Blog

The state of play

Be it the advent of Covid-19 or footballers becoming increasingly vocal on social issues, a lot has happened since we last saw you. We also discuss the small matter of a European tournament you might have heard of…

WORDS Simon Hart

So it’s all eyes on Lisbon. The confirmation from UEFA’s Executive Committee that the 2019/20 Champions League campaign will conclude in the Portuguese capital in August has had fans worldwide ringing the relevant dates in red ink. A 12-day mini-tournament will take us from the first quarter-final on 12 August to the final on 23 August. This timing will, by some distance, make it the latest ever European Cup final, a record currently held by the very first: Real Madrid v Stade Reims on 13 June 1956. It reflects the extraordinary times we are living in.

Football, like all other aspects of everyday existence, stopped during the Covid-19 crisis. But acts of charity and goodwill from clubs and individuals in the game underlined the power that football holds to change communities. Consider, for instance, the €1m donations made by Lionel Messi and Pep Guardiola (who lost his mother to coronavirus) in support of the medical effort in Barcelona – and in Messi’s case, his home city of Rosario too. Or Marcus Rashford’s successful campaign to persuade the British government to agree a £120m fund to provide disadvantaged children with free school meals over the summer. And over in the blue half of Manchester we have seen Raheem Sterling support the Black Lives Matter campaign with a video featuring the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Bayern München’s David Alaba.

The above proves that football still has its place but as Chelsea midfielder Jorginho observes, “The healthcare professionals, who are doing everything they can, they are the real heroes. They are there on the frontline, making sacrifices and putting their own life at risk to save the lives of others, shift after shift.” Atalanta captain Alejandro ‘Papu’ Gómez takes a similar stance. “In the last three months football has been the least of my priorities. It’s been the worst time of my life, but if we can stay positive it’s due to the doctors and nurses.”

Football does retain the ability to distract though, not least because of its uncertainties. At the time of writing, for instance, it is undecided whether spectators will be allowed (and if so, how many) in the Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica and Estádio José Alvalade, the venues for the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final. A football contest without fans inevitably loses something, yet the prospect of eight of Europe’s finest club sides gathering for a condensed version of the Champions League’s closing rounds will draw millions of armchair viewers all the same.

Premier League players and officials take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign; RB Leipzig players in appropriate attire as the Bundesliga resumed (top)
Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

So it’s all eyes on Lisbon. The confirmation from UEFA’s Executive Committee that the 2019/20 Champions League campaign will conclude in the Portuguese capital in August has had fans worldwide ringing the relevant dates in red ink. A 12-day mini-tournament will take us from the first quarter-final on 12 August to the final on 23 August. This timing will, by some distance, make it the latest ever European Cup final, a record currently held by the very first: Real Madrid v Stade Reims on 13 June 1956. It reflects the extraordinary times we are living in.

Football, like all other aspects of everyday existence, stopped during the Covid-19 crisis. But acts of charity and goodwill from clubs and individuals in the game underlined the power that football holds to change communities. Consider, for instance, the €1m donations made by Lionel Messi and Pep Guardiola (who lost his mother to coronavirus) in support of the medical effort in Barcelona – and in Messi’s case, his home city of Rosario too. Or Marcus Rashford’s successful campaign to persuade the British government to agree a £120m fund to provide disadvantaged children with free school meals over the summer. And over in the blue half of Manchester we have seen Raheem Sterling support the Black Lives Matter campaign with a video featuring the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Bayern München’s David Alaba.

The above proves that football still has its place but as Chelsea midfielder Jorginho observes, “The healthcare professionals, who are doing everything they can, they are the real heroes. They are there on the frontline, making sacrifices and putting their own life at risk to save the lives of others, shift after shift.” Atalanta captain Alejandro ‘Papu’ Gómez takes a similar stance. “In the last three months football has been the least of my priorities. It’s been the worst time of my life, but if we can stay positive it’s due to the doctors and nurses.”

Football does retain the ability to distract though, not least because of its uncertainties. At the time of writing, for instance, it is undecided whether spectators will be allowed (and if so, how many) in the Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica and Estádio José Alvalade, the venues for the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final. A football contest without fans inevitably loses something, yet the prospect of eight of Europe’s finest club sides gathering for a condensed version of the Champions League’s closing rounds will draw millions of armchair viewers all the same.

