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UEFA postpones all next week’s European fixtures amid coronavirus outbreak

UEFA Congress

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - MARCH 03: UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin looks on during the 44th UEFA Congress at Beur van Berlage on March 03, 2020 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

UEFA via Getty Images

On Friday morning UEFA announced that all of next week’s European fixtures will be postponed as the European governing body prepares to brace for the long-term effects of the COVID-19 viral pandemic.

UEFA is meeting next week to discuss the possibility of postponing this summer’s EURO 2020 tournament to next summer, and calling off any fixtures next week was a necessary first step towards a longer-term strategy.

The news means second-leg Champions League Round of 16 games between Manchester City and Real Madrid, Juventus and Lyon, Barcelona and Napoli, and Bayern and Chelsea have all been pushed back to an undetermined date. Also included in the blanket sweep are a swath of Europa League Round of 16 games that include Wolves, Manchester United, Inter, and many others. Both Wolves and Manchester United took part in matches on Friday, with Wolves drawing Olympiakos 1-1 and Manchester United hammering LASK 5-0. Italian clubs Roma and Inter both had their first leg matches postponed earlier this week with Italy one of the hardest hit countries by the coronavirus in the world.

Olympiakos owner Evangelos Marinakis being diagnosed with coronavirus, causing the club to test its entire staff and squad, but all came back negative. In addition, Juventus player Daniele Rugani tested positive for the virus, along with Chelsea player Callum Hudson-Odoi.

The postponement also includes UEFA Youth League matches with the competition meant to be playing quarterfinal games next week. Clubs like Real Madrid, Ajax, Lyon, Dinamo Zagreb, and RB Salzburg are all still in the competition at this stage, while Juventus and Inter have yet to take part in their scheduled Round of 16 matches.

UEFA is considering postponing Euro 2020 this summer, which would give domestic leagues the opportunity to extend club matches through the summer in a bid to finish league competition without cramming an enormous amount of fixtures into a few months, putting significant strain on players’ bodies. It would also, however, clog the international window next summer with 2022 World Cup qualifying also meant to be played. It is possible the UEFA Nations League would have to be sacrificed in order to make the scheduling work.

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