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Leipzig to launch European campaign in front of 999 fans

RB Leipzig will be allowed to welcome 999 fans to the Red Bull Arena for their Champions League opener against Istanbul Basaksehir on Tuesday.

Despite rising numbers of coronavirus cases across Germany, the local health authority in Leipzig has granted permission for up to 999 spectators to attend, down from the usual number of 8,500 fans allowed for home Bundesliga games.

The seven-day rate of infection for coronavirus in Leipzig on Monday was close to 20 per 100,000 inhabitants, far lower than Berlin with 87 and Munich with 70.

Champions League holders Bayern Munich will face Atletico Madrid behind closed doors on Wednesday at the Allianz Arena.

Bundesliga leaders Leipzig are eager to get an opening win before heading to Manchester United, then hosting Paris Saint Germain — who beat them in last season’s semi-finals — in consecutive weeks.

“We know we’ve got a challenging group,” admitted Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann.

Leipzig reached the last four earlier this year by beating Tottenham and Atletico Madrid, having reached the knock-out stage for the first time.

“It’s a strange feeling that it’s starting again now, but we are looking forward to it,” said Nagelsmann, just 63 days after their defeat by PSG.

Leipzig warmed up with an impressive 2-0 win over in-form side Augsburg on Saturday to stay top of the Bundesliga, with on-loan Manchester City left-back Angelino and Denmark striker Yussuf Poulsen providing the goals.

“We have become even more precise with the ball and our counter-pressing has improved a lot,” said goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi.

“We are all hungry and we saw what can be achieved last season.”

Mali midfielder Amadou Haidara could return for Leipzig providing he tests negative for Covid-19, having missed the Augsburg match after a positive test.

Turkish Super Lig champions Basaksehir, backed by Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, sit in the relegation places this season after three defeats in their opening five games.

They won the league title last season for the first time in the club’s history.

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