Serie A COVID protocol finalised, no vaccine mandate

The official Italian football COVID-19 protocol has been published, with nine players testing positive the cut-off point for a quarantine and no vaccine mandate.

The protocol has been agreed by the sporting authorities, the local health authorities (ASL) and the Government.

It means there should no longer be any dangerous cross-over of responsibility with the ASL over-ruling the football protocol.

The ASL can intervene to order a group into quarantine only if at least 35 per cent of the players have tested positive for COVID-19.

Because the Serie A squads are limited to 25 players, it has been decided that means nine players rather than eight.

Those who do test positive will be isolated and monitored.

The important development is that those considered high-risk close contacts must have a daily antigen test for at least five days and wear a FFP2 level mask at all times other than when taking part in the sporting activity.

It was believed the vaccination status would create different treatment, but that has now been removed from the protocol.

That means even those who have not been vaccinated will be given the same five-day testing process if they are close contacts.

All players must provide a negative antigen test, taken four hours before the match.

There had been fears a Government decree would mean unvaccinated players could not even enter the locker room after January 10 and therefore be excluded from taking part, but that has been scrapped.

It is hoped Serie A should have enough coverage, as 98 per cent of players were fully vaccinated in October 2021 and are having booster shots.

Coppa Italia quarter-finals take shape

The Coppa Italia quarter-finals are beginning to take shape, with Milan facing Lazio, Fiorentina against Atalanta, while Juventus, Roma and Inter must wait a little longer.

The tournament continued this week with the top Serie A clubs finally entering the fray.

There have been some upsets, such as Napoli’s elimination in extra time against Fiorentina, or the fact Milan needed 120 minutes to get the better of Genoa.

We already know two of the fixtures coming up around February 9, with Milan-Lazio and Fiorentina-Atalanta sure to be entertaining.

Juventus will face either Sassuolo or Cagliari in the quarter-final after sweeping Sampdoria aside 4-1.

If Roma eliminate Lecce, the only Serie B side left in the tournament, then they will face either Inter or Empoli in the next round.

Going forward, the Juventus branch of the quarter-finals will intersect with the Atalanta-Fiorentina one for the semi-finals.

In turn, Inter could face a Milan Derby with the Rossoneri or Simone Inzaghi against his old club Lazio.

Coppa Italia Quarter-Finals

Juventus vs. Sassuolo/Cagliari

Fiorentina vs. Atalanta

Milan vs. Lazio

Roma/Lecce vs. Empoli/Inter

Cioffi and Udinese ‘annoyed’ by Coppa Italia exit to Lazio

Coach Gabriele Cioffi believes Udinese could not have done any more in their extra time Coppa Italia defeat to Lazio. ‘It’s annoying that we didn’t go through.’

Both sides had chances at the Stadio Olimpico before the decisive moment in extra time, when Ciro Immobile ran onto a Danilo Cataldi ball over the top and lobbed the goalkeeper.

That 1-0 result means Lazio will face Milan in the quarter-final next month, while Udinese crash out.

Coppa Italia | Lazio 1-0 Udinese (aet): Immobile lob sets up Milan clash

“It might seem strange, but I think we did everything possible to win this game,” said Cioffi in his press conference.

“I saw a team that was tough, hungry, with a winning mentality. The only thing we didn’t have was the result. I am proud of what I saw on that pitch and it’s annoying that we didn’t go through.”

Lazio needed to get their top star Immobile off the bench to secure the victory with a moment of real class.

“Even though we worked really hard, we seemed a little rusty in front of goal. It’s been a difficult period with so many absentees, let’s not forget that.”

Sarri admires Lazio spirit: ‘I got up first!’

Maurizio Sarri saw the right ‘spirit’ from Lazio to beat Udinese in extra time in the Coppa Italia and joked after he was sent flying. ‘I was the one who got back up first.’

It was still 0-0 after 90 minutes, so only in extra time could the Aquile seal victory with a lob from substitute Ciro Immobile on Danilo Cataldi’s assist.

Coppa Italia | Lazio 1-0 Udinese (aet): Immobile lob sets up Milan clash

It means they will face Milan in the Coppa Italia quarter-final next month.

“The team is improving, both in terms of spirit and quality, as tonight everyone got involved with the spirit of sacrifice, including the youth team players on the bench,” said Sarri in his press conference.

There was a curious moment in extra time when the coach found himself too close to the action and accidentally sent flying by Ignacio Pussetto.

“It was a good test of my current condition! I’d like to point out that I was the one who got back up first,” smiled Sarri.

Mattia Zaccagni wasn’t so fortunate, going off at half-time after accidentally getting crushed during a collision.

“Zaccagni has a sprained ankle. Pedro has a soleus issue and it’s not serious.”

The January transfer window is open, but Sarri is well aware that it’ll be a long wait for reinforcements.

“The club is very careful and will never transform the squad in one transfer session. I knew that before I arrived. The important thing is that a club is ready mentally to accompany us in our gradual growth.”

Coppa Italia | Lazio 1-0 Udinese (aet): Immobile lob sets up Milan clash

Lazio will face Milan in the Coppa Italia quarter-final, but needed extra time and a Ciro Immobile lob to get the better of Udinese.

These sides drew 4-4 when they met in Serie A last month, so much was expected from this Coppa clash, even if many of the players had changed.

