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Atalanta manager Gian Piero Gasperini says that he felt sick during his side's Champions League last-16 second-leg clash at Valencia on March 10 and later tested positive for coronavirus antibodies.
The first leg at the San Siro in Milan on Feb. 19 was dubbed "Game Zero" for accelerating the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the hard-hit Lombardy region of Italy.
"On the bench, I was feeling awful. It was March 10. The two previous nights in Zigonia (Bergamo), I didn't sleep much. I wasn't feverish, but I felt so worn down as if I'd had was 40C (104F). Every two minutes, I'd hear an ambulance go by. There's a hospital nearby. It felt like wartime."
Champions League debutants Atalanta won the second leg in Spain 4-3 to bounce Valencia from the competition 8-4 on aggregate. The same day, the Italian government announced a nationwide lockdown as the coronavirus swiftly spread through the European nation.
Gasperini admitted that he felt better days later, adding, "Despite not having a fever, I did the test. Ten days ago, the tests confirmed I had had COVID-19. I have the antibodies, but that does not mean I'm immune."
The Champions League suspended play following a pair of fixtures played in empty stadiums on March 11. Atalanta, Paris Saint-Germain, RB Leipzig, and Atletico Madrid had progressed to the quarterfinals, while the four other last-16 clashes were halted prior to the second leg. UEFA hopes to complete the 2019-20 competition in August.
Gasperini's charges will return to action June 20 as Serie A resumes the 2019-20 campaign more than three months after it stopped amid the coronavirus pandemic.
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