Simone Inzaghi is eager to restart the Serie A season amid the coronavirus pandemic after his Lazio side's "extraordinary" progress.

Lazio were just a point behind leaders Juventus, with both having played 26 games, when the campaign was suspended in March due to COVID-19.

Inzaghi hopes the season can get back underway, with a decision set to be made on Thursday.

"We are happy to start again. It is the wish that we finish the championship in favour of all the people who work in football and for the fans," the Lazio head coach told Rai 2 on Sunday.

"The prerequisites are there. We coaches have all felt we want to start again safely.

"Regardless of the ranking, before the pandemic we were doing something extraordinary."

The Bundesliga is the only one of Europe's top five leagues to restart, while LaLiga is set to resume next month, Ligue 1 has been cancelled and the Premier League is also bidding to get back underway.

Inzaghi is hopeful over Serie A, even if a positive case of coronavirus is found at a club.

"In our sports centres, we are in total safety, there are distances, we are checked every day. From tomorrow, we will return to group training," he said.

"There is a desire to start again. A positive in the team? I don't know, it hasn't happened yet. We are waiting for the protocol to understand what to do.

"As Germany did, we hope to start again. Once a case is found, the subject will be isolated and the game should be played back at least a week later."

Mainz did not have much joy against RB Leipzig in the 2019-20 Bundesliga season.

After suffering an 8-0 loss to Leipzig at the Red Bull Arena in November, Mainz succumbed to a 5-0 defeat against Julian Nagelsmann's side on Sunday.

With an aggregate score of 13-0 it was clearly a mismatch, but how does it compare to the records in Europe's top five leagues?

Opta delved through the archives to find out the greatest goalscoring margins between two teams in a single season.

Bundesliga

Leipzig's goal difference of 13 against Mainz does not constitute a record in Germany's top flight.

That honour belongs to Borussia Monchengladbach, who beat Braunschweig 10-0 and 4-0 in the 1984-85 season.

Eintracht Frankfurt put 14 past Rot-Weiss Essen in 1974-75 and 1860 Munich did it against Karlsruher in 1964-65, but they both conceded one.

Premier League

No side has scored more than 12 against another in a single Premier League campaign.

Blackburn Rovers had the better of a 12-1 aggregate score against sorry Nottingham Forest in the 1995-96 campaign – a scoreline Tottenham also recorded versus Wigan Athletic in 2009-10.

The only other team to claim the same goal difference against a single opponent is Liverpool against Ipswich Town in 2001-02, with the combined score from their two games being 11-0 to the Reds.

Ligue 1

The 1930s was seemingly a prolific period in French football.

After setting a record with a 13-0 aggregate victory over SO Montpellier in 1934-35, Sochaux surpassed it the next season.

Andre Abegglen scored seven as Sochaux overcame Valenciennes 12-1 and they followed it up with a 5-0 victory later in the campaign.

LaLiga

Barcelona are top of the list in LaLiga courtesy of a 16-0 aggregate score against Las Palmas in the 1959-60 campaign.

The Catalan giants won both fixtures 8-0, with Barca's Eulogio Martinez scoring one in the away game and five at Camp Nou.

Real Madrid are the only other team to score 16 against one team in the same season, also doing it in 1959-60 against Elche. However, they conceded three times.

Serie A

Italian teams have earned a reputation for being strong at the back over the years, but that has certainly not always been the case.

Milan (1950-51) and Padova (1949-50) hold the aggregate record of scoring 11 and not conceding in a single season against Palermo and Venezia respectively.

Torino scored a dozen times twice against Alessandria and Atalanta in the 1940s, but conceded twice in each of those seasons, while Inter put 12 past Lazio in the 1933-1934 campaign but also let two in.

Former Inter head coach Gigi Simoni, who led a Ronaldo-inspired team to UEFA Cup glory in 1998, has died at the age of 81.

His death was announced by Inter, on the day the club marked 10 years since their Serie A, Champions League and Coppa Italia treble.

Simoni had a well-travelled coaching career and guided seven teams to promotions from Serie B to the Italian top flight, a record.

He suffered a stroke last June from which he never fully recovered and was taken to hospital when his health began to deteriorate shortly before his death, newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport reported.

Simoni coached clubs including Lazio, Napoli, Torino, Brescia and Cremonese, but arguably his finest hour came with Inter when the Nerazzurri thumped Lazio 3-0 at the Parc des Princes on May 6, 1998, to secure the European trophy.

Inter issued a statement on Friday, which read: "Today, 22 May, he left us. Not just any date, the most Inter-related date of all.

