By Nacho Ballesteros
Lisbon, Aug 1 (efe-epa).- Lisbon is preparing to host the final stages of the Champions League with thousands of fans expected to travel to the capital despite pandemic restrictions.
UEFA decided in May to move the competition to Portugal from the quarter-final stage onwards after the coronavirus swept through Europe.
Eight teams will take part in the final stages later this month and all games will be single-leg fixtures played in empty stadiums.
Atletico Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, Atalanta and Leipzig have already qualified for the quarter-finals.
The other four contenders are expected to emerge from the Manchester City-Real Madrid, Barcelona-Naples, Juventus-Lyon and Bayern-Chelsea clashes.
A total of seven matches will be played, four quarter-finals, two semi-finals and the final, which is expected to generate around 50.4 million euro for the host country, according to a report by the Portuguese Institute of Marketing Administration (IPAM).
Despite the fact that the matches will be played behind closed doors, in front of around 1,000 UEFA attendees, accredited media and support staff, Portugal will face the challenge of controlling 16,000 ticketless fans who are expected to cheer on their teams from the streets.
This will pose a challenge for authorities working to contain the Covid-19 outbreak, which has caused 1,700 deaths and more than 51,000 infections in the country.
Lisbon and its surrounding region has seen a rising infection rate since mid-May and around 80 percent of Portugal’s positive cases recorded since then, although there has been a downward trend in recent days.
Residents in the capital do not seem to be worried and many are happy to be hosting the mini-tournament, trusting that the teams, organizers and authorities will have everything under control.
One local football fan, who only gave his name as Jose, told Efe that infections had increased “but with the summer has calmed down”.
He added that he does not think of the CL fixtures as something “dangerous” as long as people are careful.
He said that his team Benfica, whose stadium will host several games including the final, has everything organized.
“We are going through a phase of the pandemic but if basic hygiene care is maintained, I think it’s good,” his wife Isa added.
Despite local optimism, the city has not yet returned to normal and a number of restrictions remain in place.
The majority of establishments have to close at 8pm, after which time alcohol is no longer served in supermarkets or other shops.
Only restaurants can stay open after this time to serve food and they have to close at 11pm, leaving the city practically lifeless after that.
At Benfica’s home ground Estadio da Luz, workers have been seen setting up tents and preparing for the upcoming fixtures.
The quarter-finals will start on 12 August and the final will take place at the stadium on 23 August.