In a bizarre scene, Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus was left without a team to play against on Sunday after the latter didn’t show up for kickoff because of a coronavirus outbreak within its ranks.
Napoli, which has confirmed two positive COVID-19 tests among its players, wanted the Serie A contest to be rescheduled. But Italian soccer authorities refused, saying the game would go ahead as scheduled right up until it was set to begin, even after reports Saturday indicated that local health officials had prevented the Naples-based club to fly north to Turin for the contest. As a result, Juve is expected to be awarded a 3-0 forfeit win.
Napoli didn’t confirm or deny any of the reports; the only update to its Twitter feed Sunday was to say that manager Gennaro Gattuso was not among those infected by coronavirus, as had been rumored. Meantime, it was business as usual on Juventus’s social media channels, which churned out its usual pre-match content, including the squad that would dress for Sunday’s tilt at Allianz Stadium.
The Juve bus pulled up to the stadium per normal. The home team’s players warmed up as if a match was going to be played, per Italian journalist Nicky Bandini.
Quite the most surreal spectacle unfolding in Italy right now as Juventus prepare as normal - team bus to the stadium, starting XI posted on Twitter - to face a Napoli team that everybody knows is not going to show up, seeing as they are still back home in Naples.— Nicky Bandini (@NickyBandini) October 4, 2020
A day after losing 6-1 to Napoli last week, fellow Serie A club Genoa announced 14 confirmed cases among players and staff. As a result, Genoa’s game Sunday against Torino was postponed.
No Napoli players had tested positive as of Wednesday, but two returned confirmed positive tests since. It’s unclear why Serie A refused to reschedule the Juventus-Napoli, too.
If Napoli’s forfeit is upheld, the three points handed to Juve would allow the Italian champs to leapfrog Napoli in the standings and jump into a third-place tie with Sassuolo. Napoli would fall from fifth to six.