Maurizio Sarri says Juventus fans have “every right” to travel to France for the Champions League clash against Lyon on Wednesday amid the coronavirus fears in Italy.
The outbreak of the virus, officially named COVID-19 which originated in China, forced four Serie A matches to be postponed on Sunday, including the clash between Inter and Sampdoria.
The move came as part of preventative measures taken in Italy after two people died in the country.
Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte has said all this week’s top-flight fixtures could yet be cancelled too, while reports suggest Juve will host title rivals Inter behind closed doors in Turin on Sunday.
Sarri, though, has refuted suggestions his club’s fans should have stayed at home instead of travelling to France for the first leg of their last-16 tie.
“It’s a European and global problem, not an Italian one,” he told a media conference. “In Italy, we made 3,500 tests for coronavirus and therefore had many more positive tests.
“In France you had about 300 tests and so obviously the average who are positive is much lower. If you did as many tests as we did, you’d probably have as many positives too. Therefore, our fans have every right to be here.”
Juve have not won European club football’s biggest prize since 1996, but Sarri does not believe his future is dependent on ending that drought this season.
“I don’t know what my future depends on, but the president pointed out that this is a three-year project,” he added. “I have great faith in what my president says, as he tends to be pretty clear.
“It’s very difficult for any Italian club to chase this dream because we were the leaders 20 years ago, but we have been overtaken due to various reasons in the last couple of decades.
“A dream is not to be underestimated. If you chase a dream and achieve it, that is ecstasy, whereas if you don’t achieve it, it was still a wonderful journey.”
Giorgio Chiellini could make his first European appearance of the season after a serious knee injury ruled him out for five months.
The center-back has featured in Juve’s last two Serie A games and has subsequently been named in the squad for the trip to France, much to the delight of his defensive partner Leonardo Bonucci.
“We both like to not only play football but also talk during the game, communicate with our team-mates and help the younger players to make the right movements,” Bonucci said. “If there are two of us doing that, it’s easier.
“There is also a language issue because with Matthijs de Ligt we are trying to communicate in English while he learns Italian. It’s not quite the same, but we’re getting there and improving our communication. With Giorgio there, we can speed the process up.”