Premier League players and officials take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign; RB Leipzig players in appropriate attire as the Bundesliga resumed (top)
Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

Then there’s the change of format to single-leg ties. As one experienced coach and regular contributor to UEFA’s technical reports puts it, “Single-game knockouts can be more cagey because the stakes are high and it’s only that one match.” Another source of intrigue is the potential impact of the transfer window: Leipzig, for example, have already lost their leading scorer, Timo Werner, to Chelsea.

At this point only four teams are sure of a place in Portugal: Julian Nagelsmann’s aforementioned Leipzig and fellow tournament newcomers Atalanta, along with Liverpool’s conquerors Atlético de Madrid and a Paris Saint-Germain side through to this stage for the first time in four years. The remaining four berths will go to the winners of the following ties, whose second legs will be played on 7 and 8 August in the respective teams’ home stadiums: Barcelona v Napoli (first-leg score 1-1), Bayern v Chelsea (3-0), Juventus v Lyon (0-1) and Manchester City v Real Madrid (2-1).

By the time the first quarter-final comes around it will have been about five months since the last kick of a ball in the 2019/20 Champions League. Owing to the cancellation of the Ligue 1 season, Paris will have just two domestic cup finals under their belts in terms of competitive action since their victory over Dortmund at an empty Parc des Princes on that same night. The formbook before the Covid-19 hiatus is best viewed, therefore, as a reminder of what was, rather than as a clue to what’s next. It shows Bayern as the only team with a 100 per cent record so far: seven wins from seven, with 11 goals from the competition’s leading scorer, Robert Lewandowski. Barcelona and Napoli are unbeaten too, though only one can progress from their second leg. If Bayern have been the team to beat, the surprise package are undoubtedly Atalanta from Bergamo, one of the Italian towns worst affected by Covid-19. Neutrals will wish them well.

Whatever unfolds on the pitch, Lisbon should provide a fine stage. It was at Benfica’s Estádio da Luz in 2014 that Sergio Ramos’s last-gasp header saved Real Madrid from defeat by neighbours Atlético, before an eventual 4-1 win in extra time. And at the old Estádio Nacional in 1967, Lisbon witnessed Jock Stein’s Celtic team of local boys beating Internazionale. Anybody present at EURO 2004, meanwhile, will retain warm memories of Lisbon’s role in an attractive tournament that ended with an unexpected Greek triumph.

This time it is the whole European game in uncharted territory. The hope is that the competition will be touched by that special lightness of mood that summer football brings, as this most unusual of seasons finally concludes.

So it’s all eyes on Lisbon. The confirmation from UEFA’s Executive Committee that the 2019/20 Champions League campaign will conclude in the Portuguese capital in August has had fans worldwide ringing the relevant dates in red ink. A 12-day mini-tournament will take us from the first quarter-final on 12 August to the final on 23 August. This timing will, by some distance, make it the latest ever European Cup final, a record currently held by the very first: Real Madrid v Stade Reims on 13 June 1956. It reflects the extraordinary times we are living in.

Football, like all other aspects of everyday existence, stopped during the Covid-19 crisis. But acts of charity and goodwill from clubs and individuals in the game underlined the power that football holds to change communities. Consider, for instance, the €1m donations made by Lionel Messi and Pep Guardiola (who lost his mother to coronavirus) in support of the medical effort in Barcelona – and in Messi’s case, his home city of Rosario too. Or Marcus Rashford’s successful campaign to persuade the British government to agree a £120m fund to provide disadvantaged children with free school meals over the summer. And over in the blue half of Manchester we have seen Raheem Sterling support the Black Lives Matter campaign with a video featuring the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Bayern München’s David Alaba.

The above proves that football still has its place but as Chelsea midfielder Jorginho observes, “The healthcare professionals, who are doing everything they can, they are the real heroes. They are there on the frontline, making sacrifices and putting their own life at risk to save the lives of others, shift after shift.” Atalanta captain Alejandro ‘Papu’ Gómez takes a similar stance. “In the last three months football has been the least of my priorities. It’s been the worst time of my life, but if we can stay positive it’s due to the doctors and nurses.”

Football does retain the ability to distract though, not least because of its uncertainties. At the time of writing, for instance, it is undecided whether spectators will be allowed (and if so, how many) in the Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica and Estádio José Alvalade, the venues for the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final. A football contest without fans inevitably loses something, yet the prospect of eight of Europe’s finest club sides gathering for a condensed version of the Champions League’s closing rounds will draw millions of armchair viewers all the same.

