By Brian Homewood
(Reuters) - Talking-points from the Serie A weekend:
SERIE A THROWN INTO UNCERTAINTY OVER HEALTH RULES
Like football competitions around the world, Serie A is continuing through the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to health rules agreed by the government and soccer authorities.
But the confusion which saw Napoli fail to turn up for their match at Juventus in Turin on Sunday -- after their local health authority (ASL) effectively barred them from leaving Naples -- has thrown the whole system into doubt.
Until Sunday, the basic principle was that if players tested positive for COVID-19, they would be quarantined while the rest of the squad could continue training and playing, provided they remained negative.
However, after two Napoli players tested positive in the last week, the ASL in Napoli intervened and told the squad not to travel to Turin.
Serie A refused to accept this and insisted the game should go ahead. Napoli now face an automatic 3-0 defeat and further points deductions.
The government's technical-scientific committee confirmed in a statement, meanwhile, that the local ASLs have the last word "over measures for containing the contagion." As the ASLs have considerable independence, this leaves the door open for further postponements and no-shows.
If Serie A refuses to back down, this in turn could lead to a series of matches being decided in what Italians call "the little table".
There was also a warning from Genoa coach Rolando Maran, who has had 17 players testing positive in the last week. Their match at home to Torino on Saturday was postponed with Serie A's agreement.
"We had all these cases from one day to another. What happened to us must raise attention," said Maran. "We did everything to prevent this from happening, but the precautions were not enough."
CAN ATALANTA BE CONSIDERED TITLE CONTENDERS?
Atalanta routinely insist at the start of every season that their target is to avoid relegation.
But after finishing third in each of the last two campaigns and winning their first three matches in the current one with 13 goals scored, there seems no reason why Gian Piero Gasperini's team should not be considered title contenders.
Middle-sized clubs such as Atalanta often battle to keep their team together after a successful season as bigger clubs circle to buy up top players.
Atalanta, however, have not only retained their squad, they have strengthened it with the signings of Dutchman Sam Lammers, Argentine Cristian Romero and Colombian Johan Mojica.
For the second season running, they will also have extra revenue from the Champions League.
"We have a very solid base, this is our third year together," said Gasperini after they demolished Cagliari 5-2 on Sunday.
"We have 14 or 15 players who have consolidated their places. With the help of everyone and with opportunities like today's, we can keep improving."
As usual, however, he refused to contemplate the title race.
"We must look at the journey and not the standings," he said. "At the moment it is useless to do so, because the championship is very long."
(Reporting by Brian Homewood, editing by Ed Osmond)