Udinese threatened early on, a free kick only grazing the boot of Isaac Success in front of goal, while Lazio went even closer from a set play with Vedat Muriqi’s header parried.

Rodrigo Becao made a desperate block to prevent Muriqi tapping in the Felipe Anderson cross and another header was smothered.

Mattia Zaccagni went off at half-time after Success accidentally fell on him, seemingly causing a bad ankle sprain.

Success forced a save from Pepe Reina after shrugging off Adam Marusic, then an impressive Lazar Samardzic curler was deflected inches past the far post.

Udinese started to grow into the game, so Lazio unleashed top scorer Ciro Immobile off the bench for the final 20 minutes.

Reina used his legs to deny Beto at the near stick, while Raul Moro bent a finish wide for the hosts.

There was a huge double chance for Lazio at the 87th minute, as first Sergej Milinkovic-Savic’s strike was parried by the goalkeeper, then Destiny Udogie made a desperate block on the Moro follow-up.

With the last kick of normal time, Milinkovic-Savic’s header from a corner whistled wide, so they had to go to extra time.

Udinese almost broke through when Tolgay Arslan’s free kick was deflected to clip the outside of the near post.

There was a bizarre moment when Ignacio Pussetto accidentally collided heavily with Lazio coach Maurizio Sarri on the touchline and wiped him out, but the pair hugged afterwards and smiled.

Immobile finally broke through when he ran onto a Danilo Cataldi floated ball over the top, took one touch to control and with the second flicked it over the goalkeeper for a perfect lob.

Beto fought back immediately, his header not far wide at all, and nobody was able to take advantage of a Reina error on Samardzic ball into the box.

Lazio 1-0 Udinese aet

Immobile 106 (L)

Video: Sarri wiped out during Lazio-Udinese

Lazio coach Maurizio Sarri was a little too close to the action when accidentally wiped out by Udinese player Ignacio Pussetto during tonight’s Coppa Italia tie.

It had gone to extra time at the Stadio Olimpico at 0-0 when Manuel Lazzari barged Pussetto at the touchline.

Unfortunately for Sarri, he was right next to the pair and got a face-full of Pussetto’s shoulder, sending his glasses and nicotine aid flying.

Sarri and Pussetto made up afterwards with a smile and a hug, realising it was an accident, the coach also waving to the Lazio fans who sang his name.

Coppa Italia Liveblog: Juventus vs. Sampdoria

Join us for all the build-up and action as it happens from the Coppa Italia Round of 16 tie between Juventus and Udinese.

It kicks off at the Allianz Juventus Stadium in Turin at 20.00 GMT.

The winners will go on to face either Sassuolo or Cagliari in the quarter-finals.

This evening’s tie will be decided after 90 minutes, extra time or even penalties if needs be.

Max Allegri, Matthijs de Ligt and Moise Kean are all suspended, while Samp play under interim managers Felice Tufano and Angelo Palombo after sacking Roberto D’Aversa yesterday.

Salernitana docked point, Udinese given 3-0 win after quarantine row

Salernitana have been given an automatic 3-0 defeat to Udinese and docked one point after arguing they could not play due to a quarantine order over COVID cases.

The game was meant to go ahead on December 21 at the Dacia Arena, but the Salernitana squad was ordered to lock down after a flurry of positive COVID tests between players and staff.

Initially, no decision had been made by the Disciplinary Commission, pending an investigation.

Now they have ruled against Salernitana, insisting the Lega Serie A COVID protocol in place at the time – 13 players available including one goalkeeper – should’ve had precedence.

This is because it is argued Salernitana ‘actively encouraged’ the ASL to intervene, having seen evidence from some emails.

The Lega Serie A sued the local health authorities (ASL) in the TAR appeals tribunal and won.

Salernitana are likely to appeal, especially as the Disciplinary Commission had taken similar action against Napoli when they were ordered into quarantine ahead of the Juventus trip in October 2020.

Napoli won their appeal and that set a legal precedent that the ASL had the right to over-rule the Lega Serie A protocol.

There are several other games that were also postponed due to the ASL quarantine orders, so this is a sign of how those legal battles are likely to go.

Dacia Arena

Atalanta organise different travel and hotel for anti-vax players

While the Italian Government takes time over finalising the rules on non-vaccinated players, Atalanta are forced to split anti-vaxxers in their squad for the trip to Lazio, with different hotel, travel and meals.

In theory, non-vaccinated players would’ve been barred from taking part in games or even entering the locker rooms from January 10.

However, the Government is taking a while to finalise the wording on the latest decree, so for the moment the situation is still somewhat up in the air.

Erring on the side of caution, L’Eco di Bergamo newspaper reports Atalanta are organising two completely different itineraries for the non-vaccinated players in their squad when playing against Lazio this weekend.

That includes not having them travel with the rest of the team, so they have their own separate bus, staying in an apartment close to the hotel and being fed their meals in a different hall.

It seems an odd way of going about it, considering these same players will be taking part in a contact sport on the pitch for 90 minutes.

It is also expensive and complicated for Atalanta to organise effectively two different squads.

In October, it was announced that 98 per cent of Serie A players were vaccinated and it is becoming increasingly difficult for those remaining to avoid it.

Meanwhile, the French Government has confirmed only vaccinated athletes will be allowed into the country, raising question marks over potential Champions League, Europa League and Conference League fixtures.