This season’s Champions League has been disrupted by the global pandemic, but the prospect of 11 world class matches between Europe’s top teams in the space of just 16 days is an absolute treat for football fans, and makes this edition of the competition completely unique.
This weekend’s games will complete the four outstanding Round of 16 ties with their second leg matches (much delayed, but in line with the original format of the knockout phase). However, from next midweek, when the quarterfinals get underway, it will be all change.
First, all of the matches (from the quarterfinals onward) will be held in a single city Lisbon, Portugal between two stadiums (Estadio da Luz and Estadio Jose Alvalade, the home grounds of Benfica and Sporting respectively) in what is effectively a mini tournament.
All the ties will also be completed over single legs, rather than the traditional two-legged format, and be played behind closed doors, with strict hygiene protocols in place. Gone is the intrigue of differing tactical approaches to home and away legs now it’s a straight knockout on neutral ground over 90 minutes… or 120 and penalties!
In addition, the different restart and ending times for leagues across Europe adds an extra unpredictability to the remaining ties in the competition. French sides Olympique Lyon and Paris Saint-Germain, for example, have gone several months without any significant competitive football, as Ligue 1 was cancelled.
PSG will at least head into their match against Atalanta having played (and won, unconvincingly) domestic cup finals the Coupe de France and Coupe de la Ligue but they could still be ‘undercooked’, especially against a Le Dea side which has struck up a great rhythm in Serie A and were in consistent playing action right up to last 16.
The German sides – Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig will also have similar concerns. Both finished the German domestic season strongly (Bayern especially, claiming a Bundesliga and DFB Pokal double), but will have gone more than a month without competitive football by the time they play in the Champions League. Nonetheless, Bayern’s strong 3-0 lead over Chelsea and the great form they have shown since the return of football suggests they remain one of the favourites.
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UEFA Champions League 7-8 August 2020 – Broadcast details
Friday 7 August
7pm Manchester City v Real Madrid – LIVE on SuperSport 3
7pm Juventus v Olympique Lyon – LIVE on SuperSport 5, SuperSport 11
Saturday 8 August
7pm Bayern Munich v Chelsea – LIVE on SuperSport 5, SuperSport 11
7pm Barcelona v Napoli – LIVE on SuperSport 3