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 that 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 Feb 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 Britain.
Budapest was chosen as a neutral venue after Bundesliga side Leipzig’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. – AFP