Zlatan Ibrahimovic must miss Milan's trip to Crotone on Sunday but his absence could be a blessing in disguise, according to coach Stefano Pioli.

Sidelined after testing positive for COVID-19, the Swedish striker whose arrival at the start of the year triggered an upturn in Milan's fortunes must stay away from his Rossoneri team-mates for now.

Pioli has challenged the rest of his squad to show they can achieve positive results without the 38-year-old talisman.

And if they succeed, Pioli believes Ibrahimovic's current unavailability may show Milan in a new light, as a group who are not excessively reliant on the former Inter, Juventus and Barcelona frontman.

"I've spoken to Zlatan. He's fit and firing," Pioli said in a news conference on Saturday.

"He's training at home. He's very motivated. He's in touch with his team-mates.

"Clearly his absence will be significant and we will feel it, but we need to make sure this is an opportunity to show our progress.

"We need to show that we can still get results, so when Zlatan comes back he can rediscover an even stronger side than the one he left behind."

Crotone, promoted from Serie B, will be Milan's opponents. They are coached by a former Milan player in Giovanni Stroppa.

The newcomers were thumped 4-1 by Genoa on their return to the top flight last weekend, but will hope to fare better this time out at their Stadio Ezio Scida home.

Pioli saw his Milan side - without Ibrahimovic - given a stiff test by Bodo/Glimt in Europa League qualifying on Thursday, eventually securing a 3-2 win on the back of Hakan Calhanoglu's double.

Ante Rebic could take up a central striking role this weekend rather than occupying a station on the left, with Pioli predicting he could do "a good job" in the position usually occupied by Ibrahimovic.

Now unbeaten in 16 games, talk is turning to whether Milan are possible title contenders, but Pioli is cautious on that front.

He said: "We need to keep improving, we need to keep progressing, because we've proven we have a lot of quality and ability but we've highlighted some areas where we've made some mistakes.

"There are still some areas where we are less clear-minded than we need to be when it comes to decision-making.

"We need to be more compact, more focused and more aggressive, so there are a whole host of different situations we can improve upon.

"That is part of the developmental process. When you get to the highest level you can always try and do something more, go that extra mile."

The French Tennis Federation (FFT) says it "deeply regrets" new government restrictions that will only allow 1,000 spectators per day into Roland Garros to watch the French Open. 

Tournament organisers were forced to reduce the number of people allowed into the famous venue on a daily basis from 11,500 to 5,000 last week due to new rules introduced to try and stop the rise in coronavirus infection rates. 

Just two days before the grand slam gets under way, the FFT has had to inform those with tickets that they may be left disappointed due to further restrictions. 

A daily draw will now take place to determine who will be able to attend what will be the last major of the year. 

A statement on the French Open website said: "Following the announcements made by government authorities, 1,000 spectators will be permitted to enter the Roland Garros grounds per day. 

"This cap applies across all 16 courts in the 12-hectare site and is equivalent to one 35th of the usual number of spectators that have attended in the first week of the main draw in previous years.    

"From the very outset of the public health crisis that our country is experiencing, the French Tennis Federation has consistently worked closely with government departments, to determine how to organise the tournament in the current situation.  It deeply regrets these new restrictions. 

"On Sunday, 27 September, the world's greatest players will compete in the main draw, in a transformed stadium, in a tournament broadcast in 222 countries around the world. 

"The new rules mean that we will be required to adapt our ticketing situation, by organising a draw for each day of the tournament among the current ticket-holders. These draws will be supervised by a legal custodian."

Cricket Australia (CA) has announced the one-off Test against Afghanistan and the ODI series against New Zealand have been postponed due to the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Australia were due to face Afghanistan in the longest format for the first time in Perth in November, but that one-off game will not go ahead as planned. 

The rescheduled IPL season - which is due to finish in early November - created issues over Australian players quarantining upon their return from the Twenty20 tournament in the United Arab Emirates. 

New Zealand's limited-overs tour in January 2021 has also been called off amid "the challenges around international travel and quarantine restrictions" caused by the global health pandemic. 

CA hopes to find new dates for the fixtures in the coming years, with the postponements meaning India will be the only international side to visit Australia during the 2020-21 season.

"Cricket Australia looks forward to working with our good friends at the Afghanistan Cricket Board and New Zealand Cricket to deliver the matches at a time when, hopefully, the restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have eased," CA's interim CEO Nick Hockley said in a statement.

