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Coronavirus in sport: Masters and Giro latest high-profile events postponed

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Golf’s first major of 2020 has been postponed, as has the Giro d’Italia and marathons in London and Boston.

The sporting calendar over the next few weeks looks extremely bare as events continue to be postponed or cancelled as a result of the threat of the coronavirus.

All of Europe’s top five leagues have now been suspended, as the Bundesliga followed Serie A, LaLiga, Ligue 1 and the Premier League in calling a halt to proceedings just hours before its latest round of fixtures was due to kick off.

Golf’s first major, the Masters, will not take place on April 9 as initially scheduled, while the Giro d’Italia, the final Six Nations match between Wales and Scotland, and marathons in London and Boston have all been affected by COVID-19, too.

With the number of confirmed cases worldwide now totalling over 140,000, we take a look at the latest round of postponements.

 

After the PGA Tour cancelled all events leading up the Masters, all eyes were on whether the prestigious event at Augusta National Golf Club would be called off until further notice. That news arrived on Friday, with organisers saying it was “appropriate under these unique circumstances”.

 

With around four hours to go before the first Bundesliga game of matchday 26, the league was finally suspended due to the growing number of COVID-19 cases in Germany.

Defender Timo Hubers, who plays for 2. Bundesliga side Hannover, was one of the first players across Europe to test positive for the virus, and Paderborn, who had been due to Fortuna Dusseldorf on Friday night, were waiting on tests results for their players when news came down from the league.

Clubs will meet again on Monday, with the league advising a suspension until April 2.

World Cup qualifiers in Africa were suspended, while European clubs such as Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona have stopped their players from training at their facilities for the time being.

As Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba encouraged people to “dab to beat coronavirus” and Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp backed the decision to postpone the Premier League, Serie A clubs Sampdoria and Fiorentina reported positive cases involving their players in Italy, one of the worst-affected countries.

 

The country’s major cycling race, the Giro d’Italia, will not begin as scheduled on May 9 as Hungary said it was unwilling to host the first three stages. The whole race was subsequently postponed.

Six Nations contest between Italy and England in Rome, originally slated for Saturday, had already been called off, and the only fixture of the tournament not to be postponed was put back indefinitely on Friday. Wales’ clash with Scotland in Cardiff was finally called off the day before it was set to take place, while Sunday’s Premiership Rugby Cup final between Sale Sharks and Harlequins has also been postponed.

South Africa’s ODI tour of India will be rescheduled for another time, the first match having been washed out on Thursday, while the Boston Marathon will now take place on September 14. The new date for the London Marathon is October 4.

Elsewhere, NASCAR has postponed races in Atlanta and Miami over the next two weekends. Those races were initially going to be held without fans. All IndyCar Series races through April have been cancelled.

 

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France

Coronavirus: I felt worse than Mbappe when he was tested for COVID-19 – Herrera

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Kylian Mbappe was tested for coronavirus earlier this month, but Ander Herrera was in a worse condition.

Ander Herrera revealed he felt worse than Kylian Mbappe when his Paris Saint-Germain team-mate was tested for coronavirus.

Mbappe tested negative for coronavirus earlier this month, just days out from PSG’s Champions League last-16 second leg against Borussia Dortmund.

But Herrera said he was in a worse condition than Mbappe, with the midfielder missing the clash due to a thigh injury.

“It was two days before PSG v Dortmund and the previous weekend Neymar had a group meal and I had been by his side,” he told Cadena SER on Thursday.

“I was worse than him.”

PSG’s win over Borussia Dortmund behind closed doors which sent them into the Champions League quarter-finals was their last match with sport around the world brought to a standstill by the coronavirus pandemic.

The financial impact of the suspended, and potentially cancelled, seasons is set to be felt and Herrera is open to taking a pay cut.

“We have to be consistent with the situation of the clubs,” he said.

“Personally, I am very grateful to PSG for having me here and of course I would listen to them.”

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Neymar v Lautaro Martinez: Who should Barcelona sign?

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Neymar and Lautaro Martinez have been strongly linked with a move to Barcelona. We use Opta data to see who would best suit the Catalans.

