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By Catarina Demony, Marco and Trujillo

PORTO, Portugal (Reuters) – Wine merchants in northern Portugal who suffered huge losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic hope that some of the thousands of fans flocking to Porto for the Champions League final will fancy a glass – or two – of the region’s famous port wine.

A total of 16,500 fans will be allowed into Porto’s soccer stadium for Saturday’s match between Chelsea and Manchester City. Many others are travelling to Porto to support their teams from the sidelines.

Taylor’s, one of Porto’s biggest port houses, also owns the luxury hotel The Yeatman where Chelsea players are staying.

“Maybe they (players) could even think about filling the Cup with port and share it among the team,” said Adrian Bridge, chief executive of Taylor’s.

Times have been hard for Portugal’s tourism sector as lockdowns forced many businesses to temporarily close, with port wine houses no exception.

The Yeatman lost around 74% in revenues in 2020 from the previous year, Bridge said, and for big producers like Taylor’s, which has Britain as its main market, the pandemic comes as they grapple with Brexit and a potentially bumpy ride ahead for the British pound.

But Bridge, who is from the UK, and who was visibly thrilled at being able to attend the match himself over the weekend and welcoming fans to Taylor’s, said he hoped the event would show that the country and businesses can slowly return to “normality”.

Chelsea fan Anthony Jackson, 52, has already got his hands on a ticket and was the very first guest to arrive at Taylor’s wine house on Friday morning to buy a few bottles of port.

“I’m just a bit nervous about the game,” Jackson said. “Hopefully (the port) will calm the nerves.”

(Reporting by Catarina Demony, Marco Trujillo and Violeta Moura; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)