RB Leipzig’s Champions League round of 16 clash with Liverpool will be played in Budapest later this month after local authorities refused to offer special dispensation for the Premier League champions to travel to Germany for the first-leg tie.
The German government has imposed a ban on all travel from the UK until at least Feb. 17 in an effort to prevent transmission of a new variant of COVID-19 that has emerged in England in recent weeks.
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With Leipzig scheduled to host the 2019 Champions League winners on Feb. 16, efforts had been made by the club to secure an exemption for Liverpool to be able to travel to the city in order to contest the fixture.
But with the German interior ministry informing Leipzig that the game does not meet the requirements for an exemption, UEFA has announced that the game will be moved to Hungary, with the two sides meeting at the national stadium in the capital Budapest.
A UEFA statement read: “UEFA can confirm that the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between RB Leipzig and Liverpool FC will now take place at Puskas Arena in Budapest. The date of the match (Feb. 16 2021) and kick-off time (9 p.m. CET) will remain the same.
“UEFA would like to thank RB Leipzig and Liverpool FC for their close cooperation and assistance in finding a solution to the issue at hand, as well as the Hungarian Football Federation for their support and agreeing to host the match in question.”
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp urged the German authorities on Friday to allow his team to travel to Leipzig for the game, citing the club’s adherence to the Premier League’s strict COVID protocols.
“I know the general situation in terms of travelling from England, but with all stuff we are doing here, the record we have with cases, the discipline in sticking to the protocols, it would be absolutely reasonable to make an exception,” Klopp said at his Friday press conference.
“I don’t know who decides, but they say it is not possible. We are not infected, we have the same problems everyone has with another strain, but we are in a bubble and we could play in Leipzig without spreading the virus.”
Despite the pleas by Leipzig and Klopp, however, the first-leg will now be played in Budapest.
The return fixture at Anfield on Mar. 10 is unaffected and will go ahead as planned.