Paris (AFP) – Manchester City’s first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Borussia Moenchengladbach will be played in Budapest due to strict coronavirus entry rules imposed by Germany, UEFA announced Monday.
The switch of venue comes 24 hours after Liverpool’s match against Leipzig next week was also relocated to Budapest for the same reason.
Pep Guardiola’s City will play Gladbach at the Puskas Arena on February 24.
“We have to presume that the travel ban for passengers from the UK to Germany, which is currently in place until 17th February, will be extended and that the Manchester City team will not be granted special permission to travel to Moenchengladbach,” said Borussia CEO Stephan Schippers.
“We have come to this decision based on several conversations with the relevant authorities, politicians, the DFL (German league) and UEFA over the past week.”
UEFA’s regulations stipulate the home side must find a way of hosting the match or risk forfeiting it as a 3-0 defeat.
Introduced late last month the new German rules, slated to last until at least February 17, ban travellers from countries hit by new, more contagious Covid-19 variants such as the one found in Britain.
The regulations also apply to visitors from Ireland and Portugal.
Though there are some exceptions for medical workers and others in key professions the new protocol contains no special provision for professional sportspeople.
“UEFA’s regulations state that as the home side we are required to find an alternative venue. For several reasons, we have decided to play the game at the Puskas Arena in Budapest,” said Schippers.
“We would like to thank UEFA and the Hungarian FA for their support regarding this matter.
“A last-16 Champions League tie is a huge event for Borussia Moenchengladbach, which we now cannot play in our own ground or with any fans in attendance. Nevertheless, we’re pleased that we can play the game at all and we are conscious of the overall situation.”
Leipzig, who face Liverpool in the first leg on February 16, are due at Anfield for the return meeting on March 10, while Gladbach are scheduled to travel to Manchester on March 16.
Fellow Bundesliga side Hoffenheim could be affected in the Europa League by Norwegian restrictions.
Their last-32 clash away to Molde is also likely to be moved after the Oslo government closed its borders to all non-residents.
The Champions League, Europe’s top club competition, was heavily disrupted by the pandemic last season.
It was placed on hold when sport across Europe was halted in March.
UEFA then took the decision to complete the competition as a ‘Final Eight’ tournament in Lisbon in August, without spectators. Bayern Munich beat Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 in the final.
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