Coronavirus hits football
Rangers to face Leverkusen return behind closed doors
Rangers set up tie with Braga win (pic: SNS Group)
Rangers are set to play the return leg of their Europa League last-16 tie against Bayer Leverkusen behind closed doors.
The German club has confirmed the plan as it bids to cope with coronavirus sweeping the country.
Steven Gerrard’s men host the Germans on Thursday in the first leg of their last 16 tie before visiting the Bay Arena seven days later.
Germany’s Health Minister Jens Spahn has called for gatherings of more than 1000 people to be cancelled. Leverkusen is located in the North Rhine-Westphalia, the region that has the highest number of recorded cases of coronavirus in the country.
Many Rangers supporters were hoping to make the journey, however those plans will have to be shelved in light of the developing situation.
Chelsea’s clash with Bayern Munich in the Allianz Arena on 18 March will also be played behind closed doors, while other Champions’ League matches will also have a surreal feel to them with Valencia-Atalanta and the fixture between Barcelona and Napoli on 18 March suffering the same fate. Borussia Dortmund’s trip to Paris to take on PSG this week had already been declared a fan-free zone.
Elsewhere in the Europa League, the first leg of Manchester United’s last-16 meeting against Austrians LASK on Thursday is now to be staged behind closed doors in Linz, while Wolves want their clash with Olympiacos, also scheduled to be played without any fans in attendance in Greece, to be postponed.
In the same competition, Sevilla against Roma and Getafe versus Inter Milan will also be played in empty grounds.
Manchester City’s Premier League match with Arsenal on Wednesday has been postponed as a “precautionary measure” – and several Arsenal players put into self-isolation – after Olympiakos and Nottingham Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis contracted coronavirus.
The 52-year-old attended his side’s league fixture at home to Millwall on Friday and was also at the Emirates on 27 February as the Greeks knocked Arsenal out of the Europa League.
He was diagnosed on his return to his homeland.
A statement from Forest said: “Mr Marinakis was diagnosed after showing the first symptoms on his return to Greece.
“During his stay in Nottingham he did not show any symptoms of the virus.
“The club are seeking advice from medical professionals and the relevant governing bodies to ensure the correct measures are taken.”
League matches in Spain’s top two divisions will also be played behind closed doors for at least the next fortnight.
All sport in Italy has been suspended until 3 April, with the exception of Italian clubs or national teams participating in international competitions.