Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea will all play the away legs of their upcoming UEFA Champions League Round of 16 clashes at neutral venues due to travel restrictions placed on the UK due to a mutation of COVID-19 being found across England.
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RB Leipzig’s home first leg of the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 versus Liverpool will be played in Hungary, Manchester City’s trip to Borussia Monchengladbach will also be played in the Hungarian capital city of Budapest and Chelsea will now travel to Romania to play Atletico Madrid for their first leg.
The German side was not allowed to host Liverpool due to travel restrictions placed on English clubs due to the nation’s ongoing problems handling the coronavirus pandemic, as a new strain. Liverpool will head to Puskas Arena in Budapest for the first leg on Tuesday, Feb. 16, and will still get to host Leipzig at Anfield for the second leg on March 10.
Manchester City will head to Budapest for the first leg on Feb. 24, with the second leg at the Etihad Stadium on March 16. As for Chelsea, they will travel to Romanian capital city Bucharest to play their away leg against Atletico Madrid on Feb. 23.
Other Premier League clubs have been impacted in European competitions by the strict restrictions placed on the UK by the rest of the world due to the new Coronavirus variant found in England.
Arsenal, Leicester City, Tottenham and Manchester United are all in Europa League action with varying degrees of restrictions and neutral venues put on for them, as Arsenal and Manchester United will travel to Italy instead of Portugal and Spain respectively.
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The original decision came after RB Leipzig appealed for a special exemption to allow Liverpool to enter the country after new travel restrictions were put in place by the German government earlier this month.
The guidelines prohibit incoming visitors originating from countries like the United Kingdom, where high numbers of confirmed cases of COVID-19 mutations have been confirmed. The current set of restrictions are set to run through Feb. 17.
Do Premier League teams have an advantage?
How big of an advantage is this for Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea? Empty stadiums aside, Leipzig and ‘Gladbach now have to leave home for a flight to Hungary and won’t play at home for their match.
Yes, Budapest is about half the distance from Leipzig as Liverpool, and Monchengladbach is on the other side of Germany so Manchester is actually closer than Budapest is. As for Atletico Madrid flying to Romania to play a ‘home game’ against Chelsea, well, that is way further than flying to London from Madrid.
This decision from separate government, understandable as it is, actually hurts the hosts.
Sports is not their problem, but in a fair world Liverpool would have to leave Anfield for the return leg and head to, say, the Republic of Ireland. In this season of exceptions being made just to get played, all teams accept they will have to be more flexible.