BARCELONA, SPAIN – OCTOBER 01: A general view of the Camp Nou stadium during the La Liga 2017-18 … [+]
With each passing hour, it seems more of an inevitability.
On Tuesday, it was decided after a meeting at the Generalitat de Catalunya’s health department headquarters – between the club’s CEO Oscar Grau, Albert Soler, and Ramon Canal, its head of medical services, plus officials from the Generalitat and the Secretary of Sport – that FC Barcelona’s Champions League clash with Napoli on March 18th would be played behind closed doors in response to the outbreak of the Covid-19 Coronavirus.
Schools in Madrid closed until the 25th, local authorities also announced that all travel between Spain and Italy would be put on hold prior to that date too, making it increasingly difficult for the Neapolitans to get to the Camp Nou and contest the decisive last 16 second leg with their Catalan rivals.
Valencia losing to Atalanta 3-4 on the night and 4-8 on aggregate without a single fan in the Mestalla, save for an honoury statue of one of their most famous supporters, it was around this time that Getafe president Angel Torres had told Spanish radio station Onda Cero that his high flying squad would not be travelling to Milan on Thursday to face Inter in the Europa League.
“Unless [the situation] changes a lot, Getafe won’t be travelling to Italy,” said Torres, as relyed by MARCA.
“We’ve asked UEFA to find an alternative to playing in Milan. We don’t want to put ourselves in the epicentre of coronavirus; we don’t need to. We’ve also asked the [Spanish Football] Federation for help in demanding the suspension [of the match],” he confirmed.
“If we have to lose the tie, we lose it. I’m not the type of person to run any risks. We’re really excited [to play Inter], but if it has to be like this, it will be.” Torres concluded.
Simultaneously, MARCA explained how the Association of Spanish Footballers (AFE) had released a statement requesting that UEFA suspend the Europa League matches between Getafe and Inter, and Sevilla and Roma.
That wish fulfilled on Thursday afternoon, an official statement from the European governing body followed a refusal by the Spanish to receive AS Roma in Seville.
La Liga, RFEF and AFE locked in an emergency meeting to decide if domestic top flight fixtures, already scheduled to take place behind closed doors, will likewise be suspended, it now appears inevitable that Barça’s meeting with Napoli will follow suit in light of today’s numerous developments.
It is certainly the deduction and suggestion of many pundits, such as Mundo Deportivo’s Fransesc Aguilar, who wrote: “UEFA should announce without delay the forthcoming Champions League and Europa League knockout games. In view of all the insurmountable problems that the clubs face due to the Coronavirus, it would be most reasonable [thing to do].”
Scorn thrown on the UK government for allowing 3,000 Atletico Madrid fans to travel to Merseyside this evening for their decisive encounter with Premier League leaders, Liverpool, other games such as Manchester City vs Real Madrid, Juventus vs Lyon and Bayern Munich vs Chelsea in the Champions League are now also under threat.