BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Bayern Munich captain Manuel Neuer said he understands why so few of his club’s fans have made the trip to Budapest for Thursday’s UEFA Super Cup final against Sevilla as coronavirus cases continue to rise across the continent.
Bayern won the Champions League final last month in an empty Estadio da Luz against Paris St Germain but will be playing in front of up to 20,000 fans in the first competitive European game staged with spectators since the start of the pandemic.
Bayern and Europa League winners Sevilla were each offered 1,500 tickets for the game but neither club have managed to fill their allocation and the vast majority of the crowd will be Hungarian nationals.
The decision to allow fans has attracted criticism in Germany and Hungary as Europe is braced for a second wave of coronavirus infections.
“Everyone is free to decide what is the best thing for them and we are not disappointed with anyone for not wanting to travel, we understand it perfectly,” goalkeeper Neuer told a virtual news conference on Wednesday.
Although fans returned to some Bundesliga grounds for the start of the season last weekend, Bayern’s 8-0 win over Schalke 04 was played behind closed doors due to coronavirus restrictions in Bavaria, meaning the Supercup will be the team’s first game in front of a crowd since March.
“We have gotten used to adapting to all sorts of situations and Thursday will be no different,” Neuer said. “We are just focusing on the match and Sevilla, who are a great team. We accept the situation in the stadium and in the stands for what it is.”
Bayern coach Hansi Flick sought to distance his side from the decision to allow fans.
“We came here to play football and we are not the ones who take these decisions. Our only objective is to win the Supercup,” he said.
Kingsley Coman, Bayern’s matchwinner against PSG, is out injured but striker Robert Lewandowski is expected to recover from an ankle knock.
Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui is keen to see how his side match up against Bayern, who swept to a treble last season and have not lost a game in any competition since December.
“There hasn’t been a team in Europe as dominant as them for many years and that should make us motivated and encourage us to grow in every sense,” Lopetegui said.
(Reporting by Richard Martin, editing by Ed Osmond)