"We remember Gigi Simoni and will miss everything about him. First and foremost, his gentlemanly way of being. His way of living, both in life and football, was never over the top. His football reflected that: it was humble, functional and capable of making the most of what he had on offer."

Goals from Ivan Zamorano, Javier Zanetti and Ronaldo gave Inter their third UEFA Cup success of the 1990s.

It came in Ronaldo's first season at the club after his move from Barcelona, before the Brazilian would encounter the injuries that blighted his San Siro stay.

Simoni's Inter almost won the Serie A title that season too, eventually finishing in second place, five points behind champions Juventus.

The experienced coach was awarded the Panchina d'Oro - Golden Bench - for his achievements in that 1997-98 campaign, but lost his job before Christmas in the following season.

Lazio and Napoli were among the clubs that offered condolences to Simoni's family, on the news of his death.

Cremonese, whom he led into Serie A and also to an Anglo-Italian Cup triumph over Derby County at Wembley in 1993, paid a fond tribute.

They reflected on his achievements in a four-year stay, which saw him voted the club's coach of the century, stating: "Travel well Gigi, we will miss you but you will remain forever in the history of the Cremonese and in the hearts of all the Grigiorossi fans."

Inter's statement on their official website concluded: "The world of football has lost a great coach and a wonderful person.

"This is how we remember him: with his white hair, in our dugout, while he enjoyed the magic of Ronaldo with a smile on his face, enveloped by the fans' affection. Farewell Gigi, we'll miss you."

Marco Di Vaio has admired the patient approach Lazio have taken in building a squad capable of challenging for the 2019-20 Scudetto.

It is 20 years since the Biancocelesti won their second, and most recent, Serie A title with a star-studded team that featured Alessandro Nesta, Juan Sebastian Veron, Alen Boksic, Marcelo Salas and Diego Simeone.

However, in signing players such as Veron, Christian Vieri and Hernan Crespo around that time, Lazio later fell into financial difficulties and they have only produced three top-three finishes since Sven-Goran Eriksson's side lifted the title two decades ago.

Simone Inzaghi's current squad has not been expensively assembled, though they were on a 21-match unbeaten run and one point behind leaders Juventus when Serie A was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Former Italy international Di Vaio, who came through the academy with Lazio and made his senior debut with the club, has been impressed with how the club is being run.

"The current Lazio has been built in time," he told Stats Perform.

"The merit of the owner and the rest of the board members is to have built this squad piece by piece in time without selling the best players.

"They took some chances bringing in Ciro Immobile. They were great in discovering the talent of Luis Alberto and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and even Lucas Leiva. And they have done it without splashing money on the market like it was done two decades ago.

"At that time [former owner] Sergio Cragnotti spent a lot in a nick of time, but that Lazio endured less.

"This time they built and kept a strong squad backbone, always the same best players, giving trust and strength to the manager whose skills had been spotted by the directors.

"This is the merit of a solid club in the pitch and in the locker room."

Italy has been among the countries hardest hit by COVID-19, but it was announced on Wednesday that Serie A is set to resume with games behind closed doors on June 13.

Serie A announced June 13 as its schedule resumption date for the 2019-20 season following a three-month hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Italy's top tier was first halted on March 9 as COVID-19 devastated many regions of the country, with prime minister Giuseppe Conte banning large gatherings and sporting events.

Although that initial suspension was set to be lifted in early April, the virus' impact has been felt long after that date, with more than 221,000 people in Italy becoming infected during the pandemic.

But with teams given clearance to return to training grounds for individual work earlier this month and group sessions set to resume on May 18, normality for Italian football is in sight once again.

And on Wednesday Lega Serie A confirmed June 13 has been set as its target for resuming the 2019-20 season.

A statement read: "The Assembly of Lega Serie A met today [Wednesday] with all the clubs present and connected via video conference.

"Lega Serie A reiterates, in the relationship with the licensees of the audio-visual rights 2018-2021, the need to comply with the payment deadlines set by the contracts to maintain a constructive relationship with them.

"As regards the resumption of sporting activity, the date of June 13 for the resumption of the championship was indicated, in accordance with government decisions and in accordance with the medical protocols for the protection of players and all professionals."

The announcement comes after the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) accepted a request to adjust their medical protocols to be more closely aligned to those of the government.

Specifically, this means entire squads will be placed in 14-day quarantine if a single player within them tests positive for the virus, with clubs previously urging authorities to follow the German model, which sees only the individuals who have contracted the illness be made unavailable.

