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Page last updated at 15:41 GMT, Monday, 19 April 2010 16:41 UK

Europa League semi-finals given provisional go-ahead

The ash cloud has blown across the Atlantic from Iceland
The volcano continues to billow ash and smoke into the air

The Europa League semi-final ties involving Liverpool and Fulham on Thursday will provisionally go ahead.

Liverpool's game at Atletico Madrid and Fulham's trip to Hamburg had been in doubt due to the cloud of volcanic ash from Iceland that has grounded flights.

But Uefa has given the green light for the clubs to play the first-leg semis.

"Further news and information on the exact travel possibilities for these away teams is expected over the next 24 hours," said governing body Uefa.

Restrictions on UK flights could continue on Tuesday as air traffic control body Nats has revealed a new ash cloud is spreading towards the UK.

Scottish airports are still expected to reopen from 0700 BST, but Nats said it would report again at 0300 and a further update will be made at 0900 BST on Tuesday.

Uefa's statement read: "Regarding the Uefa Europa League semi-final first-leg matches scheduled for Thursday 22 April, between Club Atletico de Madrid and Liverpool FC, and Hamburg SV and Fulham FC, it is planned that both games will go ahead as normal.

"However, with the majority of airspace over Europe still closed and other forms of transport limited or fully booked, Uefa are in close contact with both English clubs on the travel options available to them."


Unless flight restrictions suddenly ease, Liverpool plan to set off on Tuesday afternoon, taking the train to Paris and then to Bordeaux before taking a plane for Madrid.

Fulham manager Roy Hodgson was understandably keen for his team to avoid a road trip and claimed the 1,140-mile round trip would be a "disaster" for the 2,500 Fulham fans who have bought tickets for the game.

"It would be a real shame," said Hodgson. "For 30 or 40 people you might find train seats but for the 2,500 who have been really looking forward to this game then it's different."

Liverpool's players and fans have a 1,200-mile road trip to contemplate to reach Spanish capital Madrid for their match against Atletico.

Uefa has already announced the Champions League semi-finals will go ahead on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Barcelona are travelling 450 miles by coach over two days to Italy for Tuesday's first leg against Inter Milan, while French side Lyon will make a 360-mile road trip for their tie at Bayern Munich on Wednesday.

Pep Guardiola, coach of European champions Barca, stated: "It wouldn't be the best but there are teams from the lower leagues that travel 17 hours by bus.

"A semi-final is enough to help anyone get over any tiredness."

However Barcelona technical secretary Txiki Begiristain suggested the European champions have already been disadvantaged.

"Uefa must be flexible," said Begiristain. "I know that there aren't enough dates to play but in the end you have to make an effort so as not to give one team an advantage, in this case the home team.

"At this moment in time, making a team travel by coach belongs to a bygone age."

Sunday's Women's Champions League semi-final between Swedish side Umea IK and France's Lyon, though, has been postponed by Uefa.

Meanwhile, Newcastle were forced to make a 400-mile road journey for their away Championship match at Plymouth on Monday.

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see also
Ash still causing sporting chaos
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Marathon worry for elite runners
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Volcano cloud threatens F1 teams
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Europe flight misery to drag on
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Why Iceland volcano has grounded UK flights
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In pictures: Volcano erupts in Iceland
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