Barcelona’s vital Champions League match at Bayern Munich next week will be played without fans as new restrictions have been imposed in Bavaria with the aim of curbing the spread of the coronavirus.
The German government has responded to rising infection rates by imposing a 50 percent cap on sports stadiums, with outdoor venues limited to a maximum of 15,000 fans.
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Bavaria, one of the country’s 16 states, has gone one step further, although it has decided that all matches must be played behind closed doors for the foreseeable future.
Therefore, Bayern Munich’s home match against Barcelona will be played on December 8 in the empty Allianz Arena, as well as its upcoming matches in the German League against Mainz and Wolfsburg.
However, 15,000 fans will turn out for the top-flight match in Borussia Dortmund this weekend in North Rhine-Westphalia.
Barcelona issued a statement on Friday saying: “Bayern Munich vs Barcelona will play behind closed doors.
He added, “The match of the sixth round of the Champions League will be played without fans in the stadium due to the significant increase in cases of Corona virus in the German region of Bavaria in the past few weeks.”
Like Bavaria, Saxony has also decided to play matches behind closed doors, which means Manchester City’s trip to RB Leipzig next week will be played without fans.
Markus Söder, the prime minister of Bavaria, warned earlier this week that a return to empty stadiums was essential.
“Football matches should be without spectators again. Bavaria will do it,” Soder said on Twitter on Tuesday, adding that allowing fans in stadiums is very dangerous at the moment because it encourages people to travel.
“Football has a great exemplary function. We must now reduce contacts everywhere.”
Bavaria, one of the German states hardest hit by the new wave of coronavirus, had already introduced a rule last week that football stadiums could only allow 25% capacity for matches.
The stadiums have only been allowed to enter people who have been vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 – and only if they test negative.
Germany reported more than 73,000 new cases on Thursday while another 390 deaths were recorded – the highest daily number since early March and which brought the total death toll to more than 102,000.
Barcelona can book their place in the Champions League knockout stages if they win in Munich. However, failure to do so could result in them joining the European League in the new year.
If Benfica beat Dynamo Kiev on the same day, just three points against Bayern would be enough for Xavi Hernandez’s side to reach the knockout stages of the competition.
With one match remaining, Bayern have already booked their place in the last 16 with five wins out of five. Barcelona is second in Group E with seven points, two points behind Benfica.
Should Barcelona and Benfica finish equally on points – if Barcelona draw in Munich and Benfica win – the Portuguese team will advance thanks to their superior head-to-head record.