Minister of sport Vincenzo Spadafora confirmed an agreement had been made between the necessary bodies, highlighting they want the season to be concluded but with "everyone in safety".

Pranks lurked around every corner but Thomas Doll loved his time playing alongside Paul Gascoigne at Lazio.

Gascoigne made a high-profile switch from Tottenham to the Roman club in 1992, his star still riding high in Italy after his superb performances inspired England's run to the semi-finals of the 1990 World Cup.

However, he had since endured a year of rehabilitation from a cruciate knee ligament injury sustained during the 1991 FA Cup final and fitness woes were a constant during Gascoigne's stay in the Italian capital, which ended when he joined Rangers in 1995.

Germany international Doll played for Lazio between 1991 and 1994 and he has fond memories of his fellow midfielder – a figure as popular in the dressing room as he was on the terraces.

"Paul was a real team player and a real good guy who found himself comfortable very quickly because of his humour and also because of his class," the told Stats Perform.

Doll explained himself, compatriot Karl-Heinz Riedle, Netherlands midfielder Aaron Winter and Gascoigne palled around as Lazio's foreign legion, but no one in the dressing room was safe from the Englishman's trademark sense of humour.

"Paul was a joker for everybody," he recalled. "For example, he tied the shoelaces of the players together or he crashed interviews while only wearing his underwear and such things. There were so many stories about him."

Doll also painted the picture of a selfless figure who remains much-loved by supporters in his retirement.

"He was very kind to the young players," he added.

"When he was in England, he sometimes brought back CD players and donated them to the young players, or he picked them up if they had no car at that time.

"He was a totally crazy guy, but the whole team liked him very much."

Liverpool have a lifelong fan in former player Lucas Leiva, who insists he was happy to see his former club win the Champions League despite missing out on the honour himself.

Lucas departed Anfield for Lazio in July 2017, bringing to an end his 10-year stay on Merseyside.

The Brazlian's only trophy in that decade was the 2011-12 League Cup, but following his switch to Italy the Reds reached consecutive Champions League finals.

Jurgen Klopp's side bounced back from a defeat to Real Madrid in 2018 to down Tottenham the following year, with Lucas an interested onlooker on both occasions.

"The year after I left, we lost in the final. I met the boys here in Rome [for the 2018 semi-final]. But, of course, [to win it] I was really happy, to be honest," he said on the latest episode of LFCTV's Legends in Lockdown.

"My son, my family, we are Liverpool fans now.

"It's a great achievement and I’m just really happy because so many people there I am still in touch with and still care a lot about.

"Of course, you always think, 'Had I waited one more year…' but, to be honest, I wasn't happy.

"When you are not happy it makes no sense so, to be honest, it's better I see Liverpool winning and I'm happy as well playing.

"As a fan I'm really happy. Of course, I would like to have won it but I won it as a fan, let's say."

Liverpool were dumped out of this season's competition by Atletico Madrid, but sit 25 points clear at the top of the Premier League.

No return date for the English top flight has been set since fixtures were halted in March amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Nice have declined to sign Moussa Wague, Adam Ounas and Riza Durmisi on permanent deals and allowed the loanees to return to their parent clubs.

The Ligue 1 club had options to sign each of the players as part of the loan agreements.

However, they confirmed on Tuesday that Wague, Ounas and Durmisi would be returning to Barcelona, Napoli and Lazio, respectively.

Wague, who joined from Barca in January, made five appearances in Ligue 1 before the season was suspended and later brought to an end due to the coronavirus pandemic.

His final appearance was in Nice's last game before the league was halted, in which he set up Kasper Dolberg to secure a 2-1 win over Monaco.

Durmisi played in four league games after joining from Lazio, while Ounas registered four goals and four assists in 19 domestic matches after arriving on loan last year.

Nice finished fifth in Ligue 1 after the final standings were determined on an average-points-per-game basis.

Luis Alberto anticipates signing a new contract with Serie A title contenders Lazio that will keep him with the club until 2025.

The midfielder has been in fine form in 2019-20 and supplied 12 assists - the most in Serie A - for a Lazio side that were one point behind leaders Juventus when the campaign was brought to a halt in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The 27-year-old is under contract until 2022 but had been in discussions about extending that deal before Italy went into lockdown.

Despite being linked with a return to LaLiga side Sevilla, former Liverpool midfielder Luis Alberto is settled in Rome and believes a contract extension is now just a formality.

"We're negotiating and I believe I'll renew until 2025,” he said during a chat on Instagram live.

