Coronavirus: Real Madrid and Barcelona to play behind closed doors as La Liga extends restrictions

Spanish league matches will bar spectators for at least two weeks

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Spain's La Liga confirmed on Tuesday that first and second division football matches will be staged behind closed doors for at least two weeks due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The measures follow the decision of the Spanish High Council of Sports that all sporting events in Spain at state and international level should be played without fans to limit the spread of the virus.

"According to information from the High Sports Council (CSD), La Liga Santander and La Liga SmartBank matches will be played behind closed doors from today and for at least the next two weeks," a La Liga statement read.

"La Liga will remain in permanent contact with the Ministry of Health and the CSD to meet their recommendations and/or decisions, and put first the health of fans, players, club employees and journalists during the health crisis of COVID-19."

Real Madrid's game against Eibar at the Santiago Bernabeu on Friday night will be the weekend's first fixture affected as authorities step up attempts to contain the outbreak.

Two local derbies will also go ahead in empty stadiums as Valencia face Levante at Mestalla on Saturday before Sevilla host Real Betis at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on Sunday night.

Spain had registered more than 1,500 cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, with the decision made on Monday to close all schools in the Madrid area from Wednesday until the end of March.

La Liga's announcement comes after several European matches involving Spanish teams had already been put behind closed doors.

Earlier on Tuesday, Barcelona confirmed their Champions League tie against Napoli at Camp Nou on March 18 would be played in front of empty stands.

Valencia's Champions League game at home to Atalanta later on Tuesday and Sevilla's Europa League match at home to Roma on Thursday will also both be played without supporters.

However, Real Madrid fans will be hoping to be able to travel to England to see their team go up against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on March 17.

La Liga said there were also plans in place should any Spanish league matches have to be suspended.

"For weeks, La Liga has been working on alternative plans in coordination with the Uefa in case the health authorities decide on the suspension of any matches, with dates to ensure fixtures are played within established deadlines," the statement added.

Italy's Serie A has been suspended completely until April 3 while in France, Paris Saint-Germain's Champions League second leg at home to Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday will also be closed to fans.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Rhine derby in Germany between Borussia Moenchengladbach and Cologne will be held behind closed doors, becoming the first fixture in Bundesliga history to be played without supporters.

Meanwhile, the owner of Greece's most successful club Olympiakos and English Championship side Nottingham Forest said he had contracted the coronavirus.

Evangelos Marinakis, a 52-year-old Greek businessman, said he was well and receiving treatment.

"The recent virus has 'visited' me and I felt obliged to let the public know," he said in a social media post. "I feel good as I take all the necessary measures and I listen to the doctors' instructions.

"I strongly advise all my fellow citizens to do the same. I wish all a quick recovery."