Juventus could be handed three points in controversial circumstances after they took to the field at Allianz Stadium to face Napoli on Sunday despite the absence of their opponents.
Napoli were blocked from making the journey to Turin by local health authorities after two players, Piotr Zielinski and Eljif Elmas, tested positive for Covid-19 along with a member of staff at the club.
The game was officially cancelled 45 minutes after kick-off by the referee, to bring the curtain down on a strange Serie A saga that will likely be highly contested by the visitors following the decision to forge ahead.
Gennaro Gattuso’s side had professed a hope to be able to postpone the tie, much as Genoa were able to put their encounter with Torino on ice following a significant coronavirus outbreak of their own.
In spite of this however, the Bianconeri announced on Saturday that they would take to the field regardless of the lack of opposition, indicating that the match could therefore be forfeited by the visitors, with the hosts handed a 3-0 walkover as a result.
Juve president Andrea Agnelli weighed after the game was called, stating: “Napoli president [Aurelio] De Laurentiis sent me a message and I replied that [we], as always, abide by the rules.
“He wanted to postpone the match, but we have regulations that tell us how to proceed. Every industry has its rules and we need to respect them.
I don’t think the ASL [local health authority] of Naples can intervene if the FIGC protocol, which refers back to the government’s circular, is not observed at some point. If the protocol changes, we will once again abide by it”.
Andrea Pirlo made three changes to the side who drew 2-2 with Roma in their previous game, with Paulo Dybala, Arthur and Rodrigo Bentancur all drafted into the starting line-up for the non-encounter.
Serie A backed up Juventus’ stand ahead of the game on Sunday, stating that there were no laws preventing Napoli from fulfilling the fixture in spite of their positive tests.
“The Council of the Lega Calcio did also approve a set of rules that can lead to the postponement of a game only with several cases of players testing positive for the virus,” the league announced in a statement.
“These conditions can’t be applied to the current Napoli case at the moment and there are no decisions of the local authorities that prevent the game from being played.”
Napoli have won both of their opening matches of the new season, compared to Juve who have taken only four points – but such an outcome could effectively see them leapfrog their rivals in their quest for further Serie A success once again.
The former have been one of Pirlo’s side’s closest rivals across the past decade, rarely finishing outside the top three and often providing stern opposition in domestic cup competition, having won last season’s Coppa Italia in a penalty shootout against the Bianconeri.