Brescia’s Massimo Cellino wants Serie A null and void, he has a point but is he right?

Brescia  president Massimo Cellino has spoken out and wants the current Serie A season declared null and void but is he thinking of his clubs own interests or the interests of the league?

Brescia surprise surprise are bottom of Serie A and aren’t just last but rock bottom in the fact that they are 9 points from safety and with 12 games to go only a miracle really would have seen them stay up.

However Cellino believes that Coronavirus goes beyond football and his statement about ending the league which would save Brescia has nothing to do with his team being relegated. Cellino said: “I don’t care at all about relegation so far we have deserved it and I have my blame in that, too.”

Cellino went on to say that the season could descend into chaos and that Brescia may just forfeit games if the season did go ahead in respect of the towns in Italy that have been hit the hardest over the virus which includes the region of Brescia.

Cellino said: “This season doesn’t make sense any more. We’ve stopped no team will return as before, the matches will be behind closed doors, plus there’s a risk to the health of the athletes. For me to go back to business is pure madness. If they force us to play, I’d be willing to not field the team and lose the matches 3-0 out of respect for the citizens of Brescia and their loved ones who are no longer there.”

Cellino continued: “We need to change all the national and international rules players’ contracts, balance sheets, deadlines with the banks, the transfer market, preparation, start of the new season. It will be absolute chaos and for what?”.

At first glance it is easy to dismiss Cellino’s claims that the league season should be cut short and end now. His team are bottom of the league and sure to be relegated. At the same time would he be speaking out if Brescia had stunned Italian football and were in first place or challenging for first or a Champions League finish? Only people very close to him could tell you that answer and because of Brescia’s position, Cellino could talk about ending the season all day long, not many would listen. Now if Maurizio Sarri the Juventus coach asked for the season to end that would be different as they are leading and would be giving up the league title.

But Cellino does raise good and valid points about how football simply isn’t as important as some people may make out when a virus is killing thousands in Europe. Also players contracts, health insurance etc, all come into play. Cellino isn’t completely talking nonsense and making isn’t completely only thinking of self interests, and it wouldn’t be  a surprise if Serie A were to look into his views.

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Balotelli Hits out at league: “They Waited for Juventus to Go First.”

Mario Balotelli has never been one to shy away from speaking his mind and most recently, lambasted the league’s indecision regarding the ongoing outbreak of the Coronavirus. Since the outbreak, Supermario was very vocal and wanted the league to suspend the games with immediate effect. Serie A, however, allowed for the Derby d’Italia to be played before eventually suspending the games until April 3; a decision Balotelli rejected wholeheartedly.

In typical fashion, the enigmatic striker took to Instagram live to blast the league claiming they favored Juventus. “They had to wait until Juventus went back on top before stopping the league,” said Balotelli. “In all honesty, I hope Serie A doesn’t start up again until there are no more cases. I got so angry at the start when I urged everyone to stop and people insulted me for it. Maybe now they’ve finally realised the situation,” stated Supermario. 

Before the Derby d’Italia, Juventus found themselves two points behind Lazio in second-place with a game in hand. With their win, Maurizio Sarri’s men leapfrogged Lazio, pulling themselves temporarily in first with twelve games to play. However, one head-to-head clash between the two sides remains before the season comes to a close.

One option that FIGC President Gabriele Gravina put forward to decide key positions if the games couldn’t be played was to go off the current table to discern a winner. In this case, Juventus would be crowned champions with Lazio, Inter, and Atalanta rounding off the remaining Champions League spots.

Otherwise, the other two options would be to assign no winner and void the season or make Italy’s top four compete in playoffs. Simply put, any of the three options have their respective short-comings, leaving someone dissatisfied. In any case, a decision will need to be made sooner rather than later.

Shortly after Balotelli’s controversial comments, Brescia distanced themselves from their striker’s claims, stating his comments do not reflect the club’s position in any way. In an official press release, they said:

“Brescia officially distances themselves from Mario Balotelli and his hypothesis about the league’s potential favoritism. Specifically, on his Instagram live later disseminated on Youtube, Balotelli alluded to the league favoring Juventus for the title. Brescia would like to underline that this opinion is strictly personal and does not in any way reflect the club’s views.” 