"We all worked incredibly hard to make the series happen this summer, but the challenges around international travel and quarantine restrictions ultimately convinced all parties that the series would need to be played at a later date.

"CA looks forward to welcoming the Indian men's team for a full schedule of matches this summer in what promises to be an incredible contest across all three formats.

"CA would also like to take this opportunity to thank our wonderful partners for their understanding and support as we have navigated the complexities of hosting international sport during a pandemic to deliver a thrilling summer across men's and women's cricket at international and domestic level."

Australia are due to face India in a four-Test series, as well as three one-dayers and a trio of Twenty20 fixtures. Details over the schedule are yet to be confirmed.

Jose Gimenez has tested positive for coronavirus, Atletico Madrid have confirmed.

The Uruguay defender was the only player from Monday's tests to return a positive result, the club said in a statement on Tuesday.

Gimenez is now isolating at home, with Atletico confirming LaLiga's protocol has been implemented and the players will complete the next training session individually.

Head coach Diego Simeone also tested positive for the virus earlier this month and underwent a period of isolation, though he did not display any symptoms.

Atletico are due to start their new season at home to Granada at the Wanda Metropolitano on Sunday.

Simeone's men finished third in a disrupted 2019-20 campaign, while they were knocked out of the Champions League at the quarter-finals stage by RB Leipzig.

Tottenham could be given a bye to the EFL Cup fourth round after opponents Leyton Orient announced a spate of positive coronavirus tests, leading to Tuesday's clash being called off.

Orient were set to welcome Jose Mourinho's men to Brisbane Road for a third-round tie, but the League Two club confirmed on Monday that "a number of our first-team squad have tested positive for COVID-19".

The club's stadium and training ground have been closed until further notice, with reports that up 18 players and staff had been infected.

Confirmation the game would not go ahead on the scheduled date came just two hours before the intended kick-off time of 1800 (local time).

"Tonight's Carabao Cup match between Leyton Orient and Tottenham Hotspur is not taking place this evening as scheduled," read an EFL statement.

"Discussions are ongoing between the relevant stakeholders in regards to the implications of the decision not to play tonight's game and a further update will be provided in due course. 

"Leyton Orient, the EFL and the relevant authorities are conducting a thorough review of the club’s COVID-19 secure procedures with the view to reopening the stadium and training ground as soon as possible."

It is a bitter blow for Orient, who were set to earn a windfall from the game being televised, with Ross Embleton's men having beaten Forest Green Rovers and Plymouth Argyle to reach round three.

The news also dims any prospect of a return to Orient for former loanee Harry Kane, the Spurs and England striker who struck a deal to sponsor the club's home shirts this season.

The fixture would also have been significant for the fact that Justin Edinburgh played for Spurs and was in charge at Orient when he passed away in June last year following a cardiac arrest.

Spurs are now afford an added rest ahead of Thursday's Europa League qualifying match against Shkendija in Macedonia.

Sunday's 5-2 win at Southampton came after Gareth Bale's loan signing was confirmed, providing a much-needed boost to a side who started the season with a 1-0 home loss to Everton.

The EFL Cup is the last piece of silverware Spurs got their hands on, lifting the trophy back in 2007-08, when Jonathan Woodgate was the unlikely match-winner in a 2-1 victory over Chelsea at Wembley.

The United Kingdom government has paused plans for the return of fans to live sporting events in England from October 1 due to the rise in coronavirus cases.

On Monday, the COVID-19 alert level in the UK was raised to a four, meaning transmission of the virus is "high or exponentially rising", with prime minister Boris Johnson set to outline fresh measures to halt the increase in cases.

Plans to bring supporters back into stadia were placed under review earlier this month and pilot events were restricted to 1,000 people in attendance.

However, government minister Michael Gove confirmed to BBC Breakfast on Tuesday that pilot schemes were now on hold, as are plans for fans to return in staged phases, representing a major blow to a struggling sports sector.

"We were looking at a staged programme of more people returning – it wasn't going to be the case that we were going to have stadiums thronged with fans," Gove said.

"We're looking at how we can, for the moment, pause that programme, but what we do want to do is to make sure that, as and when circumstances allow, get more people back.

"The virus is less likely to spread outdoors than indoors but again it's in the nature of major sporting events that there's a lot of mingling."

