With most of the important domestic leagues in Europe having resumed their respective seasons, albeit without spectators, it was only a matter of time that the crown jewel will also resume soon. Yes, we are talking about the UEFA Champions League, which is making a return after being on hold since March 11. The 2019/20 Champions League will see the quarter-finals (and beyond) played out as a straight knockout tournament in Lisbon, Portugal in August.
All these ties will be single-leg fixtures, and will be split between Benfica’s Estadio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica and Sporting CP’s Estadio Jose Alvalade. Although a decision is yet to be taken on whether the remaining second-leg fixtures of round-of-16 will take place in Portugal or not, there is enough excitement already in the air.
Four teams have already made it to the quarter-finals, as Paris St. Germain, Atletico Madrid, RB Leipzig, and Atalanta have gone through their ties. Eight more teams are locked in a battle for the remaining four spots, with just one leg of action set to be played. Juventus are trailing Lyon 1-0, while the blockbuster clash between Manchester City and Real Madrid has the Premier League side leading 2-1. Bayern Munich have one leg in the quarter-finals carrying a 3-0 lead to the second leg against Chelsea, while Barcelona have a lot to cover ahead of their home leg against Napoli having drawn the first one 1-1.
The online bookies list (2020) available on SportyTrader has already set the ball rolling by calling out the favourites, but tournaments like these can’t be predicted easily. For our previews, it is important to watch out how the teams have come back from the COVID-19 break. For example, Bayern have come out firing on all cylinders and romped to an eighth consecutive Bundesliga title. Chelsea’s chances to qualify for the next season Champions League are still up in the air with one round of domestic action left. The ‘Blues’, however, have a great chance of finishing in the Premier League top-four, but their chances against Bayern Munich are very minimum. Indeed, the Bavarians are the bookies’ favourite to win the Champions League title. The top clash has to be the one between City and Madrid. While City have been vocal about their chances of a first-ever European title, Madrid are the ‘team to beat’ after winning ten of their last 11 matches to race towards the La Liga title. Pep Guardiola and his men certainly have their task cut out, if City are to progress – although they have the advantage of a first-leg lead.
The two ties involving Serie A clubs are probably the most intriguing ones of this round. Juventus have a 1-0 deficit from the first leg at Lyon, although the Italians are showing good form in the domestic top-flight. Furthermore, Lyon have the disadvantage of having not played competitive football since the break, as Ligue 1 was cancelled owing to virus worries. Another club that is mired in worries is Barcelona. The Catalans have been shockingly poor since the football returned, handing the La Liga title to arch rivals Real Madrid. Lionel Messi has already publicly denounced his side’s chances, although he would be fired up once Napoli are in town.
The teams that have already booked their spot – PSG, Atletico, Leipzig, and Atalanta – will be watching the action closely. In Leipzig and Atalanta, this year’s competition has a breath of fresh air as the clubs will look to extend their season’s success. Especially the free-scoring Atalanta, who have brought a lot of joy to their fans. The Champions League has never been short of excitement or inspiration. So, when the action resumes after the break, it is going to be as entertaining as ever.