guardiola is determined to bolster his defensive options after an injury-plagued season.

- Inter forward Lautaro Martinez is wanted by LaLiga champions Barcelona but Madrid are ready to go head-to-head with their rivals for the Argentina star, according to Mundo Deportivo.

Milan are eyeing a move for Udinese star Rodrigo De Paul at season's end, reports Schira.

The future of Lautaro Martinez could also have an impact on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Martinez is wanted by Barcelona and Real Madrid, while Aubameyang is reportedly eyeing an Arsenal exit.

Both players could be at different clubs in 2020-21.

 

TOP STORY – MARTINEZ OUT, AUBA IN?

Inter will look to replace Barcelona target Martinez with Arsenal star Aubameyang, according to Calciomercato.

Martinez has been heavily linked to LaLiga champions Barca as well as Real Madrid, Manchester United and Manchester City following his exploits for Inter.

The Daily Mail claims Arsenal are considering selling forward Aubameyang, who is out of contract in 2021, and he could be targeted by Inter should Martinez leave San Siro.

ROUND-UP

- Kepa Arrizabalaga is Chelsea's record signing but his future at Stamford Bridge is in doubt. El Chiringuito TV reports Chelsea have offered out-of-favour goalkeeper Kepa plus €30million (£25m) to Atletico Madrid for Jan Oblak.

Madrid are ready to offer €70m to Napoli for star midfielder Fabian Ruiz, claims Calciomercato. City and Barca are also reportedly looking to sign the Spaniard.

- Manchester Evening News writes that United have stepped up their interest in Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish. It comes as the Daily Express claims United are likely to offload Jesse Lingard and Andreas Pereira.

- Calciomercato says Inter are ready to battle Europe's elite for the signing of Gent star Jonathan David. The Canada international is wanted by the likes of United, Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal, Tottenham and Ajax.

Juventus hold an interest in Lyon midfielder Houssem Aouar, according to Calciomercato. Aouar is an option for Juve should the Serie A champions fail in their efforts to sign either United midfielder Paul Pogba or Brescia's Sandro Tonali.

Dries Mertens suffered a bruised ankle in the Champions League draw against Barcelona after equalling Marek Hamsik's goalscoring record for Napoli.

Mertens scored his 121st goal for Napoli in all competitions on Tuesday as the Italian side drew 1-1 with LaLiga champions Barca in the first leg of their last-16 tie.

The 32-year-old forward matched the record with a stunning 30th-minute opener at Stadio San Paolo, where Barca salvaged a draw thanks to Antoine Griezmann approaching the hour.

Mertens, who leapfrogged Diego Maradona (115) into second place on the all-time list in October, was substituted in the 54th minute at home to Lionel Messi's Barcelona.

Afterwards, Napoli released a statement which read: "Dries Mertens sustained bruising to his right ankle during a collision which forced him to leave the pitch early in the second half of tonight's match against Barcelona."

Mertens joined Serie A side Napoli from PSV in 2013 and the Belgium international has flourished.

Of Mertens' 121 goals, 90 have come in Serie A, with another 26 via European competition.

This term, Mertens – who is out of contract at the end of the season amid links to the likes of Inter and Chelsea – has scored 12 goals across all competitions for Napoli.

Gennaro Gattuso said Napoli would buy "helmets and armour" to take into the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Barcelona.

Despite going ahead through Dries Mertens, who equalled Napoli's all-time goalscoring record, the Serie A side were held 1-1 at home on Tuesday.

Antoine Griezmann levelled for Barca during the second half, although the LaLiga giants also had Arturo Vidal sent off late.

And Gattuso said his team were ready for a battle at Camp Nou on March 18.

"Nothing is over for us when we're playing the last 16 in the Champions League, not even when we play cards," the Napoli head coach told a news conference.

"We know the difficulties we are going through. We will buy helmets and armour.

"We will get all the necessary [tools] and will play the next game. Nothing is over."

