PSG-Dortmund game to be played without fans because of virus

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PSG’s Neymar reacts during the French League One soccer match between Paris-Saint-Germain and Bordeaux at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, Sunday Feb. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

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PARIS (AP) — The Champions League match between Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund will be played without fans because of the spread of the coronavirus, Paris police said Monday.

The match will be played Wednesday at Parc des Princes. Dortmund leads 2-1 from the first leg.

PSG said it took note of the decision and said the club remains “fully mobilized to organize the match in the best possible conditions.”

France has banned gatherings of more than 1,000 people. The country reported 1,126 cases of the virus as of Sunday, up 19% from the day before and the second largest number of cases in Europe after Italy. So far, 19 people in France have died. Protests, exams and public transport could be exempt from the ban on large gatherings.

Two of the four Champions League matches scheduled for this week will be played without fans. Spanish authorities recommended restrictions on games involving teams from areas in Italy with high numbers of virus cases and said the Valencia-Atalanta match will take place in an empty stadium.

Because of the virus, Friday’s French league game between Lyon and visiting Reims will also be played without fans, the seven-time French champions said in a statement.

German health minister Jens Spahn has recommended that organizers should consider postponing events set to attract more than 1,000 people, but city government spokesman Matthias Hasberg said Leipzig’s match against Tottenham on Tuesday would go ahead with fans.

Liverpool’s match against Atletico Madrid is also expected to be played with fans in attendance.

Empty stadiums are not new in the Champions League, but they are typically a UEFA punishment for fan disorder or racism.

Wednesday’s game will be the first match with no fans at the Parc des Princes in 10 years. The last time it happened, in March 2010, the decision was taken following crowd trouble during a match between PSG and French rival Marseille.

In Italy, the country’s soccer federation will meet on Tuesday to discuss whether to suspend matches around the country because of the virus outbreak.

Games in Italy’s top division went ahead Sunday, without spectators, despite sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora saying he supported an appeal from players’ association president Damiano Tommasi to avoid putting athletes at risk amid the spread of the new coronavirus.

Italy announced a sweeping quarantine early Sunday for its northern regions, igniting travel chaos. The extraordinary measures will be in place until April 3.

On Sunday, Italy reported its biggest daily increase in coronavirus cases since the outbreak began on Feb. 21. The number of infected people rose to more than 7,300. Italy’s death toll increased to 366.

Also, World Cup qualifying games in Asia were formally postponed until at least September, FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation said Monday, but matches could still go ahead on schedule if all relevant parties agree.

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