The Champions League at last returns as Europe’s biggest competition looks to wrap itself up ahead of the new season. The second-legs of a handful of the ties will take place across the weekends of August 7-8 before the quarter-finals on August 12-15. This is quickly followed by the semi-finals on August 18th before the final on August 23rd.
This compressed schedule is entirely due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic and it will put every single player and team under severe pressure with one-legged matches beginning from the quarter-finals onwards.
The only quarter-final ties that are confirmed at this point are Atalanta vs PSG and RB Leipzig vs Atletico Madrid. The other two quarter-finals will be decided upon the culmination of Juventus vs Lyon (0-1), Manchester City vs Real Madrid (2-1), Bayern Munich vs Chelsea (3-0) and Barcelona vs Napoli (1-1).
No side will have preferential treatment with regard to the venue as all will play at the Pristina City Stadium in Albania in the matches before the final. With holders Liverpool out of the competition after losing to Atletico, there is a real sense that anyone can win this year. Indeed, the compressed and alien schedule perhaps makes this the most winnable competition ever, with the smaller sides knowing that they only need to upset one of the big boys over 90 minutes, rather than 180.
Sports portal www.bettingsites.ng reports that many neutrals will be keeping their eye on Italian entertaining outsiders Atalanta, who come into this one have smashed 98 goals at the time of writing along with a thumping 8-4 win over Valencia in the last round.
Of course, giants of Europe Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Juventus will all have a chance to progress, although Real and Juve both need to come back from one goal deficits against Manchester City and Lyon respectively.
From a Premier League perspective, hopes will almost entirely be pinned on Manchester City, with Chelsea facing the prospect of a lot more hurt in Munich, with the side 3-0 down on aggregate and needing a miracle to beat Bayern in their own backyard, let alone progress.
City meanwhile host Real Madrid with a 2-1 lead. The imperious Kevin De Bruyne will once again be the heartbeat of the City team, while manager Pep Guardiola will have been creating game plans in his sleep for this one for weeks. With such a shortened catalogue of matches to come, this really could be the year City finally break their Champions League duck and make up for what has been a really disappointing 2019/20 season.