Uefa switch likely for Liverpool's Israel game

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The Independent Online

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

With the club's manager, Rafael Benitez, furious at any suggestion that his team will have to travel to Israel during its current conflict, Uefa, Europe's governing body, is already considering alternatives, with Holland and Slovenia being suggested as possible neutral venues.

Despite pleas from Haifa's 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 per cent assurances of safety" that they want as the war in southern Lebanon rages on.

A Uefa official, Rob Faulkner, has already indicated that the match could be moved away from Israel. "We have serious concerns," he said. "The key is the safety of players, fans and officials. We wouldn't go ahead if we didn't have those assurances."

Liverpool's secretary, Bryce Morrison, underlined the club's official protest, 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 during the conflict."

Liverpool will play the first leg at home on 8 or 9 August with the return two weeks later and Benitez has expressed fierce opposition to playing in Israel. "It's a crazy situation and totally unacceptable to think about us going over there," he said.

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