UEFA is coming under pressure to move this season’s Champions League final from Saint Petersburg due to the threat of conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson says there is “no chance” Russia will be allowed to host major football tournaments as a result of its decision to “invade a sovereign country”.
The blue ribbon event of the European club football calendar is due to take place at the Krestovsky Stadium on May 28.
European football’s governing body says it is not taking the match away from Russia. In a statement, UEFA said: “UEFA is constantly and closely monitoring the situation. At present, there are no plans to change the venue.”
However, UEFA has previously been able to move prestigious events at relatively short notice, including the previous two Champions League finals.
The 2021 final – which saw Chelsea defeat Manchester City – was also set to be played in Saint Petersburg, but was eventually played in Porto due to Covid travel restrictions.
Covid also saw the 2020 final moved from Istanbul to Lisbon, where Bayern Munich beat Paris Saint-Germain.
Tensions between Russia and Ukraine are rising after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized the independence of two breakaway regions, while Ukraine is considering breaking off diplomatic ties with their neighbor.
Boris: ‘No chance’ Russia can hold football tournaments
Prime Minister Johnson told MPs on Tuesday: “It’s absolutely vital in this critical moment that President Putin understands that what he is doing is going to be a disaster for Russia.
“And it is clear from the response of the world to what he has already done in Donbas that he is going to end up with a Russia that is poorer as a result of the sanctions that the world will implement.
“A Russia that is more isolated, a Russia that has pariah status – no chance of holding football tournaments in a Russia that invades sovereign countries.
“A Russia that is engaged in a bloody and debilitating conflict with a fellow Slav country. What an appalling result for President Putin.
“I hope he steps back from the brink and does not conduct a full invasion.”
Champions League state of play: Chelsea host Lille | Man Utd at Atletico
The Champions League knockout stages continue this week as holders Chelsea host Lille on Tuesday, while Manchester United travel to Atletico Madrid on Wednesday.
Chelsea and United will be hoping to follow Premier League sides Manchester City and Liverpool in securing first-leg leads in the last 16, after Pep Guardiola’s men thrashed Sporting Lisbon 5-0 and Jurgen Klopp’s side beat Inter Milan 2-0.
Chelsea will host a side that has endured an alarming collapse, with Lille going from French champions last season to mid-table now, 23 points behind leaders Paris Saint-Germain.
Chelsea, by contrast, have recovered from a wobble to win back-to-back Premier League matches and maintain their hold on third place.
Meanwhile, if Ralf Rangnick is to win a trophy during his interim reign as Manchester United manager, it can only be by delivering the club’s fourth European Cup.
The German’s team has already exited the FA Cup, but he has overseen a recovery in the Premier League since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s firing, taking 25 points from 12 games to take United from sixth to fourth.
Atletico are led by the longest-serving coach remaining in this season’s Champions League. But fresh from marking a decade in charge in December, Atletico are enduring one of their most turbulent moments under Diego Simeone. The team is inconsistent – much like United – and Simeone is feeling the heat.
There was an encouraging 3-0 win at Osasuna at the weekend but Atletico had lost four of their previous six games in all competitions before Saturday, including eliminations from the Spanish Super Cup and the Copa del Rey.