Inter Milan manager Antonio Conte has urged his side to adapt to the “difficult period” when they take on Juventus behind closed doors on Sunday.
All Serie A matches are to take place without fans present after an Italian government decree released on Wednesday night said all sporting events in the country would not be open to the public until April 3 in an attempt to halt the spread of coronavirus.
Italy has been one of the countries most affected, forcing Serie A to postpone games.
The match was initially due to take place last weekend, with the decision then being made to play the clash between the two Italian giants behind closed doors on Sunday.
Having also played for and managed Juventus, Conte is more aware of the rivalry between the two clubs – known as the Derby D’Italia – than most and admits playing the match without fans will be a strange experience.
In an interview on Inter’s Youtube channel, Conte said: “It’s difficult to imagine because the crowd play an important role in football matches, especially at big stadiums and big occasions such as this.
“However it is a very difficult period and we must be very careful. The citizens’ health comes first so we must adapt and try to make sure things are done as safely as possible.
“We’re going into it in the right way despite all the difficulties. Because having to change our plans and not being able to play games hasn’t been easy.
“I said to the lads, we must be capable of adapting to the situation and we must adapt quickly. We need to keep doing what we have been doing, keep working hard and try to do our best.”
Conte admits it has been a challenge for him and the squad to put the issues to one side and focus on football.
“It’s not easy because this is an awkward period. We all have families and what is happening is not something you can ignore,” he added.
“Clearly we’re all trying to face up to the situation as best we can. Having said that it’s important that when it comes to matchday we need a clear plan.
“As professionals we must have the time and the possibility to plan things properly during this difficult spell.
“We must try to focus on the values of football because football conveys human and sporting values and we must ensure those values are conveyed even in a difficult time such as this.”
Inter are third in Serie A ahead of the trip to Turin, six points behind Juventus but with a game in hand and eight adrift of leaders Lazio, who have played two matches more than Conte’s side.
Juventus won the first fixture between the two teams this season 2-1 at the San Siro and Inter have won just one of the last 14 Serie A meetings.
But Conte believes Inter are ready for the challenge, saying: “Generally speaking we are in good shape. The lads have got on with the job brilliantly.
“They are just as hard-working and determined to raise the bar. We want to be playing games like this with a lot riding on it.
“So we’re in the right frame of mind, with desire and determination having been intelligent enough to adapt to all the changes.”
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