In their home city, Spanish side Atlético Madrid are now required to play their matches behind closed doors to help slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak in Spain. More than 2,100 people have been stricken with the disease and 49 have died in that country. But for reasons that remain unexplained, 3,000 fans from Madrid have been permitted to travel to England to witness their team's UEFA Champions League showdown against defending European champions Liverpool FC on Wednesday, according to a report by The Liverpool Echo.
Nearly 800 of Spain's coronavirus cases have been reported in the Madrid region, making it the hardest hit in that country. Schools and universities have been shut down there, and public gatherings of more than 1,000 people are now banned, meaning that all La Liga matches must be played in empty stadiums.
But although Madrid fans may not legally attend their team's home games, thousands of those same fans will now "mingle with the population of Liverpool over several days, without tests or restrictions," according to Daily Mirror sportswriter David Maddock, as quoted by The Echo.
The United Kingdom itself has suffered almost 400 coronavirus cases, with six fatalities from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. Nonetheless, as of Wednesday afternoon in the U.K., the Round of 16 second-leg Champions League match was set to proceed as normal.
ESPN previews the match in the video below.Assuming the match is not postponed at the last minute after all, Liverpool will need to overcome a 1-0 first-leg deficit to avoid becoming the first Champions League title-holder since 2008 to exit at the Round of 16, according to the BBC.
But Liverpool have yet to lose a European match at Anfield to Atlético Madrid, drawing in the Champions League group stage in 2008/2009, and winning a Europa League knockout match in 2010. Current Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp remains unbeaten at Anfield in the Champions League with the Reds, with 11 wins and four draws.
As a result, odds published by The Liverpool Echo show the home side as clear favorites, at 4/7 to win. Atlético come in as heavy 11/2 underdogs, with 3/1 odds on regulation time ending in a draw.
But on February 18 in Madrid, Liverpool never found the back of the net, as the home side made a fourth-minute goal by Spanish midfielder Saúl stand up the rest of the way.
At the same time, Madrid keeper Jan Oblak has been historically stingy, allowing just 37 goals in 49 Champions League matches. That's two more than the record fewest through 50 games, held by former AC Milan keeper Dida.
Kickoff in the Liverpool FC vs. Atlético Madrid match is set for 9 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time at Anfield. In the United States, where the TNT cable network will carry the game live, that start time converts to 4 p.m. EDT, 1 p.m. PDT.