NYON: As a second wave of coronavirus circumstances hits Europe, the Champions League goes to once more ship elite gamers criss-crossing the continent.
However soccer’s greatest membership competitors has a back-up plan to make sure the group stage could be accomplished, even when there’s a delay induced of the pandemic.
The 32-team contest will start on Tuesday, one month later than typical, a knock-on impact of the pandemic interrupting final season for 3 months, though the group stage will end as typical in early December with six matchdays squeezed right into a 50-day interval.
It kicks off with a heavyweight conflict between Paris St Germain and Manchester United on Tuesday in Group ‘H’, bringing again recollections of the English aspect’s comeback two seasons in the past after they gained on away targets after shedding 2-Zero at house.
Barcelona host Hungarians Ferencvaros, again within the group stage after a 25-year absence, in one other Tuesday match, whereas titleholders Bayern Munich have a glamour tie to get issues going, at house to Atletico Madrid on Wednesday.
It will likely be a captivating contest, and as Bayern’s Thomas Mueller admitted after the draw was made, “the pressure is on you straight away when you are the holders.”
PSG-United and Bayern-Atletico are arguably the week’s two standout ties and can be spine-tingling events beneath the lights earlier than a full home, as would Liverpool’s journey to play Ajax in Amsterdam.
However these video games will go forward behind closed doorways. In spite of everything, whereas European soccer physique UEFA is permitting golf equipment to open stadiums as much as 30 p.c of capability, all of it depends upon the inexperienced gentle of native authorities.
UEFA settled on the brand new timeframe in early June when the pandemic gave the impression to be beneath management in Europe. However with the latest surge in an infection numbers across the continent, it has begun to look more and more formidable.
Cristiano Ronaldo is among the many gamers who’ve examined constructive just lately, and he’ll miss Juventus’ opening match away to Dynamo Kiev on Tuesday.
The Portuguese may be compelled to take a seat out the next week’s match at house to Barcelona, when he is because of face his outdated rival Lionel Messi for the primary time in over two years.
UEFA has drawn up an in depth well being protocol which, in precept, permits groups to play even when members of their squad check constructive.
So long as a workforce has a minimal of 13 obtainable gamers together with one goalkeeper, matches can go forward. Golf equipment may even be allowed to area gamers who weren’t initially registered for the competitors to make up the numbers.
Nevertheless, UEFA recognises that nationwide authorities might intervene and order a complete workforce into quarantine.
UEFA’s guidelines say that groups might must forfeit matches within the Champions League, significantly in the event that they fail to tell it of restrictions imposed by native authorities on both themselves or the visiting workforce.
Nevertheless, UEFA says it could additionally reschedule matches in some circumstances and has set a deadline of January 28 for them to be performed, giving golf equipment a possible seven-week extension to finish their fixtures.
PARIS: Paris St Germain’s Neymar (L) arrives for the workforce’s coaching session on Monday.—AFP
SEASON FOR A SURPRISE?
Final season, lengthy earlier than the debacle of Barca’s 8-2 humiliation towards Bayern in Lisbon, Messi had let slip that “the way we are right now I don’t think it’s enough to win the Champions League”.
They could nonetheless be nowhere close to adequate, however they and the continent’s different tremendous golf equipment are once more aiming to stave off the four-pronged assault from the Premier League.
For all Barcelona’s present issues, they, Bayern and Actual Madrid have gained eight of the final 10 Champions Leagues between them, and 10 of the final 15.
It’s certainly solely a matter of time earlier than PSG and Manchester Metropolis get their palms on the silverware they crave greater than something, but when there may be to be a shock winner possibly that is the 12 months.
The very greatest golf equipment have the strongest squads, but they’re already complaining concerning the punishing schedule in a season that’s extra condensed than ever.
Final season’s competitors completed almost three months delayed with a sequence of one-off knockout ties behind closed doorways in Lisbon from the quarter-finals onwards.
UEFA doesn’t envisage repeating that format, insisting this season “will be played out in its entirety, in its existing format with the final in Istanbul”.
The Turkish metropolis was speculated to host final season’s closing earlier than the pandemic compelled a change of plan. It stays to be seen if followers will have the ability to flock from overseas to the banks of the Bosphorus on Might 29 subsequent 12 months.
That’s nonetheless a great distance off and utilizing impartial venues is a chance within the face of potential journey restrictions.
One thing else dealing with disruption is the prize pot.
UEFA has not made the quantity of its prize cash public however a discount from final season appears inevitable because of the financial downturn.
Then the pot amounted to a fraction over two billion euros ($2.three billion) for the Champions League and Tremendous Cup.
Bayern have been in a position to pocket virtually 87 million euros for his or her profitable run.
To that they may add one other 35 million euros from their coefficient rating, with extra on prime from broadcasters.
It’s these riches that the largest golf equipment come for, and Bayern will take some stopping once more.
Printed in Daybreak, October 20th, 2020