Two European football giants, Atletico Madrid and Chelsea will meet in the Champions League on Tuesday. Site of this much awaited game? Bucharest, Romania.
Manchester City will play German team Borussia Mönchengladbach on Wednesday. The game will take place in the Hungarian capital Budapest, where English champions Liverpool defeated RB Leipzig of Germany last week.
In the Europa League, the continent’s second-tier club championships, neutral sites are now almost as common as home games. Last week, Spanish and English teams played in Italy and teams from Norway and Germany met in Spain. A week after London club Arsenal’s match against Portugal’s Benfica at Rome in Rome, the teams will meet again in the second leg of their home-tie tie at Athens.
The epidemic has wreaked havoc with the international sports program for a year, and that chaos impacts football’s biggest club tournament. The reasons for this – government visits, travel restrictions and quarantine rules – differ across Europe. In some countries, teams are still allowed to travel to and from their opponents’ stadiums without issue. In others, countries have blocked entry for visitors from across countries, or have created travel rules as a rule that make such travel impractical in a football season, when teams often have two or three a week The game plays.
UEFA, the European football governing body that runs the competitions, has decided that if sanctions adversely affect any sport, it will be played in a neutral venue where travel is permitted. But the decision to play a knockout game in randomly selected locations has led to confusion, not a little gag.
For example, Real Sociedad played their “home” leg against Manchester United in Turin, Italy, last week, but will play a return match on Thursday at United’s home, Old Trafford.
“It doesn’t make me think that as a home team, we play on a neutral ground, and as a visitor, we do it there,” said Roberto Olabe, director of football’s Real Sociedad. “I would like the return to either be on neutral ground, or to appoint the same venue for a game tie for UEFA as it did last year.”
Resentment has not been universal. Hungary and Romania, whose teams almost never go deep in major European competitions, have been eager to bring the game to their countries – even though, in many cases, they should still be played behind closed doors.
“The match played in the framework of the most prestigious European interclub competition is a major sporting event, and we extended our support to the organizers as soon as this possibility was raised,” Romanian Football Federation President Razvan Berlyanu told Aigen France. to suppress.
Playing some games at neutral venues takes away the first tiebreaker for the tournament, with some goals scored. Generally, if the home away tie is ahead of neither team in total goals, then the team with the most goals is away from home. The rationale is that scoring away from home is a bit harder in a hostile environment, and should get a smaller bonus.
But the house is not the same for everyone. For example, Chelsea will play their away games, not at Atlético’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, but in Bucharest’s neutral ground. But any goal still there will only be counted as a goal for the English team.
Atletico will then have to make a difference or defend the score line at Chelsea’s home ground in London next month.
For the Benfica-Arsenal matchup, the away-goal rule seemed even more strangely arbitrary. The first leg in Rome ended at 1–1, when Arsenal were considered a distant side. Benfica will be the away team in Greece, but if that leg ends in a high scoring draw – say, 2–2 – Benfica will move on from scoring more away goals.
(Some European football traditions appear immune to the coronovirus: Serbian club Red Star Belgrade was forced to apologize last week after some of its fans broke into a closed stadium for the Europa League tie against Milan And racially abused Milan raker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is of Bosnian descent.)
However, football’s scheduling problems may not be over. The epidemic’s continued reach has questioned plans to stage the European Championships this summer in 12 cities across Europe. Traditionally, the incident has been a less dispersed affair organized by a country, or a pair of neighboring people.
Given the complexities of travel by club competitions, the idea of national teams flying around Europe seems silly, or absolutely dangerous. Already, calls are being made to move the entire tournament to a single county, perhaps England, which is already scheduled to host two semi-finals and a final.
Over the weekend, The Sunday Times of London reported that the British government had told UEFA that it was ready and willing to host the full schedule of the Games, although the country’s Health Minister immediately denied that report.