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Atletico vs. Chelsea Champions League knockout game moved to Bucharest


Atletico Madrid’s Champions League last 16 home leg clash with Chelsea will be played in Bucharest, UEFA confirmed on Wednesday.

The move comes after the Spanish Government extended restrictions on the arrival of flights from the United Kingdom beyond the game’s matchday on Feb. 23.

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The decision also saw Manchester United’s Europa League away leg at Real Sociedad switched from San Sebastian to Turin on Tuesday.

Liverpool’s first leg away to RB Leipzig on Feb. 16 has been moved to Budapest as a result of travel restrictions in Germany, as has Manchester City’s first leg at Borussia Monchengladbach on Feb. 24.

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Both legs of Arsenal’s Europa League round-of-32 tie against Benfica have also been moved to neutral venues.

Bucharest’s National Arena was the venue for Atletico’s 2012 Europa League win, when they beat fellow La Liga side Athletic Bilbao 3-0 to claim Diego Simeone’s first trophy in charge of the club.

“Our club has agreed the change of venue — date and time remained unchanged — with UEFA,” Atletico Madrid said in a statement. “Given the impossibility for the English team to travel to Spain, Atletico Madrid has been looking for alternatives during the last few days, taking into account factors such as access to the country, availability of facilities, stadiums and the situation of the pandemic.”

Bucharest’s National Arena — a 55,634 capacity stadium, inaugurated in 2011 — regularly hosts the Romania national team, as well as the country’s two biggest clubs, FCSB (formerly known as Steaua Bucharest) and Dinamo.

Atletico Madrid are top of La Liga, ahead of giants Real Madrid and Barcelona, and favourites to win the title for the first time since 2014.

They qualified for the Champions League round of 16 after finishing second behind Bayern Munich in group A, while Chelsea topped group E ahead of another Spanish side, Sevilla.

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Restrictions on UK flights to Spain, with only Spanish and Andorran citizens and residents allowed to travel, were first introduced on Dec. 22.

They have now been extended multiple times, with the latest ruling on Tuesday seeing them prolonged until March 2.

The Spanish Government said the measures were “to protect the health of citizens and control the spread of the new variant of the (COVID-19) virus.”



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