Barcelona vs Napoli and Bayern Munich vs Chelsea will be played behind closed doors next week, as the Champions League continues to be disrupted by the COVID-19 crisis.
In a bid to contain the coronavirus outbreak in both Spain and Germany, no supporters will be allowed entry into Camp Nou or the Allianz Arena for the last 16-second leg ties on March 18.
Barcelona officials attended an emergency meeting with the Spanish health and sports ministries and the Catalan public health body on Tuesday, with it decided a shut-out of fans for the fixture against Napoli should be put into place.
In Germany, meanwhile, the administration of Bavaria has announced that all major sporting events with 1000 attendees or more must take place in empty venues, with supporters now banned from watching Bayern defend a 3-0 first-leg lead against Chelsea.
Barcelona were held to a 1-1 draw in their first meeting with Napoli at Stadio San Paolo last month, and will also be without home support when they attempt to reach the quarter-finals of the competition next week.
It had been reported that Napoli were attempting to get the return fixture postponed altogether, but the club have insisted that the “story is fake news” in a post on social media.
The club’s official statement reads: “Napoli denies reports claiming that the club has asked for the match against Barcelona to be postponed. The story is fake news.
“We support the decisions of the Italian government and of UEFA.”
All of Italy was put under lockdown on Monday as cases of coronavirus continue to rise in the country, which has been the worst-affected in Europe to date.
Over 9,000 people have tested positive for the illness in Italy, and 463 deaths have been recorded in total, with up to 16 million people in the northern region already in quarantine.
Naples is situated on the southern coast but Spanish officials were reluctant to take any chances when it comes to the safety of everyone involved in Barcelona’s meeting with Napoli.
The secretary general of sport for the Generalitat de Catalunya, Gerard Figueras, recommended that the game be held in an empty stadium at the start of the week, following the measures put in place for Paris Saint-Germain’s Champions League showdown against Borussia Dortmund.
That second-leg fixture will also be played behind closed doors at Parc des Princes on Wednesday, with more disruptions to the European football calendar expected in the coming weeks.
Serie A has been suspended indefinitely, with Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte insisting the health of the general population must be put above the continuation of sporting events.
“Our habits have to change, we must sacrifice something for the good of all of Italy,” Conte told a press conference. “This is why we will adopt even more stringent measures.”
Elsewhere, the Swiss Super League has been suspended until March 23, and both the Bundesliga and Premier League are reportedly gearing up to complete the rest of the domestic season behind closed doors.