In any case, clarity will be provided shortly as a number of factors remain. For one, what will happen to Euro 2020? If the tournament is postponed, there may be a chance that the remaining Serie A fixtures could be played.

As Italy looks to curtail the outbreak of the Coronavirus, let’s make one thing clear – at a time like this, football is secondary. In this sense, Balotelli is not wrong. Whether they void the season or not, it simply doesn’t matter at this delicate time. With the number of reported cases rising every day within Italy, what’s important is curbing the outbreak and then depending on where we are, figure out the rest of the season.

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Five More Serie A Players Test Positive for Coronavirus

After the league was temporarily suspended last week, it was reported that Juventus defender Daniele Rugani was the first Serie A player to contract the coronavirus. Shortly thereafter, Sampdoria’s Manolo Gabbiadini announced he tested positive for the disease himself, indicating the suspension of the season was the correct call. Following these reports, all Champions League games were postponed in addition to the suspension of all major sports leagues, including the NBA, the NHL, and the MLB.

Today, reports came out that a further four Sampdoria players got the Coronavirus in addition to Fiorentina striker Dusan Vlahovic. Morten Thorsby, Albin Ekdal, Omar Colley and Antonino La Gumina were the league’s next round of confirmed cases. Moreover, Sampdoria’s team doctor Amedeo Baldari also contracted the virus, bringing the league’s total to eight for the time being.

Sampdoria midfielder Albin Ekdal took to Twitter to address the latest news:

“Listen to the authorities and do everything in your power to help reduce the spread of this virus. It will help us protect the sick and the elderly. Lastly I would like to say thank you to all healthcare professionals who are doing a heroic job right now.”

Given the recent spike in cases, Italy’s Minister of Sport Vincenzo Spadafora recently spoke out against the league’s indecision. In a recent interview with Rai Uno, Spadafora said: “Football is a world in itself: there was a time when the Lega Serie A didn’t want to take responsibility as it should have done,” said Spadafora. “We did it as a government to protect interests. Now there is no longer any controversy because some of the players have the virus. We would have preferred to have stopped the league sooner, but better late than never.”

With the league suspended until April 3, it has left many wondering if the season will finish at all and if so, what the result will be. Currently, Juventus are one point ahead of Lazio in first, however, the bianconeri still have a game to play against Simone Inzaghi’s men. If the games cannot be played, playoffs are being touted as a real option. However, it is still unclear how that would play out.

Where it might get trickier is in the relegation zone. Judging by the standings, SPAL and Brescia are as good as relegated on 18 and 16 points respectively. While either side could hit miraculous form over the last twelve match-days to save themselves, it was looking increasingly unlikely.

The third and final relegation spot, however, is a different story. Lecce and Genoa are currently tied on points, with the Grifoni holding the tie-breaker for the time being. Beyond Genoa and Lecce, Claudio Ranieri’s Sampdoria are just one point ahead in the relegation race. Torino aren’t exactly out of the woods either on 28 points and could feature in a relegation playoff if one comes about.

With much uncertainty surrounding the league and more cases being reported by the day within the league, Serie A will need to take action shortly. After all, April 3 is fast approaching.

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AC Milan suspend training for at least a week; donate money to coronavirus response efforts

Following the recent developments in Italy, AC Milan have decided to suspend training for at least a week. Considering that the league has been suspended until April 3rd, the Rossoneri certainly have the time to take these precautionary measures, following the heavy Coronavirus outbreak in the country. 

The decision was announced on the club’s official website earlier today, stating that training is scheduled to resume on Monday next week. However, as mentioned, depending on how the upcoming days will pan out, the suspension could be extended to protect the players.  Continue reading

Serie A to be suspended until April 3 – Three possible scenarios for the season

In the last few days, the Coronavirus outbreak hasn’t exactly calmed down in Italy. Therefore, following the games that took place this past weekend, Serie A is set to be suspended until April 3rd. At the time of writing, the new decision should be signed off tomorrow (Tuesday). 