Sport has been taking place mainly behind closed doors in the UK since it returned following a full lockdown in March.

Approximately 300 spectators were granted access to the World Snooker Championship final at the Crucible in Sheffield, while a friendly between Brighton and Hove Albion and Chelsea in August saw 2,500 fans allowed into the Amex Stadium.

But Gove said the decision has been taken in part due to the criticism the government received for allowing full attendances to sporting events in March, when COVID-19 was posing a growing threat.

The decision to allow the Champions League last-16 match between Liverpool and Atletico Madrid to go ahead brought scrutiny with Liverpool council probing the impact it had on the spread of the disease, while there is pressure to look into whether the Cheltenham Festival should have been permitted to proceed at full capacity.

"People look back now at the beginning of the pandemic at some of the major sporting events then and ask the question why were they allowed to go ahead," added Gove.

"What we must do is look at sporting events now with caution but we also recognise that sport is a vital part of this nation and we're looking at everything we can do to support our athletes, our great clubs, through what will be a challenging time."

The latest development comes at a time where the sports industry continues to count the cost of the global pandemic.

Over 100 leaders from sports bodies have requested emergency funding in a letter to the prime minister.

Sport England has handed out £200million for emergency cases, but with clubs continuing to lose money many have said that does not go far enough.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters told the BBC earlier this month that teams were looking at losing £700m if fans are not allowed back into grounds during the 2020-21 campaign, saying it was "absolutely critical" they were brought back.

Kylian Mbappe is available to play for Paris Saint-Germain against Nice on Sunday, Thomas Tuchel has confirmed.

Mbappe has yet to play for PSG in the 2020-21 season after testing positive for coronavirus while on international duty with France.

However, Tuchel said both Ligue 1 and the club doctor have given clearance for Mbappe to make his first appearance for the club since the Champions League final defeat to Bayern Munich.

"We need to talk with Kylian. The doctor and the league told us it's possible," he said.

"I don't know if he can play. We have to wait. He's in the squad. We'll see if he can play.

"It's between me and Kylian. We're going to talk after practice. I have to see if he's feeling okay and we'll decide if he starts or ends the game."

PSG will be without defender Juan Bernat for much of the season after he ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament in the 1-0 win over Dijon, which marked their first victory of the new campaign.

However, Tuchel is not looking to purchase a replacement, adding: "Bernat is a key player but we have [Layvin] Kurzawa, [Mitchel] Bakker and [Abdou] Diallo. It is not the priority to buy a player for this position."

Tuchel is eyeing reinforcements in the transfer window, however, with Thiago Silva having joined Chelsea and Edinson Cavani also leaving the club.

"It is always the objective to have a group ready to start a championship," said Tuchel. "The priority is clear, we need a striker, a central defender and a midfielder. We must replace the players we lost."

 

Only 5,000 fans per day will be allowed in at the French Open amid a spike in coronavirus cases in the country.

Main-draw matches are scheduled to begin at Roland Garros on September 27 after the grand slam was moved due to COVID-19.

It was announced earlier this month that 11,500 spectators would be allowed in per day, although several players raised concerns after the US Open was held behind closed doors.

France reported 10,593 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday before a reduced capacity for Roland Garros was announced.

"The FFT [French Tennis Federation] will therefore assume the responsibility of organising the tournament with a new lay out," a statement read.

"It is important for the sporting, social and economic life of the country that a major event like Roland Garros can be put on while respecting health imperatives.

"Such will be the case for the 2020 tournament.

"The FFT is conscious of how disappointing this news will be for those who will not be able to come to the stadium due to the reduction in capacity. We would like to thank you for your understanding and your dogged support of the tournament.

"Roland Garros 2020 will set an example by endorsing, promoting and defending its cherished sporting values."

Kylian Mbappe is training individually as Thomas Tuchel aims to welcome his talisman back into the fold at Paris Saint-Germain.

France star Mbappe has been unable to play for PSG after he tested positive while on France duty earlier in September, with six other players from the squad having also contracted the virus previously.

PSG lost their opening two games of the Ligue 1 season but beat Metz 1-0 on Wednesday thanks to Julian Draxler's late goal.

Mbappe was the only one of the seven players who tested positive for COVID-19 to not have returned inside the first three fixtures of PSG's campaign, although Neymar is currently suspended after his red card against Marseille on Sunday.

