The first leg of the round of 16 of UEFA Champions League between Atlético Madrid and Chelsea se will play on February 23 at the National Stadium in Bucharest (Romania) due to the impossibility of the English team traveling to Madrid due to health restrictions.
The Athletic confirmed this Wednesday the change of venue, agreed in a meeting with UEFA following the decision last Tuesday of the Government of Spain to extend to March 2 the restrictions on the entry of flights from the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil due to the coronavirus strains detected in those countries, except for nationals and residents in Spain and Andorra.
The duel will be played on the same date scheduled for the first leg initially scheduled at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid, on February 23, and at 9:00 p.m. Spanish time (10:00 p.m. local time in Romania).
The final decision to change the venue came after the Spanish Government confirmed to the rojiblanco club that Chelsea will not receive clearance to fly from London to Madrid due to the extension to March 2 of air restrictions against new strains of coronavirus.
As reported by Atlético, the club has been “looking for different alternatives for days” that meet various requirements. The first is that the stadium where it is played is in a country that does not have entry restrictions on flights from Spain and the United Kingdom.
This ruled out “any stadium in Spain, Portugal, France and Germany,” Atlético explained to the press in a statement in which they acknowledged that the stadiums in Italy that are prepared to host a Champions League duel were not free to host a match in the scheduled dates.
– Atlético de Madrid (@Atleti) February 10, 2021
On the other hand, another condition that the chosen stadium had to meet is to have the UEFA requirements for a Champions League match, such as the existence of VAR video referee technology, goal-line technology and adequate television production conditions.
In addition to these two conditions, Atlético has taken into account “other factors” such as the situation of COVID-19 in each region, winter temperatures, distance, or the state of the grass.
All these conditions are met by the National Arena in Budapest, a “modern and functional” stadium inaugurated in 2011, according to Atlético.
“Atlético de Madrid would like to thank the Romanian Football Federation for their help and collaboration to host this match in Bucharest”added the club, for which this coliseum has a special meaning.
In this stadium, the rojiblanco team won their second UEFA Europa League title, won on May 9, 2012 by beating Athletic Bilbao 3-0, with a double by Colombian Radamel Falcao and a final goal by Brazilian Diego Ribas.
With this there are three duels of the knockout stages of the Champions League that UEFA has had to change headquarters due to air restrictions caused by the pandemic.
In addition to Atlético-Chelsea, Leipzig-Liverpool on February 16 and Borussia Mönchengladbach-Manchester City on February 24, They will be played at the Puskas Arena in Budapest (Hungary).
Regarding the Europa League, There are three round-of-32 games changed venues, all of them scheduled for February 18: Molde-Hoffenheim will be played at the Estadio de la Cerámica in Villarreal, Real Sociedad-Manchester United will take place at the Juventus stadium in Turin (Italy ), and Benfica-Arsenal will be played at the Olympic Stadium in Rome (Hungary).