Coronavirus outbreak forces Inter's Europa League match behind closed doors

The Italian government is moving toward having football matches played behind closed doors in affected areas as authorities try to contain the spreading coronavirus that has made northern Italy the focal point of the outbreak in Europe.

Thursday's Europa League match at San Siro between Inter Milan and Ludogorets was the first to be confirmed as going ahead in an empty stadium, with the Italian club releasing a statement Monday night.

The decision was widely expected, and Bulgarian squad Ludogorets had announced shortly before that Inter had sent it a letter stating that the city's health authorities have allowed the match to go ahead behind closed doors.

Ludogorets added that UEFA has said it is monitoring the situation and will react immediately if anything changes.

Inter leads 2-0 from the first leg of the round of 32 clash.

Serie A president Paolo Dal Pinto sent a letter to the government Monday asking that games no longer be postponed in the affected areas but played without fans in attendance, noting that there is little time for makeup dates, considering that all elite competitions must be completed by May 24 because of the upcoming European Championship.

Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora also proposed the closed-door plan to Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte, though no final decision had been made.

"Playing all sports behind closed doors for the next week could be possible because then fans can more easily stay at home," said Maurizio Casasco, the president of the Italian federation for sports physicians. "But the clubs have to be in agreement.

"There's more than just football in Italy. It's an issue that regards all sports."

Four Serie A games scheduled for the previous round on Sunday were postponed, including Inter's game against Sampdoria at San Siro.

Turin-based Juventus are scheduled to host Inter (live on ESPN+, 2:45 p.m. ET Sunday). Other games scheduled for northern Italy next weekend include Udinese vs. Fiorentina on Saturday and AC Milan vs. Genoa on Sunday.

Lyon was in contact with UEFA and French authorities over concern about the 2,500 to 3,000 Juventus fans traveling over the border to a Champions League game in the French city on Wednesday.

Juventus shares fell 11% on the Milan stock exchange in early trading Monday, forcing a suspension in trading. Juventus also announced that its museum at the Allianz Stadium would remain closed through Saturday. Stadium tours also were suspended.