MADRID, March 9 (Xinhua) -- Empty stands await Valencia and Atalanta for the return leg of their Champions League tie on Tuesday night due to the effects of COVID-19.
The Spanish Ministry of Health, Consumer Affairs and Social Services has decreed that the game has to be played behind closed doors with no supporters from either team allowed in the stands of the Mestalla Stadium after several Valencia fans and a reporter became infected by the virus on their visit to Milan, where the first leg was played three weeks ago.
Valencia captain Dani Parejo showed his disagreement with the decision, saying he didn't understand why fans were forbidden from watching a football game in the city at the same time as the city's annual "Fallas" celebrations bring thousands of people together in the streets every day.
"Just for common sense, I don't understand how we can have thousands of people in the streets for Fallas and have aircraft landing from half of the world at the local airport... but at Valencia FC we can't play the biggest game of the season in front of our fans," complained Parejo.
Valencia were outclassed in the first leg, losing 4-1 to the Italian side and need to win at least 3-0 in order to qualify.
Their task will be made harder by injuries to Maxi Gomez, Ezequiel Garay and Cristian Piccini and the club's recent form (apart from a home win against Betis 8 days ago) doesn't invite optimism.
There are doubts whether Atalanta will even be able to make it to Spain for the game given that the team's home city of Bergamo is in the Italian region of Lombardy which was placed under quarantine by the Italian government at the weekend.
The indications on Monday morning are that the team will be allowed to travel, but it is not 100 percent certain whether the players will be allowed into Spain because of the possible health risk.
Whatever happens in the coming hours, it does seem that the result on the pitch at Mestalla is of secondary importance as COVID-19 continues to take a toll on world sport. Enditem