Football may be on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Barcelona are reportedly already planning their transfer business ahead of the window reopening.

The LaLiga champions have been short of options up top this term as a result of injury lay-offs for Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele and reinforcements are being sought.

Two players continue to be continually linked with a switch, with Barca supposedly torn between a move for Inter striker Lautaro Martinez or ex-Camp Nou favourite Neymar.

Martinez has once again starred for Inter this season and the possibility of a move to Catalonia has been talked up by compatriot Lionel Messi.

But speaking earlier this week, Rivaldo claimed Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar would be a better option for his former club given his added experience.

Using Opta stats, we compare the form of the two players in all competitions this season and establish just who would be the better signing for Barcelona.

 

GOALS

Whoever Barcelona bring in to lead the line, they will need to have the ability to link up with others in the final third and continue getting the best out of star man Messi.

But first and foremost, Quique Setien’s side need a goalscorer that can find the net and make a difference in key games.

Both Neymar and Martinez have the ability to do just that, scoring 18 and 16 goals respectively in all competitions this term.

However, Neymar has played nine games fewer than Martinez, giving him a minutes-per-goal ratio of 106 compared to 152.

ALL-ROUND ABILITY

There is little between the two players in terms of where their goals are scored, each netting two apiece from strikes outside the penalty box this term.

Neymar is comfortable using both feet to find the net, though, using his left foot seven times and his right 10 times to beat the opposition goalkeeper.

Inter striker Martinez, by comparison, has only managed a couple of goals with his weaker left.

But the Argentina international is better in the air, the stats suggest, given he has scored three headed goals in 2019-20 – two more than Neymar.

 

ASSISTS

The deciding factor in which of the two players Barcelona should sign may well come down to their relationship with Messi.

Neymar knows Messi well from his previous four-year stint at Camp Nou, while Martinez regularly links up with the six-time Ballon d’Or winner at international level.

In terms of pure team play, this is another category Neymar edges having assisted nine goals this season, with Martinez lagging behind on two.

 

BIG GAME CREDENTIALS

If Barcelona are to spend a nine-figure sum on a player, they will expect to be reimbursed with goals in big matches and at key moments in games.

It is arguably Martinez’s form on the biggest club stage of them all, the Champions League, that has fuelled rumours of a move to Barcelona.

The 22-year-old scored in four successive Champions League games during the group stage, making him the fifth Argentinian player to do so, though it was not enough to prevent Inter from exiting the competition.

PSG remain alive and well in the competition and that is in large down to Neymar, who scored in both legs of the last-16 comeback win against Borussia Dortmund.

In fact, since joining the French giants in 2017, Neymar has been involved in a goal every 70 minutes in UEFA’s showpiece competition.

It is that ability to have a say on the biggest matches, plus his individual brilliance and underrated ability to set up others, which just gives Neymar the edge over Martinez at this moment in time.

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Cavani to Boca Juniors? Hopefully very soon – Bermudez

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Jorge Bermudez discussed rumours linking Boca Juniors to Edinson Cavani.

Boca Juniors sporting director Jorge Bermudez is hopeful Paris Saint-Germain star Edinson Cavani will join the Argentine giants “very soon”.

Cavani is out of contract in June and the Uruguay international has been linked with a move away from PSG following his failed transfer to Atletico Madrid in January.

The 33-year-old – PSG’s all-time leading goalscorer – has also reportedly emerged as a target for new MLS franchise Inter Miami.

But Bermudez believes Boca, where club legend Juan Roman Riquelme is now vice-president, can lure the PSG forward to Buenos Aires.

“Knowing Riquelme and the distance to [former Uruguay international Diego] Forlan, and knowing the category of Cavani, hopefully it will be very soon,” Bermudez told Radio Cooperativa.

“He would give us a great hand and be very supportive. I think he wants to come to Boca.”

Bermudez added: “If he comes it is for a real desire and the signs are clear.”

Prior to the postponement of Ligue 1 and football due to coronavirus, Cavani had scored seven goals across all competitions in 2019-20.

Cavani has called Paris home since swapping Napoli for PSG in 2013.

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