Europa League not spared from virus chaos as Man Utd go behind closed doors

PARIS (AFP) – Manchester United’s Europa League last 16, first leg away to LASK Linz in Austria is one of five matches in the competition set to be played behind closed doors today as the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc with football on the continent.

United confirmed on Tuesday that the decision had been made “following guidance from the Austrian government”, with the Alpine country having recorded 182 cases of COVID-19 by Tuesday.

The news will be a disappointment to supporters of the Austrian club hoping to see their team spring a surprise against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s in-form side.

United’s 2-0 derby win over Manchester City last Sunday saw them extend their current unbeaten run to 10 games, with eight clean sheets in that time. They are now hoping to seize the initiative in this tie before a weekend trip to Tottenham Hotspur.

Coached by the French former Bayern Munich and Crystal Palace defender Valerien Ismael, LASK are six points ahead of Salzburg at the top of the Austrian Bundesliga as they chase a first league title since 1965.

They lost to Club Brugge in Champions League qualifying this season. The Belgians then lost to Solskjaer’s side in the last round of the Europa League.

UEFA confirmed on Monday that Wolverhampton Wanderers’ first leg against Olympiakos in Greece would also be played behind closed doors.

That preceded the announcement that Olympiakos owner Vangelis Marinakis – also the owner of English club Nottingham Forest – had tested positive for coronavirus. He said he was taking “all necessary measures” and “feeling well”.

“We share the disappointment of all of our supporters who will be affected by this decision,” Wolves said.