Some teams and players may benefit from coronavirus outbreak

MADRID (AP) — It wasn’t long ago that José Mourinho lamented Tottenham’s struggles because of a series of injuries to his squad, saying he couldn’t put a team together anymore.

In Spain, Barcelona coach Quique Setién had already accepted that his team would play most of the rest of the season without Luis Suárez after the striker had to undergo knee surgery.

Belgium and France were not really counting on having injured players Eden Hazard and Ousmane Dembele in the European Championship.

It all may change because of the coronavirus outbreak, though, as the widespread suspension of competitions because of the pandemic may end up helping some clubs and nations.

Players who were sidelined and expected to be out for the season now have a chance of recovering for when games resume — whenever that is.

Suárez underwent right knee surgery in January and was expected to be out for about four months, missing most of the Spanish league and the Champions League. With both competitions temporarily halted, the number of games he is expected to miss is significant smaller.

And because his recovery is going faster than expected, it’s even possible he could become available for the second leg against Napoli in the round of 16 of the Champions League if the competition resumes sometime next month.

UEFA is expected to decide the fate of the Champions League, the Europa League and the 2020 European Championship on Tuesday. The club tournaments were set to finish by the end of May, with Euro 2020 scheduled to begin in June.

Dembele was ruled out for the season after a hamstring surgery that was expected to keep him sidelined for six months, ending his chances of playing for Barcelona and also for France at Euro 2020.

The same is true for Hazard, who in the beginning of the month underwent surgery on his lower leg and was expected to be done with Real Madrid for the season and out of Belgium’s Euro 2020 squad.

Depending on how long the competitions remain suspended, he could be back with both Belgium and Madrid, which is fighting with Barcelona for the Spanish league title and remains in contention in the Champions League.

England was another team that could catch a break for Euro 2020, considering Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford may be able to return from a back injury that was likely to affect his participation in the tournament.

Tottenham was one of the teams struggling the most with injuries when competitions started being halted because of the rapidly spreading virus that has infected more than 169,000 people and caused more than 6,500 deaths worldwide.

After the club’s elimination against Leipzig in the Champions League, Mourinho said “we are not even a team, we are a group of players that are available to play.”

Among the players sidelined were Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, Tottenham’s two leading scorers, and another attacker, Steven Bergwijn.

Mourinho said he expected to count on Son only for “some matches” this season after the player underwent surgery on a broken arm in February. He had to enter quarantine as a precaution because of the coronavirus after returning to England from South Korea, where he had the surgery.

For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover.

Kane has a hamstring injury and was initially expected to be back in action in April at the earliest. Bergwijn was likely to be out until mid-May because of an ankle injury.

Other English clubs that may benefit from the break include Man United, which may see Paul Pogba fully recover from a right ankle injury, and Liverpool, who has been without goalkeeper Alisson Becker for the last three games because of a calf injury.

Manchester City defender Aymeric Laporte had also missed the last three games because of a suspected hamstring injury, having been sidelined for much of the season with knee ligament damage, and could have missed the Champions League quarterfinals had the team advanced.


AP Sports Writer Steve Douglas contributed to this story.


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