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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Jul 29, 2006

Reds face anxious wait on Israeli venue change

Liverpool will know by next Wednesday where the second leg of their Champions League tie with Israeli champions Maccabi Haifa will be staged.

With Reds boss Rafael Benitez furious at any suggestion that his team will have to travel to Israel in the current conflict, UEFA are already considering alternatives, with Holland and Slovenia being suggested as possible neutral venues.

Despite pleas from Haifa president Jacob Schachar that it is 'very quiet' in Tel Aviv and the third qualifying round game could be staged there, it seems impossible for the Israelis to be able to give UEFA the '100% assurances of safety' that they want as the war in southern Lebanon rages on.

UEFA official Rob Faulkner has already admitted the match could be moved away from Israel.

He said: 'We all see the news and have serious concerns, and the situation is changing daily. But this is the right way to do it and we're asking the right people.

'We'll be in discussions with both clubs but the key is the safety of players, fans and officials. We wouldn't go ahead if we didn't have those assurances.

'We have played with problems and conflict there before and also played games away from Israel. That is Plan B - a back-up plan.'

Liverpool secretary Bryce Morrison, who represented the club at the draw in Nyon on Friday, underlined the Anfield club's official protest by saying: 'It is not the best place in the world to be playing at the moment.

'Ideally we would like the game moved to a neutral country, and Cyprus is a non-starter because of the amount of Lebanese who have gone there in the current conflict.'

That alone would present a safety issue for the Haifa club and their fans.

Liverpool will play the first leg at Anfield on August 8 or 9 with the second match on August 22 or 23.

But Benitez has expressed the strongest opposition and has already told his club hierarchy that he will fight to stop his side having to travel to Israel.

He said: 'It's a crazy situation and totally unacceptable to think about us going over there.

'There is no way we should be going to Israel to play at this time. The situation is very clear in my mind. I feel sad for the people over there at the moment because it's a terrible time for them.

'But we have to put the security and safety of everyone involved before anything else and that means we cannot travel there. It would be impossible to concentrate on the game.'