Liverpool have been barred from playing their Champions League match in Leipzig because of Covid-19 restrictions.
The first leg of the last-16 tie had been scheduled to take place on 16 February but the German government has banned entry on all arrivals from countries affected by coronavirus variants until 17 February.
The German interior ministry said on Thursday that an application by RB Leipzig for special permission for Liverpool to enter the country was refused by federal police.
“The Corona Protection Order agreed by the federal government last Friday envisions only a few exceptions and no special arrangement for professional athletes,” the ministry said in an emailed statement. “The federal police has told the RB Leipzig club today that the circumstances of the given case do not meet the requirements for an exemption.”
The stance provides a headache for both clubs and Uefa, with the game now likely to be played at a neutral venue. London has already been mooted as a possible location. It is understood the idea of switching the ties – playing the first leg at Anfield – is not being considered.
Both clubs would have been affected by such a change as Leipzig’s players and staff would be forced into quarantine upon their return to Germany from the UK. As it stands Liverpool are due to face Leipzig in the second leg at Anfield on 10 March, with that match unaffected by travel bans.
The onus falls on Leipzig to find a new venue for the first leg or run the risk of Liverpool being handed a 3-0 win. However, Uefa remains open to the possibility of delaying matches affected by travel bans. On Tuesday it set 2 April as the latest possible date to finish last-16 games in time for the quarter-finals.
In the Europa League, Arsenal’s home and away games against Benfica may be affected by UK restrictions on travel to and from Portugal.
Germany is blocking most arrivals of non-residents from the UK to restrict the spread of new variants of the virus. If the travel restrictions are extended beyond the current expiry date of 17 February, Manchester City’s first-leg trip to play Borussia Mönchengladbach on the 24th may also be affected.