The last 16 ties were being considered for a change to Portugal yet new limitations have tossed Uefa plans into disarray. Uefa’s proposal to stage the second leg of Manchester City’s Champions League tie with Real Madrid in Lisbon has been thrown into doubt.
Changes to the UK’s Covid-19 rules on travellers arriving here from abroad have removed one obstacle to the second leg being held in Manchester and created difficulty in holding it in Portugal. And the new changes could also put City at a distinct disadvantage in the next Premier League season if they reach the final of the competition.
Uefa have already decided to stage the competition from the quarter-finals onwards entirely in Portugal, in a World Cup-style format tournament. And they were leaning towards also playing the four outstanding last 16 ties due to be played on August 7 and 8 – in Portugal.
That would have meant that City, who leads 2-1 from the first leg at the Bernabeu, would lose home advantage for the return, but could, bizarrely, still be eliminated on the away goals rule even though Lisbon is 1,100 miles closer to their home stadium than it is to Manchester.
The rationale in that proposal was that, at the time, the UK was insisting that all travellers from overseas would have to self-isolate for 14 days after arrival – which would mean playing the match would not be possible.
They also considered the fact that playing all of the games in one country would mean that teams would avoid flying all over Europe, which isn’t a great idea during a pandemic.
But the first of those two reasons have been removed by the lifting of restrictions on travellers from Spain, which means Real would be able to come to Manchester, play the game and return home the following day, as normal.
The change in restrictions also means that anyone travelling to Portugal has to self-isolate for 14 days on returning to this country.
So if City goes to Lisbon for the second leg, on August 7 or 8, flying back to Manchester the next day would make them unable to return to Portugal for the rest of the tournament, if they get through to the quarter-finals.
That means, if they beat real over two legs, they would have to stay in Portugal for a week until the tournament gets underway. Manager Pep Guardiola would prefer to play the game in Manchester, but the idea of a week of training and acclimatisation in Portugal if City progress would not be unappealing.
But the problem is then postponed, as City would still be forced to self-isolate after returning to Manchester. If they reached the Champions League final, on August 23, and flew home the next day, they would have to self-isolate in Manchester for a fortnight.
That would take them to within five days of the start of the new Premier League season on September 12. The city could rightly argue that such arrangements would put them at a real disadvantage, as they would be unable to train together until days before the new campaign.
Uefa have delayed the decision on venues for the remaining last 16 games until the effects of the pandemic, and the various rules in European countries, became clearer.
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