Premier League players and officials take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign; RB Leipzig players in appropriate attire as the Bundesliga resumed (top)
Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

Blog

The state of play

Be it the advent of Covid-19 or footballers becoming increasingly vocal on social issues, a lot has happened since we last saw you. We also discuss the small matter of a European tournament you might have heard of…

WORDS Simon Hart

So it’s all eyes on Lisbon. The confirmation from UEFA’s Executive Committee that the 2019/20 Champions League campaign will conclude in the Portuguese capital in August has had fans worldwide ringing the relevant dates in red ink. A 12-day mini-tournament will take us from the first quarter-final on 12 August to the final on 23 August. This timing will, by some distance, make it the latest ever European Cup final, a record currently held by the very first: Real Madrid v Stade Reims on 13 June 1956. It reflects the extraordinary times we are living in.

Football, like all other aspects of everyday existence, stopped during the Covid-19 crisis. But acts of charity and goodwill from clubs and individuals in the game underlined the power that football holds to change communities. Consider, for instance, the €1m donations made by Lionel Messi and Pep Guardiola (who lost his mother to coronavirus) in support of the medical effort in Barcelona – and in Messi’s case, his home city of Rosario too. Or Marcus Rashford’s successful campaign to persuade the British government to agree a £120m fund to provide disadvantaged children with free school meals over the summer. And over in the blue half of Manchester we have seen Raheem Sterling support the Black Lives Matter campaign with a video featuring the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Bayern München’s David Alaba.

The above proves that football still has its place but as Chelsea midfielder Jorginho observes, “The healthcare professionals, who are doing everything they can, they are the real heroes. They are there on the frontline, making sacrifices and putting their own life at risk to save the lives of others, shift after shift.” Atalanta captain Alejandro ‘Papu’ Gómez takes a similar stance. “In the last three months football has been the least of my priorities. It’s been the worst time of my life, but if we can stay positive it’s due to the doctors and nurses.”

Football does retain the ability to distract though, not least because of its uncertainties. At the time of writing, for instance, it is undecided whether spectators will be allowed (and if so, how many) in the Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica and Estádio José Alvalade, the venues for the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final. A football contest without fans inevitably loses something, yet the prospect of eight of Europe’s finest club sides gathering for a condensed version of the Champions League’s closing rounds will draw millions of armchair viewers all the same.

Premier League players and officials take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign; RB Leipzig players in appropriate attire as the Bundesliga resumed (top)
Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

So it’s all eyes on Lisbon. The confirmation from UEFA’s Executive Committee that the 2019/20 Champions League campaign will conclude in the Portuguese capital in August has had fans worldwide ringing the relevant dates in red ink. A 12-day mini-tournament will take us from the first quarter-final on 12 August to the final on 23 August. This timing will, by some distance, make it the latest ever European Cup final, a record currently held by the very first: Real Madrid v Stade Reims on 13 June 1956. It reflects the extraordinary times we are living in.

Football, like all other aspects of everyday existence, stopped during the Covid-19 crisis. But acts of charity and goodwill from clubs and individuals in the game underlined the power that football holds to change communities. Consider, for instance, the €1m donations made by Lionel Messi and Pep Guardiola (who lost his mother to coronavirus) in support of the medical effort in Barcelona – and in Messi’s case, his home city of Rosario too. Or Marcus Rashford’s successful campaign to persuade the British government to agree a £120m fund to provide disadvantaged children with free school meals over the summer. And over in the blue half of Manchester we have seen Raheem Sterling support the Black Lives Matter campaign with a video featuring the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Bayern München’s David Alaba.

The above proves that football still has its place but as Chelsea midfielder Jorginho observes, “The healthcare professionals, who are doing everything they can, they are the real heroes. They are there on the frontline, making sacrifices and putting their own life at risk to save the lives of others, shift after shift.” Atalanta captain Alejandro ‘Papu’ Gómez takes a similar stance. “In the last three months football has been the least of my priorities. It’s been the worst time of my life, but if we can stay positive it’s due to the doctors and nurses.”

Football does retain the ability to distract though, not least because of its uncertainties. At the time of writing, for instance, it is undecided whether spectators will be allowed (and if so, how many) in the Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica and Estádio José Alvalade, the venues for the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final. A football contest without fans inevitably loses something, yet the prospect of eight of Europe’s finest club sides gathering for a condensed version of the Champions League’s closing rounds will draw millions of armchair viewers all the same.

