UEFA, the European soccer governing body that runs the competitions, has decided that if restrictions adversely affect any game, it will be played at a neutral site where travel is permitted. But the decision to play knockout games in places seemingly chosen at random has led to confusion, and not a little grumbling.
Real Sociedad, for example, played its “home” leg against Manchester United last week in Turin, Italy, but will play the return match at United’s home, Old Trafford, on Thursday.
“It does not seem coherent to me that as the home team, we play on a neutral field, and as a visitor, we do it there,” Roberto Olabe, Real Sociedad’s director of football, told Diario Vasco. “I would like the return to also be on neutral ground, or for UEFA to appoint a single venue for a one-game tie as it did last year.”
The displeasure has not been universal. Both Hungary and Romania, whose teams almost never go deep in major European competitions, have been eager to bring the games to their countries — even if, in many cases, they must still be played behind closed doors.