Champions League: UEFA introduce new precautions for Lisbon finals tournament

As the final eight of this season’s Champions League prepare for the quarter-finals in very unusual circumstances, there is a new set of rules forthe game’s biggest stars.

The eight-team tournament to decide the biggest prize in club football kicks off on Wednesday 12 August in Lisbon with strict anti-COVID measures in place.The remaining ties will be single-legged affairs with the final to be played on Sunday 23 August, less than three weeks before some of Europe’s major leagues are set to restart.

All games will be played in either Sporting Lisbon’s Jose Alvalade Stadium or the Estadio da Luz, home to S.L. Benfica.To ensure the 2019/20 Champions League Lisbon finals can conclude safely UEFA have produced a 31-page document detailing everything from testing procedure to players’ sleeping arrangements.

Hotel lockdown for players and staff

With clubs from five different countries taking part UEFA will insist on a regular programme of testing, with all players and staff to be tested for COVID-19 before they leave for Lisbon. They will then remain in the team hotel other than to play matches and to train for the duration of the tournament, unless granted specific authorisation. Players will be staying in individual rooms, rather than sharing with a teammate as is often the case, and all clothing will be washed by club staff rather than hotel workers.

Players and staff will also be tested on the eve of all matches with results to be returned at least six hours before kick-off, so any positive tests can be isolated. If any player tests positive for coronavirus once the tournament has started they would automatically miss the remainder of the competition, due to the mandatory 14-day self-isolation period.

Preparation will be key

Ateltico Madrid’s Angel Correa and Sime Vrsaljko both tested positive for COVID-19 last Saturday so have not travelled with the squad to Portugal. UEFA will be desperate to avoid any further cases when the fixtures get underway after Atleti’s scheduled flight to Lisbon was postponed while the other members of the squad were re-tested. This meant that the Madrid club did not arrive in Lisbon until Tuesday afternoon while their opponents, RB Leipzig, arrived on Saturday. With extra time to get used to the surroundings Leipzig may have a slight advantage, but their players face the prospect of being stuck in their hotel rooms for the next two weeks if they manage to reach the final.

No more swapping shirts

UEFA’s document goes into great detail to govern how players make the journey between the hotel and the match or training venues. Team buses will be thoroughly disinfected between uses and players will be told to use the central door, to avoid passing the driver by the front door.

Swapping shirts has long been a traditional post-match routine between players but UEFA has banned the exchange of jerseys for this tournament. Captains will however be allowed to swap club pennants with their opposite number before kick-off, which UEFA reasonably adjudged to be a bit more hygienic than a sweaty shirt.

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