Premier League players and officials take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign; RB Leipzig players in appropriate attire as the Bundesliga resumed (top)
Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

Then there’s the change of format to single-leg ties. As one experienced coach and regular contributor to UEFA’s technical reports puts it, “Single-game knockouts can be more cagey because the stakes are high and it’s only that one match.” Another source of intrigue is the potential impact of the transfer window: Leipzig, for example, have already lost their leading scorer, Timo Werner, to Chelsea.

At this point only four teams are sure of a place in Portugal: Julian Nagelsmann’s aforementioned Leipzig and fellow tournament newcomers Atalanta, along with Liverpool’s conquerors Atlético de Madrid and a Paris Saint-Germain side through to this stage for the first time in four years. The remaining four berths will go to the winners of the following ties, whose second legs will be played on 7 and 8 August in the respective teams’ home stadiums: Barcelona v Napoli (first-leg score 1-1), Bayern v Chelsea (3-0), Juventus v Lyon (0-1) and Manchester City v Real Madrid (2-1).

By the time the first quarter-final comes around it will have been about five months since the last kick of a ball in the 2019/20 Champions League. Owing to the cancellation of the Ligue 1 season, Paris will have just two domestic cup finals under their belts in terms of competitive action since their victory over Dortmund at an empty Parc des Princes on that same night. The formbook before the Covid-19 hiatus is best viewed, therefore, as a reminder of what was, rather than as a clue to what’s next. It shows Bayern as the only team with a 100 per cent record so far: seven wins from seven, with 11 goals from the competition’s leading scorer, Robert Lewandowski. Barcelona and Napoli are unbeaten too, though only one can progress from their second leg. If Bayern have been the team to beat, the surprise package are undoubtedly Atalanta from Bergamo, one of the Italian towns worst affected by Covid-19. Neutrals will wish them well.

Whatever unfolds on the pitch, Lisbon should provide a fine stage. It was at Benfica’s Estádio da Luz in 2014 that Sergio Ramos’s last-gasp header saved Real Madrid from defeat by neighbours Atlético, before an eventual 4-1 win in extra time. And at the old Estádio Nacional in 1967, Lisbon witnessed Jock Stein’s Celtic team of local boys beating Internazionale. Anybody present at EURO 2004, meanwhile, will retain warm memories of Lisbon’s role in an attractive tournament that ended with an unexpected Greek triumph.

This time it is the whole European game in uncharted territory. The hope is that the competition will be touched by that special lightness of mood that summer football brings, as this most unusual of seasons finally concludes.

So it’s all eyes on Lisbon. The confirmation from UEFA’s Executive Committee that the 2019/20 Champions League campaign will conclude in the Portuguese capital in August has had fans worldwide ringing the relevant dates in red ink. A 12-day mini-tournament will take us from the first quarter-final on 12 August to the final on 23 August. This timing will, by some distance, make it the latest ever European Cup final, a record currently held by the very first: Real Madrid v Stade Reims on 13 June 1956. It reflects the extraordinary times we are living in.

Football, like all other aspects of everyday existence, stopped during the Covid-19 crisis. But acts of charity and goodwill from clubs and individuals in the game underlined the power that football holds to change communities. Consider, for instance, the €1m donations made by Lionel Messi and Pep Guardiola (who lost his mother to coronavirus) in support of the medical effort in Barcelona – and in Messi’s case, his home city of Rosario too. Or Marcus Rashford’s successful campaign to persuade the British government to agree a £120m fund to provide disadvantaged children with free school meals over the summer. And over in the blue half of Manchester we have seen Raheem Sterling support the Black Lives Matter campaign with a video featuring the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Bayern München’s David Alaba.

The above proves that football still has its place but as Chelsea midfielder Jorginho observes, “The healthcare professionals, who are doing everything they can, they are the real heroes. They are there on the frontline, making sacrifices and putting their own life at risk to save the lives of others, shift after shift.” Atalanta captain Alejandro ‘Papu’ Gómez takes a similar stance. “In the last three months football has been the least of my priorities. It’s been the worst time of my life, but if we can stay positive it’s due to the doctors and nurses.”

Football does retain the ability to distract though, not least because of its uncertainties. At the time of writing, for instance, it is undecided whether spectators will be allowed (and if so, how many) in the Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica and Estádio José Alvalade, the venues for the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final. A football contest without fans inevitably loses something, yet the prospect of eight of Europe’s finest club sides gathering for a condensed version of the Champions League’s closing rounds will draw millions of armchair viewers all the same.

Premier League players and officials take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign; RB Leipzig players in appropriate attire as the Bundesliga resumed (top)
Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

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