While Mertens' brilliant finish gave Napoli a lead, a well-worked team move led to Griezmann's equaliser for Barca.

Gattuso lamented his side's defending for Griezmann's goal, but was largely satisfied with their performance.

"I am disappointed because we made kind of a mistake defensively and they hit us. For sure we could do better," he said.

"When Lorenzo Insigne had his chance [Arkadiusz] Milik and [Piotr] Zielinski were not marked. Perhaps we could have exploited that situation in a better way. Same applies for [Jose] Callejon.

"There is some disappointment, we suffered but the team did almost everything right from a tactical point of view.

"I am happy for this, perhaps we could have done better passing. This is the only regret."

Quique Setien says he remains positive about Barcelona's hopes of progressing in the Champions League despite Sergio Busquets and Arturo Vidal's absences for the last-16 second leg against Napoli in three weeks' time.

Barca laboured to a 1-1 draw against the Serie A side at Stadio San Paolo on Tuesday, scoring through Antoine Griezmann.

The France international's strike cancelled out a superb first-half goal from Dries Mertens, who limped off early in the second half after a heavy challenge from Busquets.

That foul earned the holding midfielder a yellow card, which rules him out of the second leg, while Vidal will also sit out the clash at Camp Nou after receiving his marching orders for quick-fire cautions in the same incident with Mario Rui late on.

Setien is not despondent, though, and is confident his side – who also lost Gerard Pique to injury late in stoppage time – will have enough firepower to overcome Gennaro Gattuso's men.

"We will look for solutions," he told a media conference.

"We have lost important players, but we will recover two others – Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto. We have to look at things with optimism. We will be optimistic and think positively."

Setien refused to blame his players for their lacklustre performance, instead preferring to criticise what he perceived to be a negative display by the hosts.

"It is a good result considering that we have a return game at home," he added.

"They have defended with 10 players very close to their area. It is true that we have not generated much, but we knew that it was a matter of patience.

"It has been a close match and I consider it fair. We have had control, but in the first half they defended well and took advantage of the only occasion they had.

"The second half was different; there were more spaces and we have done more damage. A 1-1 draw is fine for the second leg."

Barcelona "barely tickled" Napoli as head coach Gennaro Gattuso praised his team's performance in their 1-1 draw in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Dries Mertens equalled Napoli's all-time scoring record to put the home side ahead before a toothless Barca outfit salvaged a draw approaching the hour-mark in the opening leg of the last-16 tie.

Napoli – disciplined and compact in defence – were unfortunate not to take more from the showdown as Lionel Messi and Barca struggled at Stadio San Paolo.

"Since [Barca coach Quique] Setien arrived, they systematically push five or six players into attack, they don't just pass and that's it," Gattuso told Sky Sport Italia. "They force you to defend deep and we had to play like that, because if there were spaces back there, they could really hurt us.

"I think they barely grazed us tonight, they hardly had a single shot on goal. They could've been there all night and not scored, but we conceded after one single error. They didn't hurt us, it barely tickled."

Mertens put Napoli ahead with a curling effort in the 30th minute after some relentless pressing from team-mate Piotr Zielinski.

Napoli had a couple of chances to double their advantage, but Barca managed to equalise via Antoine Griezmann in the 57th minute before Arturo Vidal was sent off late.

"We could've done better on a few counter-attacks, but the team did what we had to do. We allowed them very few opportunities," Gattuso said.

"I am a little disappointed that we didn't create more playing out from the back and in possession, but a little fatigue can happen when you work so hard throughout. Unfortunately, you can't make a single mistake against Barcelona.

"Naturally, qualification is wide open, we will have time to prepare for the second leg and know they will be missing Sergio Busquets and Arturo Vidal, as they'll be suspended.

"It's our duty to go there and play for qualification. Napoli have many strong players, Barcelona have something more, but if we play with focus then we can have our chances."

Barca will host Napoli in the return leg at Camp Nou on March 18.

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