RB Leipzig will not be able to host Liverpool in the Champions League later this month after authorities ruled the English club cannot enter Germany because of coronavirus mutations in the UK, the Interior Ministry said Thursday.
“The Coronavirus Protection Order agreed by the federal government last Friday envisions only a few exceptions and no special arrangements for professional athletes,” the German Interior Ministry said in a statement.
Though there are some exemptions for medics and other key workers, the ministry has repeatedly said that there are “no special provisions for professional sportspeople.”
The match was set to take place in Leipzig on February 16 but the German federal police responsible for border control (the Bundespolizei) rejected RB’s application for a special permit that would have allowed Jürgen Klopp’s Premier League outfit to enter the country.
“The Bundespolizei informed RB Leipzig today that the case does not fall under the category of exceptional circumstances,” it said in a statement.
Alternatives in the Red Bull empire?
UEFA, European football’s governing body, has decreed that RB Leipzig must find a solution.
The CEO of the club who reached last year’s Champions League semi-finals, Oliver Mintzlaff, `said he was confident that the game would go ahead somewhere outside Germany.
“We are in talks and we are working on a solution. We will play somewhere,” he said.
It is not clear if Leipzig’s sister club, RB Salzburg, could host the match at their Red Bull Arena. The Austrian side are due to play Spanish club Villarreal at the stadium in a Europa League tie on February 18, which brings its own complications.
“The Europa League has a different branding from the Champions League. So the stadium must be prepared two days before and the turf must be in top condition,” Salzburg’s media spokesman Christian Kircher told the German Passauer Neue Presse newspaper.
Should RB Leipzig be unable to find an alternative venue, there are various options available in order to complete the two-legged Champions League tie, including a one-off game at a neutral venue.
Switching the order of the legs so that Liverpool plays at home first is also a possibility, though that would likely require coach Julian Nagelsmann, his team and other RB staff, to quarantine upon their return to Germany. This could in turn complicate their availability for domestic fixtures.
On Tuesday, UEFA said postponing matches was also possible, as long as all the games were played, both home and away legs, by April 2, ahead of the quarter finals.
Liverpool are currently scheduled to host the return match at Anfield on March 10.
New travel regulations
Germany has put a stop to almost all arrivals from areas affected by coronavirus mutations until at least February 17, though German citizens and residents are allowed to return to the country from these areas under certain conditions.
If the travel restrictions are extended beyond the current expiry date, Manchester City’s trip to play Borussia Mönchengladbach on February 24 could also be in doubt.
jsi/msh (AFP, Reuters, AP, SID)
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