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Coronavirus in sport: Premier League & Ligue 1 suspended, Bundesliga yet to follow suit

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On Friday the Premier League and Ligue 1 joined the growing list of competitions to be put on hold due to the spread of coronavirus.

The Premier League and Ligue 1 have followed other competitions’ lead and put their seasons on hold due to the spread of coronavirus, yet most Bundesliga games are still set to go ahead this weekend.

There have been over 138,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and over 5,000 deaths, with nearly all sports having seen their schedules disrupted by the global pandemic.

The top flights in England and France joined their Italian and Spanish counterparts by postponing their seasons, while both the Champions League and Europa League have been put on hold too.

However, eight of the nine Bundesliga fixtures are due to take place between Friday and Sunday, albeit without fans present, and the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) confirmed the Six Nations match between Wales and Scotland is still set to take place in front of a crowd.

We look at the latest events to have been impacted by the virus.

The Premier League announced on Thursday that top-flight fixtures in England would take place this weekend, yet they performed a U-turn on Friday morning after Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta and Chelsea forward Callum Hudson-Odoi tested positive for coronavirus.

 

With three Leicester City players, unnamed Manchester City and Everton players, and Bournemouth’s Artur Boruc all self-isolating, all Premier League and English Football Leaguematches have been postponed until April 3. Scottish Premiership and Football League contests have also been suspended, including Sunday’s Old Firm clash between Rangers and Celtic.

It is a similar story in France, where fixtures in Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 have been suspended “until further notice”. The German football league has proposed halting the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga until April 2, yet, as it stands, games such as Bayern Munich’s trip to Union Berlin will take place. That baffled star Bayern midfielder Thiago Alcantara who wrote in a since-deleted tweet: “This is crazy. Please stop fooling around and land on reality”. However, Bayer Leverkusen’s proposed trip to Werder Bremen on Monday has been called off.

Next week’s Champions League ties between Manchester City and Real Madrid, and Juventus and Lyon, had already been put back indefinitely, and UEFA has now postponed all matches in that competition and the Europa League.

International friendlies scheduled for this month, including England’s games against Denmark and Italy, and Wales’ contests with Austria and the United States, have been cancelled.

While other sports across the United Kingdom called off planned events this weekend, the WRU reiterated it still intends to stage Wales’ final Six Nations game against Scotland in Cardiff. The two other planned fixtures in the competition had already been postponed and the French Rugby Federation has cancelled all matches, gatherings and training sessions at every level of the sport, a ruling that effects the Top 14.

After the Australian Grand Prix, the season-opening Formula One race, was cancelled early on Friday, the next two grands prix on the schedule, in Bahrain and Vietnam were also postponed. F1 said it intends to “begin the championship in Europe at the end of May”, though that would be “regularly reviewed”.

 

The PGA Tour took the decision to cancel the final three rounds of The Players Championship and all events for the next three weeks. Five tournaments have been scrapped as a result, but the Masters, due to start on April 9, is still due to take place.

In rugby league, Leeds Rhinos pulled out of Saturday’s Super League match against Catalans Dragons after announcing one of their players has gone into self-isolation with possible COVID-19 symptoms. The fixture in France had been set to happen behind closed doors.

England’s cricket team were on the field in a warm-up match for their two-Test tour of Sri Lanka when they were informed that series was being postponed.

Elsewhere in the sport, the Indian Premier League has been pushed back until April 15, though the Pakistan Super League is set to continue. Australia’s ODIs with New Zealand are still happening, albeit without fans present, and Aussie bowler Kane Richardson tested negative for COVID-19 after missing the first match on Friday with illness.

Australia is one of the few countries where sport is still taking place and NRL games will be staged in front of empty stadiums from next weekend. The competition’s first round started on Thursday with fans present, yet local authorities have now limited public gatherings to 500 people.

In boxing, Shakur Stevenson and Michael Conlan have seen their bouts at Madison Square Garden cancelled. Promoter Top Rank had initially said the March 14 and 17 cards would go ahead behind closed doors but neither fight will now take place as planned.

The NBA was one of the first sports to take a break after Utah Jazz star Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus and, with his team-mate Donovan Mitchell having also contracted the illness, league commissioner Adam Silver declared the season would not resume for “at least 30 days”.

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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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