An unusual Champions League campaign
Roughly 5 months after seeing UEFA calling off every upcoming game of the Champions League, football fans from all 4 corners of the world are eagerly waiting for the return of the competition, as 12 teams are still holding on to their hopes of lifting the much-coveted trophy in a few weeks’ time.
The whole football industry got shaken by the Covid-19 pandemic and at this stage, it’s still hard to predict when everything will return to normality. It’s pretty much like having free spins for $1 at our disposal but never knowing what the prize will be. In the meanwhile, a lot of adaptations were necessarily made in order for for football to be allowed to be played again and UEFA enforced multiple measures to make sure everything will go down on a safe environment. One of those measures, was precisely to change the 2-leg knockout rounds from the quarter-finals onwards into single matches and of course, removing the home and away advantages of playing in each others’ stadiums. Every fixture left in the competition starting in the quarter-finals will be played in Lisbon, in neutral ground.
However, the first 4 games that will resume this season’s Champions League edition are still second-leg ties from the last-16 knockout rounds. Real Madrid and Manchester City, as well as Juventus and Lyon will kickoff with everything on August 7, followed by two other games the day after, between Bayern Munich and Chelsea, but also Barcelona and Napoli. After these games are completed, then the spotlight will turn to Lisbon, as the remaining 6 games of the Champions League will be played in either the Estádio de Alvalade or the Estádio da Luz.
It’s never easy to predict who will win a tournament like the Champions League, but with so many unexpected variables into this season’s campaign, somehow it seems to have become even more difficult to tell who’s favorite and who’s not. Nevertheless, we’ll throw a few predictions based on what we’ve been witnessing in the past few months.
From the 4 ties remaining, only Bayern Munich seems to be comfortable with the 1st-leg result and confident about advancing to the quarter-finals. Juventus will have a tough nut to crack in Olympique Lyon, especially since they will have to cancel a 1-goal disadvantage brought from the first leg and the truth is the Bianconeri have also been performing extremely poor since football returned in Italy. As for Manchester City and Real Madrid, the Citizens also have a slight advantage since they won 2-1 at the Bernabéu, meaning that they can even afford to lose 1-0 in the return leg in order to secure a ticket to the quarter-finals. Lastly, Napoli and Barcelona will battle for the last slot in the next round and after a 1-1 draw at the San Paolo, Lionel Messi and his teammates shouldn’t facilitate and are definitely expected to go through.
The quarter-finals will certainly give us some very entertaining games, but in our opinion, the heavy favorite to become crowned European champion this season is PSG. The French champions had more time to prepare for this decisive stage of the competition and if they manage to recover Mbappé from his ankle injury and line him up next to Neymar in their attack, they can finally deliver Paris the trophy they’ve been dreaming about for so long…
Sources: dailymail.co.uk / skysports.com