March 7, 2020 / 2:44 PM / in a month

Conte rallies Inter for closed-doors title clash with Juve

ROME (Reuters) - Inter Milan coach Antonio Conte called on his players to adapt as best they can to unusual circumstances ahead of their clash with Serie A title rivals Juventus at an empty Allianz Stadium on Sunday.

FILE PHOTO - Soccer Football - Coppa Italia - Inter Milan v Napoli - San Siro, Milan, Italy - February 12, 2019 Inter Milan coach Antonio Conte REUTERS/Daniele Mascolo

The meeting between two of the clubs fighting for the league trophy was originally scheduled for last Sunday, but was postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

An Italian government decree then ordered all sporting events to be played behind closed doors until April 3 in a bid to contain the spread of the disease, which has killed about 200 people in Italy.

Serie A confirmed that six suspended games from week 26 would be played this weekend, including Juve’s meeting with Inter on Sunday evening.

It will be the first league game for Conte’s side since a 2-1 defeat by Lazio on Feb. 16 because their home clash with Sampdoria was also postponed.

“Changing plans and not playing matches hasn’t been easy, but we must do well to adapt quickly,” Conte told Inter TV.

Speaking about playing in an empty stadium, he added: “It’s difficult to imagine it. The crowd is important when you play football, especially in big games like this.

“But this is a delicate moment and health comes before anything else. We must adapt and stay as safe as possible.”

The game marks a return to Turin for Conte, who won three Serie A titles as Juve coach between 2011 and 2014 and a further five during his playing career, as well as the Champions League, Coppa Italia and UEFA Cup.

The former Chelsea manager took over at Inter last year and has led a robust challenge to end Juve’s eight-year stranglehold on the Italian league title and earn the Milanese club their first Scudetto in 10 years.

Lazio top the table on 62 points, two ahead of Juventus who have one game in hand, and eight clear of Inter, who have two games in hand.

“Juventus v Inter will always be a big game, but it’s important that these matches are significant for the top of the table,” Conte said.

Reporting by Alasdair Mackenzie, editing by Ed Osmond

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