Leaders Linz become first Austrian team to re-start training

Soccer Football - LASK LInz Training - Pasching, Austria - April 20, 2020 LASK Linz players during training despite most sport being cancelled around the world as the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID19) continues REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

PASCHING, Austria (Reuters) - League leaders LASK Linz on Monday became the first Austrian top-flight team to re-start training amid the COVID-19 outbreak, with the players divided into small groups and observing social distancing guidelines.

Austria has become one of the first countries in Europe to loosen a lockdown imposed to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus and the government gave the go-ahead last Wednesday for professional teams to start training again.

Under government rules, the Linz players were divided into groups of six for practice and stayed two metres apart. Other Austrian teams were due to start training on Tuesday.

"We're all happy to be on the pitch again," said LASK captain Gernot Trauner.

The Austrian Bundesliga is hoping to resume the season in mid-May though all games would have to be without fans for the foreseeable future.

"It's a completely new situation, we are starting from scratch," said LASK coach Valerien Ismael.

"We know what we have to do, we must respect the two metres distance and that is a challenge -- but there is a good feeling and the important thing for the lads is to be back on the pitch after five-and-a-half weeks.

"This is all a change, but I think it is good the way it is now. I think we have found good solutions," added the Frenchman.

LASK's last match was on March 12 when they were thrashed 5-0 by visitors Manchester United in a Europa League lat 16, first-leg tie played behind closed doors.

They have a three-point lead over Salzburg in the Austrian Bundesliga with 10 games remaining and are chasing their first title since 1965.

(Reporting by Leonhard Foeger and Matteo Witt; Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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