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Manchester City's Pep Guardiola: There's No Sense to Playing Games Without Fans

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistMarch 10, 2020

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 08: Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola looks on after during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford on March 08, 2020 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Pep Guardiola isn't in favour of playing matches behind closed doors in response to the outbreak of the coronavirus. Instead, the Manchester City chief would rather games be postponed while nations respond to the spread of the virus. 

While Guardiola said he and City will follow any recommendations made by the authorities, he also questioned the purpose of playing without supporters, per BBC Sport's Simon Stone: "Does football work without spectators? If the people can't come, there is no sense. We will follow what we have to do, but I wouldn't like to do it without the people."

Footballing authorities from across Europe have been taking measures in response to the coronavirus. Many games in Serie A have been played behind closed doors, a move since adopted by Ligue 1 in France and Spain's La Liga, as well as for games in both the UEFA Champions League and Europa League.

Guardiola is anticipating similar steps will be taken in England's top flight:

"We are conscious of it because it has happened already in Italy. The league is suspended, and in Spain the next two weeks are behind closed doors. It is going to happen here. The tendency rises at the same level as Italy before and in Spain right now.

"The other issue you have to ask is, is it worse to play football without the spectators? We do our job for the people and if the people cannot come to watch us, there is no sense."

More radical measures are being explored throughout Europe. Italy's football federation, the FIGC, is contemplating three separate courses of action, including extending the season.

FIGC president Gabriel Gravina is also ready to discuss the idea of not even crowning a league champion or using a play-off format to determine the title winner, per a statement from the organisation (h/t Goal).

Italy, which is in a countrywide lockdown to help deal with a growing outbreak, has suspended all sport until at least April 3, per MailOnline's Ollie Lewis and the Press Association).

France and Spain are still at the stage of playing matches in empty stadiums. Top-flight games in Spain will be behind closed doors until March 22, according to the Guardian, while the French first and second divisions will keep supporters away until April 15.

Guardiola's reservations about these initiatives are shared by Wolverhampton Wanderers boss Nuno Espirito Santo. He told Sky Sports News games should be postponed instead, starting with Wolves' first-leg tie in the last 16 of the UEFA Europa League away to Olympiacos on Thursday.

Other games across European tournaments have also been impacted:

Manchester United @ManUtd

ℹ️ Following guidance from the Austrian government, we have been informed by UEFA and LASK that our #UEL game on Thursday will be played behind closed doors. #MUFC

FC Bayern English @FCBayernEN

Our @ChampionsLeague game against @ChelseaFC will take place behind closed doors. All ticket holders will be given a full refund. https://t.co/p9cEZMXHqo

No such decisions have been taken by the Premier League or UK government yet. It means City may well have fans in attendance for Wednesday's game against Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium.

The visit of the Gunners marks the first of three home games for Guardiola's men, with Burnley to follow on Saturday, before the second leg against Real Madrid in the Champions League on March 17.

Matchday policies will likely remain fluid and uncertain before then, with the outbreak ongoing and over 117,000 people diagnosed globally, per the New York Times.

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