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August 11, 2020

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Atletico relief after negative tests

Atletico Madrid breathed a sigh of relief yesterday after further coronavirus tests on its players and staff turned up negative, allowing the team to travel to Portugal today for its UEFA Champions League quarterfinal against RB Leipzig.

Tests at the weekend had revealed two coronavirus cases at the club, which Atletico confirmed yesterday to be players Angel Correa and Sime Vrsaljko.

Both players are asymptomatic and will remain isolated at home while the rest of the squad returned to training in the Spanish capital yesterday afternoon, before flying to Lisbon today for Thursday’s game against Leipzig.

“The first team and members of the coaching staff underwent new PCR tests yesterday, the result of which has been negative in all of them, after the appearance of two positive cases in the tests carried out on Saturday,” Atletico announced yesterday.

“As a result, 21 first-team footballers plus academy players Alex Dos Santos, Manu Sanchez, Riquelme and Toni Moya will travel to the Portuguese capital for the Champions League quarterfinal.”

The club said the case of Vrsaljko “is considered resolved by the health authorities as he generated antibodies several months ago.”

The original plan was for Atletico to travel to Portugal last night, with a session scheduled for today at Benfica’s Seixal training ground.

The timetable has had to be adjusted but the team will stay in the same hotel in Lisbon, where all the UCL’s remaining games are taking place in a compressed format without fans.

UEFA had stated Atletico would have to have a minimum of 13 players available, including one goalkeeper, to fulfil the fixture, amid fears that more positive cases could emerge.

A planned training session yesterday morning was called off, with all players and staff instructed to stay at home.

The ‘final eight’ format begins with Atalanta against Paris Saint-Germain tomorrow, Barcelona vs Bayern Munich on Friday and Manchester City vs Lyon on Saturday, with the final on August 23.

UEFA protocol for the tournament states all clubs must undertake testing between 10 and 14 days before their first game in Portugal, as well as another round of tests before leaving their home country. Final tests are then completed the day before kickoff, which will be replicated for all further fixtures in the competition.

Atletico was keen to reassure UEFA that it has followed a strict protocol since the La Liga season ended on July 19. Weekly tests were carried out by the club on July 26 and August 2.

Atletico is seeking its first title in Europe’s most lucrative club competition. It lost the 2014 and 2016 UCL finals to city rival Real Madrid. It was also runner-up in 1974, losing to Bayern. Diego Simeone’s team was eliminated by Juventus in the round of 16 last season.


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