Atletico Madrid Cannot Host Chelsea in Champions League Clash, Spanish Government Says

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Atletico Madrid cannot host Chelsea in Spain for the first leg of their round-of-16 Champions League match, AS reports.

According to the Spanish sports daily, the government’s Council of Ministers has extended a COVID-19-related ban on flights from the UK until March 2. Under the current rules, only flights for Spanish and Andorran citizens and residents may land in the country.

The announcement comes as Manchester United’s Europa League round-of-32 match against Spanish side Real Sociedad was moved to Turin.

Atletico Madrid Cannot Host Chelsea in Champions League Clash

Simeone Dreams of Returning to Romania

Both Bucharest and Geneva have been suggested as alternative sites for the February 23 clash.

After a meeting between officials from UEFA and Atléti concluded on Monday, club skipper Diego Simeone said that he would rather play in Bucharest’s Arena Națională, where he has fond memories from the 2012 Europa League final.

Los Rojiblancos defeated Spanish rivals Athletic Bilboa 3-0 on a cloudy evening at the Romanian national stadium and earned Simeone his first piece of European silverware.

Atlético Madrid have also reportedly asked UEFA to reschedule the second leg of the fixture, which is set to be played on March 17 at Stamford Bridge, for a neutral venue as well.

Chelsea Seek Redemption in Round of 16

Chelsea are yet to comment on the news, but officials at the club have acknowledged that beating Atléti will be a real challenge regardless of where the match is played.

“Atlético are always difficult opponents; in this season’s Liga, they have been performing really well and consistently,” said Petr Čech, the club’s technical and performance adviser. “They have a coach who plays his own way, the players buy into it and they work hard as a team.”

While Atlético Madrid sit eight points clear of rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid at the top of the table in La Liga, they have been far less dominant in Europe. In Group A, the Spanish side were far from convincing, picking up just eight points and conceding one more goal than they scored.

On the other hand, Chelsea cruised through their group, taking 14 of 18 points, including a 4-0 thumping of Sevilla in southern Spain.

Since Thomas Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard on January 25, Chelsea have seen their league form dramatically improve too. The Blues have taken 10 of 12 points and kept three clean sheets.

Tuchel and his men will be hoping to end a four-year losing streak at this stage of the competition and bury the memories of last year’s embarrassing 7-1 thrashing at the hands of eventual-champions Bayern Munich.

 

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