After Wednesday's success, Tuchel revealed Mbappe did not have any symptoms and had been training individually.

On Thursday, PSG stated tests performed on the player on Wednesday had not returned any abnormal results, and that more information would be communicated in the coming days.

Should Mbappe be allowed to return to the squad, he may be available for selection for PSG's clash with Nice on Sunday.

Norwich City and Middlesbrough are among the teams selected to welcome back a limited number of fans this week as the EFL continues its pilot programme.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, crowds had not been allowed at professional matches across Britain since football returned in June until Cambridge United were able to facilitate spectators last week.

With fans returning to games in France and certain regions of Germany, the EFL has now confirmed an extension of its scheme, with 10 fixtures initially selected for the coming weekend, although Luton Town have opted out.

Following government guidance, crowds will be capped at a 1,000 capacity with social distancing measures in place. Talks are ongoing over the possibility of higher attendances being allowed after October 1.

Middlesbrough's Riverside Stadium will be able to house fans for their game against Bournemouth, while Norwich City versus Preston North End is the only other Championship match with spectators in attendance after Luton, who host Derby County, informed the EFL they would not be involved.

In League One, Charlton Athletic, Blackpool, Shrewsbury Town and Hull City have all been given the green light to host fans.

Forest Green Rovers, Carlisle United and Morecambe are the League Two teams selected, following in the footsteps of Cambridge, Morecambe's visitors.

"It's encouraging that we are in a position to move forward with the next phase of the pilot programme and give a small number of our clubs the opportunity to welcome back up to a 1,000 fans this week," said EFL chairman Rick Parry.

"The health and well-being of supporters and their wider communities remains the priority, but as we showed at Cambridge, social distancing can be applied safely.

"By extending across more EFL clubs, we hope to further demonstrate that the measures developed can allow fans to return in greater numbers from as early as next month."

Borussia Dortmund's season-opening Bundesliga fixture at home to Borussia Monchengladbach is set to be played in front of around 10,000 supporters.

Bundesliga clubs have reportedly been given the green light for fans to return to stadiums for the start of the 2020-21 season in Germany amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The 2019-20 campaign resumed behind closed doors in May due to COVID-19, which forced the league to be postponed in March.

But with the new Bundesliga season scheduled to kick off on Friday, a trial is set to take place – up to 20 per cent of stadium capacity can be used, while strict hygiene requirements will be imposed, and alcohol banned.

Away fans will not be allowed to attend, though a game would be forced back behind closed doors if the infection rate in the home city is too high over a seven-day period.

Dortmund on Tuesday announced that a small crowd will be in attendance for Saturday's showdown against Gladbach at Signal Iduna Park, where only Dortmund or North Rhine-Westphalia residents will be granted access.

"The Bundesliga teams, but also the clubs and associations of other sports, can be very happy today, and we definitely have this feeling at BVB," said Dortmund chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke in a statement.

"I would like to thank everyone in politics who contributed to today's decision in the past few weeks. At the same time, I feel a great obligation that we as clubs, together with the fans involved, will handle this probationary period extremely responsibly in the coming weeks. The now approved partial re-admission of viewers is in any case a very important step for all football fans in Germany. "

Last season saw Dortmund finish second to rivals Bayern Munich, while Gladbach secured a top-four spot as they qualified for the Champions League.

Major League Baseball has announced its 2020 postseason schedule, with game one of the World Series to take place on October 20.

Texas Rangers' Globe Life Field in Arlington will host the World Series, which could run until a game seven on October 28.

The plan approved by the MLB Players Association will also see division series and league championship series held at neutral ballparks, with players to be housed in single-location bio-secure bubbles nearby.

The American League and National League's wild card series begin on September 29 and September 30 – launching a format expanded from 10 to 16 franchises that was announced in July.

Globe Life Field will also stage the National League championship series, with Houston's Minute Maid Park sharing hosting duties for the division series.

Petco Park in San Diego will be a venue throughout for the American League, with Dodger Stadium taking some of the division games.

The postseason schedule marks a departure from when MLB's truncated regular season began in July.

It was the only major American sports league that remained committed to travel amid the coronavirus pandemic. Around the same time, the NBA, WNBA and MLS opted for one-location bubbles.

