Liverpool's Champions League match against Leipzig moved to Budapest

Coronavirus restrictions bar the English champions travelling to Germany


AFP February 08, 2021

PARIS:

Liverpool's Champions League last-16 away tie against RB Leipzig will be staged in Budapest as coronavirus restrictions bar the English champions travelling to Germany, UEFA announced on Sunday.

The February 16 first leg "will now take place at Puskas Arena in Budapest," European football's governing body confirmed.

UEFA's statement thanked the two clubs "for their close cooperation and assistance in finding a solution to the issue at hand, as well as the Hungarian Football Federation for their support and agreeing to host the match in question."

Confirmation of Budapest as hosts ended any doubt about the tie taking place after the imposition of strict entry rules in Germany to combat the spread of the pandemic.

UEFA's regulations stipulated the home side must find a way of hosting the match or risk forfeiting it as a 3-0 defeat.

The decision from the German authorities on travel bans also places a question mark over another Champions League last-16 match, as Borussia Moenchengladbach host Manchester City on February 24.

Introduced a week ago the new rules, slated to last until the day after the Liverpool game, ban travellers from countries hit by new, more contagious Covid-19 variants such as the one found in Britain.

Budapest was chosen as a neutral venue after Bundesliga side's request for a travel exemption for their English rivals was turned down by the German government.

Though there are some exceptions for medical workers and others in key professions the new protocol contains no special provision for professional sportspeople.

Liverpool's German manager Jurgen Klopp had said he believed an exemption should have been made for his side to travel.

"With all the precautions we take, our record of Covid cases and our discipline, I believe it would have been absolutely acceptable to make an exception," said Klopp.

"Yes, there is a new variant of the virus, but we are in a bubble and we could play in Leipzig without spreading this virus."

The European countries affected by the German regulations, in force until at least February 17, are Ireland, Portugal and the United Kingdom.

The game between City and Moenchengladbach looks also likely to be switched.

"We are looking for a place to host. We have made a request to FC Midtjylland in Denmark, but also to other clubs," Borussia sporting director Max Eberl said on Friday.

"Now we have to see what the most appropriate venue will be and what that will mean financially, but we are responsible for holding the match."

Fellow Bundesliga side Hoffenheim could also be impacted by the regulations due to Norwegian restrictions.

Their Europa League round of 32 clash in Molde is also likely to be in search of a new home after the Oslo government closed its borders to all non-residents.

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