Some teams have lost their home advantage due to public health travel restrictions, with UEFA’s rules demanding alternative venues be found
This season’s Champions League and Europa League knockout stages have been affected by the public health measures introduced to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus, with some games being moved.
Travel restrictions are in place in a number of countries and ties involving English clubs were notably impacted by last-minute venue changes.
Manchester City’s match with Borussia Monchengladbach and Liverpool’s game against RB Leipzig took place in Hungary, while Chelsea had to play Atletico Madrid in Romania.
In the Europa League, Arsenal played Portuguese giants Benfica in Italy and the return tie was set for Greece rather than London, while Manchester United played Real Sociedad in Italy.
The decision to move games to nominally neutral venues has raised the question – shouled ‘away goals’ count in these ties?
Do away goals count in neutral venues?
Yes – away goals still count in the Champions League and Europa League knockout games, even if one leg happens to be played at a neutral stadium.
The away goals rule only apply in two-legged knockout ties. It is one of three ways to decide a tie adopted by UEFA, along with extra time and penalties.
In the event that a team is forced to change venue for a particular leg of a tie, as in the extraordinary circumstances of this pandemic, the same rules for deciding the outcome of a tie continue to apply.
The home leg is still considered ‘home’ and the away leg is still considered ‘away’ for administrative purposes.
Of course, despite fans not being permitted at most games at the moment, an argument could be made that any advantage or disadvantage may be lost at a neutral venue, particularly if only one team is affected.
When tiny margins can have a major effect on the outcome of games, things such as having to make a journey or playing on an unfamiliar pitch in an alien environment could potentially hinder some individuals.
Nevertheless, the rules will remain in place as they are currently applied.
Which games have been affected by venue changes?
You can see the ties that have been recently affect below.
Champions League last 16
|Tie||First-leg venue||Second-leg venue|
|Borussia Monchengladbach vs Man City||Budapest, Hungary||Manchester, England|
|Atletico Madrid vs Chelsea||Bucharest, Romania||London, England|
|RB Leipzig vs Liverpool||Budapest, Hungary||Liverpool, England|
Borussia Monchengladbach, Atletico Madrid and RB Leipzig had to change the venues of their Champions League last-16 first-leg games against Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool respectively.
City, Chelsea and Liverpool all won in their nominal ‘away’ legs.
The second legs will all go ahead as initially scheduled in England, meaning the Premier League representatives will all play at their own stadiums.
Europa League last 32
|Tie||First-leg venue||Second-leg venue|
|Wolfsberger vs Tottenham||Budapest, Hungary||London, England|
|Real Sociedad vs Man Utd||Turin, Italy||Manchester, England|
|Benfica vs Arsenal||Rome, Italy||Pireaus, Greece|
|Molde vs Hoffenheim||Villarreal, Spain||Sinsheim, Germany|
Tottenham played Austria’s Wolfsberger in Hungary before welcoming them to England for the second leg. Away goals were not needed to decide the tie, however, as Spurs won 8-1 on aggregate.
Manchester United made light work of Real Sociedad in their away leg, which took place in Italy, beating the Spanish side 4-0.
Neither Arsenal nor Benfica will play at home in their last-32 tie, with Benfica’s ‘home’ game taking place in Italy and Arsenal’s ‘home’ game in Greece.
Will UEFA scrap the away goals rule?
Away goals will continue to be used where applicable for the remainder of the 2020-21 UEFA club tournaments, but it is possible that the rule will be scrapped in the future.
UEFA has indicated a willingness to review the rule for a number of years now, though there is no clear indication of when that might happen.
A number of influential coaches at big clubs have been critical of the rule in the past.
In 2018, Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone said: “UEFA needs to have a look at how difficult it is to play a second leg at home, with your opponent having 30 extra minutes in which one of their goals counts double, when as the home side you don’t have this advantage.”
Going further back to 2015, former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger suggested that the rule was “outdated”, having been introduced in the 1960s as a way of encouraging teams to attack away from home.