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Covid scare for Dundalk's European opponents

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Jim Crawford

Jim Crawford

SPORTSFILE

Jim Crawford

Preparations for Dundalk's Champions League tie with Celje next Wednesday have been disrupted after the start of the football season in Slovenia was delayed for ten days due to a Covid-19 scare.

Celje were due to begin their campaign tomorrow night and play another match on Saturday before next week's encounter with Dundalk in Hungary - with the fixture moved there as Slovenia is not on the green list.

However, those games are off after details emerged of Covid positive tests at three clubs.

The planned U-21 friendly between Slovenia and Ireland on September 7 is also off as a consequence.

It was set to be Jim Crawford's first game in charge.

Dundalk were waiting to find out if this has any implications for their fixture but are preparing as normal at this juncture.

It's a slight setback for Celje in terms of match sharpness although they only finished their 2019/20 season on July 22 after a long Covid-19 related break.

Dundalk were planning to watch both of their matches as part of their research although opposition analyst Shane Keegan was unable to travel on account of the green list rules.

Earlier yesterday, the preliminary round tie involving Northern Irish champions Linfield was called off in dramatic circumstances when a second player from Kosovan opponents Drita received news of a positive test hours before the scheduled kick-off time.

The game was set to take place in Switzerland and the local health authorities have placed the entire Drita side into quarantine. Linfield are now expecting to receive a bye into the first round proper where they would face Polish champions Legia Warsaw.

In Lisbon, the biggest sports event of this Covid-infected year gets going tonight - eight of Europe's top teams in a knockout tournament over 12 days in the Portuguese capital, with the Champions League winner of 2019/20 to be crowned at the final on August 23.

But while millions will tune in around the globe, if you walk the streets of Lisbon, you could be forgiven for being unaware that any of this is about to happen as no fans will be present at these games.

Television is, of course, the main reason why organisers UEFA have gone to such lengths to complete their season.

Having already lost the Euro 2020 tournament for national teams, which has been postponed to 2021, UEFA could ill-afford to be faced with massive rebates from its broadcast partners if its club competitions failed to finish.