Juventus v Inter The Epic Clash Under Close Doors – One of the most crucial Italian derbies in decades will be played at an empty ground amid Italys coronavirus lockdown.
The most keenly anticipated game of the Serie A season will play to an empty stadium on Sunday. It will be a relief to see it played at all. Juventus were originally supposed to host Internazionale on 1 March, before Italys coronavirus outbreak tipped the countrys top division into a timetabling meltdown.
On 27 February, the leagues governing body officially confirmed that the game was going ahead as scheduled but behind closed doors in line with a government ban on mass public gatherings in several northern regions of Italy. Two days later, the decision was reversed. Juventus v Inter was postponed, as were five other Serie A games: all at less than 36 hours notice.
Inter fans protested outside the leagues offices, accusing organisers of caving to pressure from Juventus. The president of Serie As governing body, Paolo dal Pino, pointed a finger back at their club for resisting an attempt to move the game back by one day, and playing it after the government decree was supposed to lapse. Inters president, Steven Zhang, called Dal Pino a clown.
Zhang was incredulous that considerations of competitive advantage and league prestige were being prioritised over public health. Dal Pino had spoken of his duty to represent Serie As greater interests for a game that would be broadcast to more than 200 countries. Only after a fresh government intervention, extending the ban on mass gatherings to cover the whole country until 3 April, were all parties able to agree on the best way to proceed.
Now there was no choice but to get on with it. The top-flight calendar was already at breaking point after four games were postponed on the weekend of 21-22 February as well. If Inter reach the finals of the Coppa Italia and Europa League, there would not be enough open dates to squeeze all of their Serie A games in before the scheduled end of this campaign.
A decision was taken to play all of last weeks fixtures this Sunday, allowing teams who missed games to at least partially catch up. A sensible step, if not a timely one. Official confirmation of this arrangement did not arrive until Thursday afternoon. That left three days for Juventus and Inter to prepare for a match that may define their seasons.
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