Atlético boss Diego Simeone delivers verdict on neutral venue for UCL clash

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Chelsea and Atlético Madrid will play the first leg of their Champions League Round of 16 tie in Bucharest owing to Covid restrictions.

The fixture was originally set to be held at the Wanda Metripolitano, but UEFA regulations dictated that an alternative venue must be found by the Spanish club.

“I don’t think it’s important to give an opinion [on the venue] because the opinion we might say won’t influence on what the reality is,” said Atlético Madrid manager Diego Simeone, as quoted by AS.

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“And because we are living a complex moment globally, from a social point of view, it is already difficult to compete and do our job.

“We will prepare and enjoy what we have. To play anywhere, any time, the day they want. There is no problem.”

Simeone is facing a host of personnel issues ahead of the heavyweight clash, with defender José Giménez the latest to be ruled out of the tie after picking up a muscular injury that will keep on the sidelines for three weeks.

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The 26-year-old is set to miss crunch ties against Granada, Levante and Villarreal, though it remains to be seen if he could be passed fit for Atlético's derby clash against Real Madrid on March 7.

The La Liga leaders have enjoyed a stellar campaign so far, being eight points clear of Real Madrid and Barcelona in the league table with a game in hand, as they chase their first league win since the 2013/14 campaign.

Their two-legged tie against Thomas Tuchel's resurgent Chelsea would provide a stern test for Simeone's side, who've twice been undone in the Champions League final by city rivals Real Madrid under the Argentine boss.

The return leg of the tie will be played at Stamford Bridge on March 17, with Tuchel set to get his first taste of European football at the home of the 2011/12 winners.

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