The resurgence of the virus throws a veil on the start of the Ligue 1 season in France

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                Avec les finalistes de la Ligue des champions, le Paris Saint-Germain, bien au-dessus de la coupe, la question en France n'est pas de savoir qui remportera le prochain titre de Ligue 1, mais comment la saison se déroulera au milieu de la crise du Covid-19.
            

L'Olympique de Marseille devait jouer le lever de rideau contre Saint-Etienne vendredi, mais quatre cas confirmés du nouveau coronavirus au club de Provence ont signifié que la Ligue française a reporté le match.

The Girondins de Bordeaux will host Nantes instead as the LFP has started to reshuffle the schedule ahead of the first kickoff of the season. The 2019-20 season has been cut short with 11 games to play amid the pandemic.

” I am pessimist. I do not see this championship taking place under normal conditions. We are not going to have so many dates for postponed matches and soon we will hit a wall, ”said Saint-Etienne coach Claude Puel. .

>> Football fever? Paris grapples with virus outbreak as PSG fans yearn for glory

More than half of the top division clubs have recorded cases of illness – around 40 players in total – jeopardizing their preparation and causing the cancellation of many pre-season friendlies.

One of those players is Nantes captain Abdoulaye Touré, whose team had recorded seven cases of the virus since the end of last month but will currently play the season opener.

Montpellier announced on Wednesday that the club’s top scorer from last season, Andy Delort, has become their seventh pandemic case, while Nimes’s opening game with Brest on Sunday could also be postponed after recording four new cases this week. .

A 57-page medical and health protocol set up by the League aims to limit stoppages and reduce contamination as much as possible.

Players will be tested two to three days before each match and a match must be postponed as soon as four cases are found at the same club within an eight day period. This is precisely what happened in Marseille and could happen in Nîmes.

Despite fears over the virus, some supporters will be allowed to attend matches, with a maximum of 5,000 government-mandated people, including teams and coaching and organizational staff allowed into stadiums.

However, fan groups from several clubs said the rules meant they would not go to matches.

Lyon Champions League Blues

With the transfer market also slowing, PSG are expected to retain Neymar and Kylian Mbappé as they aim for an eighth title in nine years.

Even though coach Thomas Tuchel has something to do with the departure of captain Thiago Silva, it will take a special feat to dethrone the capital.

Olympique Lyonnais hope, however, to take up a challenge after being deprived of any European competition by finishing the previous season in seventh place.

Sporting director Juninho has said the club will “lose” talented midfielder Houssem Aouar and striker Moussa Dembele, although Lyon have plenty of local talent, including midfielder Rayan Cherki, who could step up that tenure.

Coach Rudi Garcia conceded, however, that the staff would have “a psychological job to do” to quickly focus on domestic tasks and avoid a bad start after being eliminated in the Champions League semi-finals by Bayern Munich on Wednesday. .

Monaco, the only club to break the recent domination of PSG, hope to be able to regain some stability after the appointment of former Bayern coach Nico Kovac at the head of the 2017 champions.

Marseille, a finalist last season, found stability under Portuguese coach Andre Villas-Boas – who wanted to leave but said his players convinced him to stay.

“It was very difficult for me to go back on my word after exposing myself publicly. The players, and only the players, were the key to changing my mind, ”he said.

Marseille, who are under UEFA watch after breaking financial fair play rules, are hoping to retain most of their best players after France winger Dimitri Payet extended his contract and agreed to a pay cut.

And Rennes, who stepped onto the podium last season, are hoping the prospect of their very first Champions League campaign can convince talented teenage midfielder Eduardo Camavinga to stay in Brittany.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

            

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