The worst, it seems, is over.
After a maddening week of indecision, bickering and downright incompetence from Italy’s football authorities, some answers have finally been delivered as to how Serie A will deal with the coronavirus outbreak.
The Italian government have issued a decree confirming that all sporting events in the country are to be played behind closed doors until 3 April.
Up until this point, Lazio’s superb season has been unaffected by the public health crisis.
But after a week of contradicting statements and last-minute U-turns, now is the time to answer some of the key questions surrounding the new reality in Italian football.
What has changed?
All games across the country will be played behind closed doors until 3 April in an effort to contain the spread of the virus.
The last two rounds saw most fixtures held in the worst-affected northern regions postponed.
Lazio managed to complete their games in both of those weekends, beating Genoa and Bologna to go top of the table on 62 points.
However, Lega Serie A has now confirmed that six suspended games from Week 26 – originally scheduled for last weekend – will be played over 8 and 9 March.
That includes Juventus’ clash with Inter in Turin, which will take place on Sunday night, and a win for Maurizio Sarri’s men in that game would move them back to the top of the table, one point ahead of Lazio.
Given that Lazio’s Week 26 game against Bologna went ahead as planned, the Biancocelesti now have a weekend off.
The fixture calendar has effectively been shifted forward a week, meaning that the Aquile’s away game against Atalanta, originally to be played this Saturday, will now take place over 14/15 March.
As it stands, the Lazio games that will be played behind closed doors are Atalanta away and a home game against Fiorentina on 21/22 March.
Is the break a good or bad thing for Lazio?
The unexpected opportunity for a weekend off appears to have come at a good time for Lazio, considering the injury problems in the squad.
Alberto came off with a thigh issue against Bologna, but has now returned to Spain for treatment and will return to Rome early next week.
The break therefore gives Simone Inzaghi a valuable opportunity to rest and recover his squad ahead of a crucial game for their season. Club captain Senad Lulic will need longer, as he recovers from an ankle operation.
That said, Lazio run the risk of losing some of the superb momentum they have generated on a club record 21-match unbeaten run.
What do the fixture changes mean for the title race?
Of the three teams currently battling at the top of the table, there is no doubt that Lazio will suffer the least from the recent chaos.
The Roman club have already been eliminated from cup competitions and have managed to fulfil all their Serie A games as normal, meaning that they will have just one extra midweek game towards the end of the season to contend with.
Things are a lot more complicated for Juventus and Inter, particularly the latter.
Both sides are still in Europe and the Coppa Italia. They have cup semi-final second legs, and a potential final, ahead of them.
Inter have two legs against Getafe coming up in the Europa League, while Juve face Lyon in their Champions League last 16 second leg on 17 March.
Juve will make up the lost Serie A week when they host Inter this weekend in an empty Allianz Stadium, but the Nerazzurri still have to find another date to play their suspended clash with Sampdoria – and the date for this remains a mystery.
Inter face a hectic schedule between now and the end of the season. If they go the distance in every competition, they will have seven Europa League games, two Coppa Italia fixtures and 14 Serie A matches ahead of them. A total of 23 games.
For Juve, going all the way would mean six Champions League matches, two in the Coppa, and 13 league fixtures. That’s 21 matches.
Of course, there’s very little guarantee that both, or either, team will make it that far. But the possibility exists and could cause serious problems for the league organisers.
When compared to Lazio, who have just 12 matches to play over the next 11 weeks, there’s little doubt that the Roman club are in the best position of the three to keep their squad fit and firing.
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