Unlike the first decision, which allowed the games to be played behind closed doors, this will put a complete stop to all sporting events in the country. Considering how tight the schedule is already, this will make it very difficult to complete the season in time, although it must be stressed that public health comes first. Continue reading

Serie A Best Fantasy XI – Round 26 – Second Half

A surreal Serie A round still had a good dose of action and some massive results. Here are the top performers from the weekend.

Juan Musso (7 points): five teams managed to earn a clean sheet and, out of all the goalies involved, Udinese’s one had the most meaningful save, on a Federico Chiesa potent cross-shot that could have swung the Fiorentina match late.

Nikola Milenkovic (5 points): Fiorentina’s defence held up well versus Udinese, allowing limited chances, and the Serbian defender also had one of the biggest chances for his side with a strikingly quick volley that went just wide. Continue reading

Juventus Top Performers – Round 26 vs Inter

Juventus broke through with a fairly flucky goal in the second half after a balanced first 45 minutes and actually for once gained steam after getting the lead and managed to control the remaining portion of the contest, gaining a monumental W and returning on top of the standings.

Matthijs De Ligt and Leonardo Bonucci (5 points): no separation between the two centre-backs, who perfectly tag-teamed to stymie one of the most vaunted striking duo in the League. They matched Romelu Lukaku’s physicality and contained Lautaro Martinez’s movements, and, as a matter of fact, even in the Nerazzurri’s best moments, the chances came from the ancillary players. Wojciech Szczesny answered the bell on the lone dangerous daisy-cutter from distance, while Alex Sandro put in the usual decent but not superb shift. Continue reading

AC Milan 1-2 Genoa: Lacklustre Rossoneri side fail to perform without the fans

After the draw against Fiorentina, AC Milan were hoping for revenge this afternoon, taking on Genoa at the San Siro. However, the Rossoneri failed to grab the three points as the away side secured only their second win at the stadium in the last 19 meetings. 

Due to the Coronavirus outbreak, the game was played behind closed doors, meaning no fans were at the stadium. Therefore, the atmosphere was certainly very strange, looking more like a pre-season friendly than a competitive league game. And Milan played like it was the former.  Continue reading

Andrea Agnelli’s Superleague Represents All That is Wrong With Football

Juventus president Andrea Agnelli has come under the fire for recent comments about Gian Piero Gasperini’s high-flying Atalanta, claiming they aren’t worthy representatives for Italy in the Champions Leauge. The Juventus president has regularly been on record in favour of a European superleague and criticized the Champions League’s current format.

In an interview at the FT Business of Football Summit in London, Agnelli said:

“I have great respect for everything that Atalanta are doing, but without international history and thanks to just one great season, they had direct access into the primary European club competition. Is that right or not?”

In case you missed it this season, Atalanta are primed to qualify for Europe’s elite eight having smashed Valencia 4-1 in their opening leg. After a rough opening three games, Atalanta found stability and did well to progress to the round of 16 against all the odds. In addition, Gasperini’s men are currently in fourth place, three points ahead of Roma with a game in hand, indicating last season’s success was far from a one-off.

Factor in that Atalanta are competing with Europe’s elites with a fraction of the budget, their rise becomes all the more impressive. In many ways, that’s what football is all about. It’s about the plucky underdog that defies all odds and finds a way to win. It’s about that team that goes against the grain and hits unprecedented heights when no one expected them to. If Agnelli’s superleague is put into place, these success stories will be fewer and far between if any at all, and would completely eliminate the magic of the sport.

For the last two seasons, Gasperini’s men have outplayed Italy’s traditional giants, pipping them to the final European places. Last season, they finished ahead of Inter, Milan, Roma, and Lazio and deservedly so. Despite this, Agnelli maintains their European qualification should not be guaranteed.

“Then I think of AS Roma, who contributed in recent years to maintaining Italy’s ranking. They had one bad season and are out, with all the consequent damage to them financially.”

If the superleague goes through as Agnelli wishes, it would reward clubs based on history and brand name, rather than results. In essence, the rich would get richer. In a society where elites control most facets of everyday life, football must reject this wholeheartedly and keep a meritocracy in place. Inefficiencies remain with the current system as big spenders are typically rewarded, however, less so than in a superleague, for example. In sports, most of the time, you get what you deserve. If you put in the work, chances are you’ll get rewarded accordingly.