However, COVID-19 outbreaks at the Miami Marlins and St Louis Cardinals then put the season in jeopardy. In total, the league has been forced to postpone 43 scheduled games over the course of the health crisis.

Barcelona cannot afford to buy Memphis Depay because of the hit their finances have taken during the COVID-19 crisis, Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas has claimed.

The dramatic twist on Tuesday evening followed reports that Depay was set to leave Lyon and be reunited with Ronald Koeman, who until recently was his Netherlands coach, at Camp Nou.

The striker looked set to move to Spain in a deal costing Barcelona in the region of 25-30 million euros, various reports indicated.

Yet the deal now looks to be off, with Aulas declaring Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu personally told him the Catalan giants were in no position to make an offer.

In a Twitter message, Aulas pointed to a report from Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf that suggested a 30 million euros move for the 26-year-old was in the offing.

Aulas wrote: "The president of Barca indicated to me on Sunday that Barca were suffering a lot from the COVID crisis and didn't have the possibility to make an offer. #memphis"

Bartomeu recently said Barcelona faced losing around 30 per cent of their budgeted income because of the coronavirus pandemic, with that figure likely to equate to somewhere close to 300 million euros.

Depay has scored 46 goals in 103 Ligue 1 games for Lyon, Opta statistics show, since joining from Manchester United in the January 2017 transfer window.

Miralem Pjanic is fulfilling a dream by sharing a dressing room with Barcelona legend Lionel Messi and cannot believe his luck having also previously played with Francesco Totti and Cristiano Ronaldo.

New €60million signing Pjanic was belatedly presented as a Barca player on Tuesday, having tested positive for COVID-19 in August which meant the 30-year-old had to go into quarantine.

That delayed the midfielder's arrival in Barcelona until last week, with him working out at the club's training ground for the first time on Saturday prior to their friendly against Gimnastic.

A tumultuous transfer window for Barca saw Messi ask to leave the club before ultimately staying, a decision Pjanic both expected and relished.

"I have met with him two or three days ago," Pjanic told reporters about Messi.

"I have played with Totti, Cristiano and now Messi. That is fortunate, to have players like this as team-mates. They are athletes who have given a lot to football. 

"Today I have the opportunity to share the dressing room with an alien and it will be beautiful. 

"Sharing a dressing room with Messi and not only with Messi, with others too, is a dream for me. 

"But we will be a squad of 25 and all 25 will be important.

"I have played in great teams and I have respected my teams, but today a dream comes true. It is the ultimate dream. I will give everything I can to leave a good memory of me."

Of the transfer saga, which saw Barca refuse to allow the Argentina international leave for free, Pjanic added: "I followed everything that happened about Messi. 

"But I don't see Messi outside of this club. He has made an incredible story for the team and I think this story will end well. Leo is a winner, an achiever. 

"I only imagined Messi at Barca because this is his home. He is perhaps the best player of all time and for us having him is a great asset.

"Messi has grown up here and I've seen him happy. Everyone is going to have a good time here.

"He has made an incredible history with this club and all will be well.

"My will was to play with this player and I had no doubt that it would happen. I did not imagine him being in other colours or a different shirt."

Neymar, Angel Di Maria, Leandro Paredes and Keylor Navas have been included in Paris Saint-Germain's squad for Sunday's Ligue 1 clash with Marseille after a period of quarantine.

The quartet missed PSG's 1-0 loss to Lens in their opening game of the 2020-21 campaign last Thursday after contracting COVID-19 during the close season.

However, all four players have since returned negative tests and Thomas Tuchel revealed at his pre-match news conference that the quartet would be considered for selection if they came through training unscathed.

It has now been confirmed that attacking duo Neymar and Di Maria, plus midfielder Paredes and first-choice goalkeeper Navas, are part of PSG's 21-man squad for Le Classique.

Kylian Mbappe, Mauro Icardi and Marquinhos also returned positive tests last week and remain absent for the clash at the Parc des Princes.

Speaking on the eve of the match, Tuchel questioned why one of the standout fixtures in the Ligue 1 calendar was being staged so early in the campaign.

"I am surprised that such an important game is scheduled for the third match day," he told reporters.

"I think such a game should be scheduled for October or November when both teams have got into a rhythm.

"Everybody wants to win at their best level but it's not possible if it's only the second game in Ligue 1. Personally I don't understand the decision."

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