"This is my best year of my career, I love this team and we're formidable.

"If this coronavirus chaos hadn't happened, [the contract renewal] would've been signed already. I'll stay here until 2025."

Luis Alberto went on to praise coach Simone Inzaghi, who is also thought to be in contract discussions.

"He shows me a lot of affection," Luis Alberto added.

"I don't think he knew what my name was when I arrived."

'Next Generation' is a series focusing on the young players tipped to establish themselves as the elite in the 2020s.

Every parent thinks they know what's best for their child and that proved to be a key component of Dominik Szoboszlai's development into the talented 19-year-old Hungarian midfielder who is expected to go on big things.

Zsolt Szoboszlai, himself a footballer once, was his son's coach at Videoton until he was dismissed for refusing to bump a child up to a more advanced group, as their parent requested.

But by then, Zsolt had already acquired a strong grounding in youth coaching and development, honing specific philosophies along the way that emphasised ball work.

He and the fathers of two other young players formed their own club in the same town, Fehervar, calling their team Foenix-Gold FC, and 13 years on they are thriving.

According to Foenix-Gold, their ideals lie in humility, hard work and passion, and on their website they openly criticise the Hungarian Football Federation for the "quality of the training", which "hinders the rise of Hungarian football".

But such an attitude can seemingly be backed up by Foenix-Gold's results, as shown by the younger Szoboszlai.

Lazio president Claudio Lotito would be in favour of a play-off with Juventus to decide the Serie A title.

Juve were a point ahead of Lazio at the top of the table when Italy's football season was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Stringent lockdown measures in Italy are being eased from Monday, and there are plans in place to allow teams to return to training on May 18.

A decision has not yet been made on how the 2019-20 Serie A season will be resumed, with Juve and Lazio still having 12 matches to play, including a meeting at the Allianz Stadium that was initially scheduled for April 26.

The capital club won the first league meeting 3-1 back in December and defeated Juve in the Supercoppa Italiana match three weeks later by the same scoreline.

Lotito would support the idea of another one-off meeting to settle the title if necessary, particularly as he believes Lazio's decision to focus on the league rather than the Europa League will no longer give his side an advantage as the fixture schedule would be hectic if the season returned in full.

"In the first game against Juventus, we won 3-1, and in the Supercoppa we won 3-1. And we still had to play the second game," Lotito told La Repubblica.

"For fairness, a team like Inter, who have eight points fewer than us, or Atalanta, who have 14 fewer points - tell me if they should be involved.

"Yes, I'd accept [a play-off]. But I never posed the problem myself. However, restarting penalises us.

"We made a choice, believing we couldn't play on three fronts: we sacrificed the Europa League, given that, for times and travelling, it was the most uncomfortable competition.

"So, we would have played once a week while others played twice. If we started again, we'd all play twice a week, and we'd lose an advantage. But I think about the interests of 20 clubs."

Ciro Immobile compared Lazio head coach Simone Inzaghi to Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, while the Italy star revealed his Napoli dream.

Inzaghi's Lazio were only a point behind defending champions and leaders Juventus through 26 games when Serie A was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Lazio have also tasted Coppa Italia (2019) and Supercoppa Italiana (2017 and 2019) success under Inzaghi, who was appointed in 2016.

Immobile worked with Klopp during the pair's time together at Bundesliga outfit Borussia Dortmund in 2014-15 and the Lazio striker heaped praise on the German and Inzaghi.

"Klopp is a great expert in football and I always said that I'd have liked to work with him when I was in my best form. He is a complete coach, he has everything," Immobile said on Instagram Live chat with Er Faina.

"Having said that, he really reminds me of Simone Inzaghi, as they are very similar in their motivational skills, albeit in slightly different ways."

Immobile had scored an incredible 27 Serie A goals this season when the campaign was postponed due to the COVID-19 crisis.

With 12 games left to play, Immobile is nearing Gonzalo Higuain's record of 36 goals in a single Serie A season, set with Napoli in 2015-16.

Immobile has flourished since returning to Italy via Lazio in 2016 and the 30-year-old addressed previous links to hometown club Napoli and Liverpool as he addressed his future.

"I was close to Napoli and it's true that I did hope to one day play for them, but I am so happy here that after arriving at Lazio, I stopped thinking about it," Immobile said.

"I don't know if I'll end my career here. Perhaps by the time I am 33, Lazio will be so successful that they need more important players than me. I don't like to be a burden on anyone. I'll keep giving my all for this jersey as long as I can.

