Juventus spent Tuesday afternoon doing exactly what they planned to do — go through a training session and then head home for the day. As teams around Italy come to grips with the new reality in Serie A and the lower divisions of games being postponed until April 3 (at the earliest) and an entire country on lockdown, how each club goes about their business has been quite the interesting sight to see. Some, like Juventus, have tried to keep things as normal as possible — but probably with a little more hand sanitizer — while others have pretty much shut shop up all together and don’t want to even run the risk of anything serious taking place.
No, not everybody played ping-pong with their feet like Paulo Dybala and Douglas Costa did on Tuesday. (Although it looked fun.)
That brings us to the elephant in the room — besides something positive happening regarding the current coronavirus situation in Italy — when (or if) the season resumes: What the heck is the schedule going to actually look like?
In the hours following the postponement of all sporting events until the first weekend of April, the head of the FIGC, Italy’s football governing board, discussed what could happen whenever it is that this 2019-20 season doesn’t get back underway and all games can be fit into the pre-Euro 2020 timetable. FIGC President Gabriele Gravina outlined what has been discussed during Tuesday’s meeting between Italian Football Federation, CONI and government officials:
“Without any order of priority, an option would be not assigning the Scudetto and consequently informing UEFA of the teams qualified for Europe. Another would be referring to the table as it stands up until the moment the season was interrupted. A third and final hypothesis would be to organize play-offs for the title of Champion of Italy and play-outs to decide relegation into Serie B.”
(Source: Football Italia)
The Wednesday edition of Tuttosport has taken things another step forward, adding a fourth option to the table in what will be quite the talking point no matter what direction the powers that be decide to take.
La prima pagina di #Tuttosport ⤵️— Tuttosport (@tuttosport) March 11, 2020
Poker nella storia: è #Ilicic il genio della #Dea
"#Bergamo #MolaMia, è per te!"
#Scudetto: finirà così!
Leggi le altre notizie su https://t.co/ClHyf0895V pic.twitter.com/G400es66KI
This, of course, was before it was revealed that Daniele Rugani has tested positive for coronavirus, the entire Juventus roster and staff — a total of 121 people — has been put into isolation for the next two weeks. Thursday added another Serie A player, Sampdoria’s Manolo Gabbiadini, to the list of players (and now coaches) who have tested positive during this two-day wave of news from all around Europe.
At this rate, the possibility of this season starting up looks less and less likely as the days go by and more and more of the football world gets impacted by it. The games are secondary at this point with the number of football-related coronavirus cases now in the picture.
But if the resumption of play does actually happen ...
Let’s take a look at what Tuttosport has thrown out there, shall we?
Idea No. 1: Finish the season, making up a round on May 20 and another on May 31
For a lot of people, this seems like the preferred option. You know, just for the simple fact that there would be a title that is determined on the field and all of the off-the-field postering will — hopefully — be about the games rather than club owners complaining about what was decided.
The problem with trying to squeeze in games midweek is that we don’t know what the schedule of teams competing on multiple fronts is going to look like a couple of months from now. Atalanta is already in the Champions League quarterfinals. Juventus could very well be there as well if things go right during the second leg against Lyon next Tuesday (or whenever it’s played). Juventus and Milan still have to play the second leg of their Coppa Italia semifinal, as do Napoli and Inter.
It won’t be easy by any means. And it would also mean that surely the Serie A schedule would have to resume on April 3 to make sure that all of these potential make-up days are actually available to be had.
But, of course, the thing that all of this relies on is the coronavirus situation in Italy actually getting better. And seeing as things are not improving as this new week goes on, who really knows what the next three weeks actually have in store.
Idea No. 2: Assign the Scudetto via playoffs, with play-outs for relegation
Even though there are still over 10 rounds left on the schedule, leaving who wins the title up to a 180-minute sample size worth of games seems a little ... tough. It’s not as bad as what Major League Baseball does with its wild-card round and having your entire season come down to one game after playing 162 — no matter how much excitement that one-game playoff brings to the unattached viewer — but knowing that 26 rounds worth of games could go all up in smoke in a matter of 90 minutes is far from ideal.
/insert a “WELL LIFE AIN’T FAIR!” argument/
Even if this kind of setup were to be put into place, would you feel all that good about it? Would the fact that the Serie A champion for this season be decided by a couple of games rather than the regular 38-game schedule be the right kind of call? I guess you could say the same about the promotion playoffs, but even then it seems a little different in this case.
Unless you think for playing for promotion and playing for a league title with the same kind of format is equal to one another.
But I digress.
It would be interesting to see if this becomes the leader in the clubhouse over the course of the next couple of weeks once the powers that be decide that they want a champion determined. A lot of that has to do with the first option being completely thrown out the window because the decision makers feel like they won’t be able to play a full schedule in time.
Idea No. 3: Freeze the table as it stands and assign the title based on where it currently is
And now we enter the part of the program where the decision makers don’t think any games will be able to be played over the course of the next 2 1⁄2 months.
When you think about the four options that Tuttosport mentions, this is the one that is going to get the anti-Juventus conspiracy theorists all kinds of worked up. Don’t act like they aren’t out there, because you’ll be surprised by who thinks that this mandated break by the Italian government is quite conveniently timed following Juventus’ win over Inter in the Derby d’Italia last Sunday.
This would, of course, only be in play if the Italian government and the FIGC think that the games can’t be fully replayed or nothing restarted entirely. Or would they follow the lead of other institutions across the pond — translation: the NCAA — and end things right where they are with no champion crowned and basically pack things up until the new season is ready to begin.
Which brings us to ...
Idea No. 4: Do not assign the Scudetto, inform UEFA which teams are qualified for cup competitions
Between Door No. 3 and Door No. 4, which one would you prefer?
I think we know that the one involving Juventus extending the Scudetto streak to nine straight would probably be the more to our liking. But there’s bound to be plenty of pushback in awarding Juventus the Scudetto — no matter how many years they’ve won it in a row — based on how competitive things have been this season. Maybe it would be different in a year where Juve’s running away with the title, but knowing that Lazio has recently occupied the top spot in the standings, there’s obviously quite a final stretch of the season ... if it’s played.
Not awarding any kind of title would certainly tick some people off in Turin, but it’s also something that has to be considered when you have a season that might not be started up again. Juventus and Lazio were scheduled to play at the end of April, a game that certainly would be the kind of Scudetto showdown that many thought the second go-round of the Derby d’Italia would have been if Inter hadn’t suddenly hit the skids.
Of all the solutions where there isn’t a full schedule played — and, let’s be honest, we have to think that’s a distinct possibility right now — this might be least dramatic of them all. And with how things are going in Italy at the moment, the pressing need for off-the-field drama is next to nothing.