Uncertainty hangs over Serie A as Juve host Inter


Soccer Football - Champions League - Round of 16 First Leg - Olympique Lyonnais v Juventus - Groupama Stadium, Lyon, France - February 26, 2020 Juventus' Cristiano Ronaldo before the match REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

MILAN (Reuters) - The most eagerly-awaited Serie A match of the season takes place on Sunday when leaders Juventus host third-placed Inter Milan yet, like the rest of the programme, uncertainty hangs over the match due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Italy has reported more than 400 cases, centred on the industrial heartlands of Lombardy and Veneto, while Italians or people who recently visited Italy have tested positive in Algeria, Austria, Croatia, Greece, Romania, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

Juventus, chasing a ninth successive title, lead the table on 60 points, one ahead of Lazio, and Inter in third are on 54 with a game in hand.

Inter coach Antonio Conte returns to his former club for the first time since he left in 2014 after leading them to the first three titles in their current run.

After four matches were postponed last weekend, the Italian government banned all sporting contests in six regions on Monday although it accepted a request from the country's soccer federation for Serie A games in the affected area to go ahead without spectators.

The matches to be played without fans in attendance are Udinese-Fiorentina on Saturday and the AC Milan-Genoa, Juve-Inter, Parma-SPAL, Sassuolo-Brescia matches on Sunday plus Sampdoria-Verona on Monday.

The other four games -- Lazio-Bologna and Napoli-Torino and Saturday and Lecce-Atalanta and Cagliari-AS Roma on Sunday -- could be played with spectators, it ruled.

So far, however, the Serie A league has yet to issue a statement confirming these arrangements, although on Thursday ANSA news agency published the list of referees for the games.

The Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper said the Juventus match could possibly be played with spectators after all.

The newspaper said that, with only one confirmed case in Piedmont, that the region's government was considering asking the Italian government for permission to lift the ban on sporting events in the region and allow the public to watch.

There was no immediate comment from the Piedmont government.

The report also pointed out that neither Juventus, Inter nor the Torino municipal government have issued any comment on arrangements for the game.

The head of the governing body in the neighbouring Lombardy region did not rule out the possibility of fans attending.

"We need to take a look at the situation," Attilio Fontana told RTL radio. "We will check on Saturday and then we will decide."

(Reporting by Brian Homewood, editing by Ed Osmond)

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