"Inzaghi is certainly the coach I got along best with. We had that brief discussion when I reacted angrily to a substitution, but he dealt with it the right way. I know him and he knows me."

Manchester United continue to be linked with a number of players, even during the football shutdown due to coronavirus.

Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho, Tottenham star Harry Kane and Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish.

Atletico Madrid sensation Joao Felix is the latest name on the list.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED EYE JOAO FELIX

Manchester United are interested in signing Atletico Madrid star Joao Felix, according to Le10 Sport.

Joao Felix swapped Benfica for Atletico in a big-money deal at the start of the 2019-20 season, having been linked to United.

United reportedly remain interested in Joao Felix and want the 20-year-old Portuguese attacker to follow in the footsteps of Red Devils great Cristiano Ronaldo at Old Trafford.

 

ROUND-UP

- Could Zinedine Zidane be set for a return to Juventus? Le10 Sport claims the Serie A giants want the Real Madrid head coach to replace Juve boss Maurizio Sarri for the 2020-21 season. Zidane spent five years as a player in Turin, where the Frenchman won two Serie A trophies among other titles before moving to Madrid in 2001.

Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Madrid and Juve are monitoring Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, says Corriere dello Sport. Donnarumma is out of contract in 2021 and the Italy international goalkeeper is no closer to signing a new deal.

- Calciomercato reports Inter are working on extending Marcelo Brozovic's contract amid interest from Premier League leaders and Champions League holders Liverpool.

- United midfielder Paul Pogba remains Juve's number one target but the Bianconeri are ready to make a move for Lazio star Sergej Milinkovic-Savic if a deal does not materialise, says Calciomercato.

Arsenal, Milan and Leicester City are chasing Celtic defender Kristoffer Ajer, claims journalist Nicolo Schira.

- According to journalist Alfredo Pedulla, Sarri wants to reunite with Chelsea star Jorginho at Juve. Sarri and Jorginho both joined Chelsea from Napoli in 2018-19. Now the Juve boss is interested in signing the midfielder again.

Samuel Umtiti does not want to leave Barcelona, SPORT reports. The French defender has previously been linked to United and Arsenal.

David Alaba is not a top target for Madrid but the LaLiga giants continue to monitor the Bayern Munich full-back, says Marca.

Charles Leclerc claimed a second straight victory in Formula One's Virtual Grand Prix series on Sunday, despite Thibaut Courtois tactically blocking him for Red Bull.

After coming first in the previous race around the Albert Park circuit, pole-sitter Leclerc took the chequered flag for FDA Hublot Esports Team in the Chinese Virtual Grand Prix in impressive fashion.

Alexander Albon was unable to find a way past the Monegasque and had to settle for second after 28 laps, with Renault's Guanyu Zhou rounding out the top three.

Real Madrid star Courtois may have finished in 16th but he proved to be a great team-mate when, on lap nine, he let Albon past him but refused to allow Leclerc to follow.

Albon said of Courtois: "He's so fast. Thibaut's been driving with us quite a bit in practice sessions and when I first started testing he was quicker than me and I was getting worried about my job.

"He even did team tactics. He held up Charles for a couple of corners, so it was good fun!"

Italy head coach Roberto Mancini hopes football in the country can return as soon as possible.

Like all major competitions across the world, Serie A is on hiatus as part of efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19, with northern Italy particularly badly affected by the virus.

Mancini was due to lead the Azzurri at Euro 2020 in June, but the tournament has been put back 12 months.

The former Inter and Manchester City boss believes sport can act as a social boost for a population hit hard by the events of recent weeks.

"It is a terrible thing for many families who have lost loved ones," Mancini told SportMediaset.

"I hope everything returns as before. I heard some guys [players], they are all well and I hope we can go back to playing as soon as possible.

"I hope it starts because football is also a very important social thing, then we'll see what will happen.

"And I hope this terrible thing will end soon. It will take a little more attention, but we deserve to go back to living as before. Everything that happened was unjust."

Serie A paused in the midst of a gripping title race, with long-reigning champions Juventus one point ahead of surprise package Lazio with 12 games remaining.

Mancini believes the unscheduled and lengthy break will lead to unpredictability if the action resumes, meaning he refuses to rule former employers Inter in third and free-scoring Atalanta in fourth out of contention.

"I think anything can happen because there has never been such an upheaval," he said.

"It's difficult to make predictions. Juventus are in the lead and remain the strongest, but anything can happen.

"Inter could also be back in the race and Atalanta. When you stop for so long it can change everything. Nothing is excluded."

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