Wobbling Juve, Inter aim for cup glory amid coronavirus chaos

Maurizio Sarri's Juventus gears up for a crucial match against AC Milan in the Italian Cup semifinal, while league rival Inter faces a rejuvenated Napoli.

Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo and coach Maurizio Sarri.

The 1-0 defeat to Lyon in the Champions League led to questions over Maurizio Sarri’s future at Juventus.   -  Getty Images

Juventus and Inter Milan can get their seasons back on track with Italian Cup semifinal return legs midweek, which take place amid Serie A fixture chaos caused by the coronavirus.

Locked in a battle for the league title the pair have been overtaken by surprise package Lazio as the city of Rome remains relatively untouched by COVID-19, which has caused havoc in the north of the country, killing 52 people.

Inter, which travels to Napoli on Thursday hoping to overturn a 1-0 deficit from the first leg at the San Siro, haven’t played in Italy since being beaten at Lazio on February 16 as the virus concentrated in the Lombardy and Veneto regions.

Its home match against Sampdoria and the weekend’s schedule title clash with Juve were both postponed, provoking a furious reaction from the club’s CEO Beppe Marotta, who wanted the match played behind closed doors.

READ | More uncertainty around Serie A due to coronavirus but Juve-Milan to go ahead

Two Europa League last 32 matches against Ludogorets is all Inter have had for preparation in that time, and its disrupted schedule comes in the midst of a dip in domestic form that has left the former league leader third behind Lazio and rival Juve.

- Gattuso cracks Napoli whip -

 

Inter faces stiff opposition in Napoli, which looks a side reborn since Gennaro Gattuso replaced Carlo Ancelotti as coach in December.

It has surged up the Serie A table into sixth and impressed when it held Barcelona to a draw at the Stadio San Paolo in midweek.

The reigning league champion meanwhile hosts AC Milan in the other semi-final on Wednesday in a match that will be open to the public, or at least a portion of it.

The Italian government decreed a halt to sports events in the regions of Lombardy, Veneto, Emilia Romagna and provinces in Liguria and Le Marche badly hit by the virus until March 8, unless the event is held behind closed doors.

ALSO READ | Lazio goes top of Serie A with victory over Bologna

The decree also bans fans from those areas from making away trips.

Juventus announced that only fans from areas not named by the government would be able to travel to Turin (in Piedmont) to watch the match.

The Old Lady faces a Milan side whose only defeat in 2020 so far came against Inter in a thrilling derby last month and which was unlucky to come away from the first leg with only a 1-1 draw.

However Maurizio Sarri’s side will be favourite despite recent form that has seen it lose to Napoli and Hellas Verona and scrape past relegation fodder Brescia and SPAL.

Its 1-0 defeat to Lyon in the Champions League led to questions over Sarri’s future on the Juve bench, and should Milan reach the final with a first ever win at the Allianz Stadium the calls for his dismissal will only become louder.

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