Few clubs, if any, in Italy have innovated like Atalanta and have built a base for long-term success. Gli Orobici play an expansive brand of football, promote a host of youth talents annually and will soon be playing in their own stadium. While they may not be considered as one of Italian football’s pioneers, or one of the Seven Sisters, they shouldn’t be punished either for not being there from day one. A case could even be made that Atalanta are currently the nation’s most progressive side and represent all that is good with Italian football. 

Agnelli’s comments, while they may seem like one man’s opinion, represent a far bigger problem in football that currently exists. Europe’s elite have no regard for their league’s provinciali and will stop at nothing until the current format is blown up for their own benefit. Simply put, they’re in it for themselves. In an era where Europe’s elites have each other’s backs, the rest of Italy and the world, must do the same. Otherwise, we’ll be seeing the same 16 teams, if not fewer, every year fight for Europe’s crown. And where’s the fun in that?

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Coronavirus Outbreak Nullifies Home-Field Advantage

The 237th instalment of the Derby d’Italia will be a defining moment in the season for both sides. On one hand, Inter desperately needs the three points to maintain the pace with Lazio and Juve at the top, while the bianconeri, by contrast, would like to keep Antonio Conte’s men at arm’s length. After all, a win against their fierce rivals would extend their lead to nine over the nerazzurri, with just one game in hand. With Lazio in fine form, three points are of paramount importance for Sarri’s men ahead of their crucial Champions League return leg against Lyon.

The game was initially set to be played last week in Turin, in front of their usual 40,000 spectators. With former Juventus captain Antonio Conte returning as an opponent for the first time since switching allegiances, the Allianz Stadium promised to be hostile. Many fans have even petitioned for Conte’s star to be removed at the Allianz Stadium after he joined Inter.

However, with the coronavirus spreading across the nation, the Italian Government ruled that all sporting events until April 3 would need to be played behind closed doors. As a result, Conte and Marotta will have to wait until next season to receive their “warm” welcomes.

While the game promises to be an evenly-matched tilt, the ruling puts Inter at a slight advantage. For one, the deafening home crowd won’t be present to distract them and they’ll be able to lock in like never before. On the other hand, Conte excels at motivating his men for one-off battles as we have seen throughout his young managerial career and will benefit from the relatively quiet, empty stadium. There may not be fans present, but one thing’s for sure: Conte’s voice will be heard, whereas Sarri is far more observant on the touchline.

In a game like this, Conte gets the advantage and will likely be motivating his men full throttle. With everything on the line tomorrow, expect Inter to come out firing from all cylinders. The stadium ban is an unprecedented situation that nullifies Juve’s home advantage, and Inter will be looking to fully capitalize on it.

For Sarri, the challenge is unique. After seeing his side underperform after the new year, Juve have fallen behind in the title race for the first time. Simply put, a reaction is needed or they may be in for a rough finish to the end of the season. Juve may have the game in hand on Lazio, but the biancocelesti have been in sensational form and have shown no signs of stopping. In many ways, they’ve been the best side in Italy this past season. Anything but a win against Inter and Juventus will find themselves in second place by tomorrow night; a worrying prospect indeed.

With Inzaghi’s men focusing solely on the league, it will be quite the uphill battle to climb if they fall behind, especially with no fans to support them. Factor in Juventus’ narrow deficit in the Champions League and the bianconeri’s minds may just be on their European exploits.

On the bright side, the last week has allowed Sarri’s men to regain energy and rest ahead of a crucial stretch. Due to injuries and a lack of depth in key areas, a majority of Juventus’ squad needed this.

No matter which way you put it, tomorrow’s derby d’Italia will be an awkward affair. The contrast of having massive title implications but no fans present make it so, there’s no way around it. While Sarri will be eager to prove he’s the right man for the job after coming under fire, Conte and his men are more than happy to play spoiler and throw their name in the hat for the Scudetto. For now, it’s advantage Conte.

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