Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has blasted the late switch in venue for his side’s Champions League clash with Atletico Madrid, claiming it is unfair on the club’s fans.
The Reds were due to face Atletico at their Vicente Calderon stadium next Wednesday, but the Spanish club have been ordered to play at least 300 kilometres away from the capital as a result of crowd trouble during the match with Marseille on October 1.
Atletico have until midday on Friday to appeal against their punishment, which also included a €150,000 fine after Marseille’s players were racially abused during the Group D clash.
UEFA have expressed sympathy for the Liverpool supporters caught up in the turmoil, but communications director William Gaillard yesterday insisted there was “no alternative” to the stadium ban.
Benitez, however, is adamant the ruling from European football’s governing body has come too late.
“We know about the loyalty of our fans and we know about the incredible lengths they go to to support us,” the Spaniard told www.liverpoolfc.tv.
“They have an incredible passion for the club, which means they follow us all over Europe at great expense to themselves, and we always appreciate that.
“That is why we are so worried by this ruling. We can understand why UEFA feel they have to act – but in this case maybe this time it has come too late.
“To change the venue of the game at such a late stage would cause massive problems to our fans, and that is not fair.”
Liverpool striker Fernando Torres, meanwhile, has spoken of his disappointment after hearing his much-anticipated return to play a match at Atletico Madrid may be scuppered.
“After so much time waiting, it is the worst and most unexpected news that I could have heard,” said the 24-year-old, who joined Liverpool from Atletico last year.
“I’m eager to go back. I don’t know if it is definitive; I hope that a solution can be found.
“It is a shame that these incidents have forced the stadium to be closed, but if this is what happens then we have to accept it.”
Atletico’s former Liverpool forward Luis Garcia has branded the punishment “excessive”.
“There will be complications after a punishment like this, I’m sure,” he told clubatleticodemadrid.com.
“The club and the fans will have a lot of trouble seeing the game against Liverpool if the punishment is confirmed. We have to accept it, but I think it’s something that should be looked at carefully.”