The 2019-2020 Champions League, suspended since March because of the coronavirus pandemic, will be completed in a ‘Final Eight’ in Lisbon in August, Uefa said on Wednesday.
Europe’s top club competition will be decided by a series of one-off matches beginning in the Portuguese capital on August 12, with the final on August 23, European football’s governing body confirmed.
Similarly, the Europa League will be completed with a ‘Final Eight’ across four German cities including Cologne, with the final there on August 21. The closing stages of the women’s Champions League will go ahead in Bilbao and San Sebastian at the end of that month.
“Football is leading the return to a more normal life here in Europe,” said Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin, but in all cases it remains to be seen if any supporters will be allowed to attend matches.
Almost all games around Europe are currently being played behind closed doors amid strict health guidelines, and Ceferin said no decision would be made on whether to let spectators in “until mid-July”.
“If I would answer today then we don’t think we could have spectators at the Europa League and Champions League quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals but things are changing rapidly,” he said.
“A month ago I couldn’t even answer if we could play the competition. Now we will play it, hopefully.”
With the European death toll from the coronavirus easing and numerous EU countries this week opening their borders again to visitors, there is some hope that matches can be played before crowds.
Ceferin added: “We don’t know if (it would be) only the local fans, if no fans, or even if fans from different clubs could travel.”
Istanbul awarded 2021 final
The men’s Champions League final was initially due to be played in Istanbul in May before the Covid-19 crisis took hold.
The Turkish city will now host the 2021 final instead, with Saint-Petersburg, Munich and London hosting the following three years.
The quarter-finals and semi-finals are usually held over two legs, home and away, but will now be played as single ties. Uefa said all matches would be split between Benfica’s Estadio da Luz, and the nearby Estadio Jose Alvalade, home of Sporting.
The 65,000-capacity Estadio da Luz hosted the final of Euro 2004 and the Champions League final in 2014, while Sporting’s 50,000-seater stadium was also used at Euro 2004 and for the Uefa Cup final in 2005.
Portugal’s credentials to host the mini-tournament were boosted by the fact that it has not been as badly hit by the pandemic as other western European countries, and it has no clubs left in the competition. The Portuguese league recently resumed matches behind closed doors.
‘No Plan B’
There are still restrictions in place in wider Portuguese society, as the country eases its lockdown, but Uefa is confident there will be no need for another change of plan between now and August.
“For now things look well, and we hope everything will be fine until we organise the final eight. There is no reason to have a Plan B but we are assessing the situation, not week by week but day by day, and we will adapt when the time comes, if necessary,” said Ceferin.
There are still four Champions League last 16, second legs to be completed, and it is possible those games could also be moved to Portugal.
Atletico Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, RB Leipzig and Atalanta all qualified for the quarter-finals before the competition was suspended.
The remaining last 16, second legs are: Juventus v Lyon; Manchester City v Real Madrid; Bayern Munich v Chelsea and Barcelona v Napoli. If needed, the games will be played in the Portuguese cities of Porto and Guimaraes.
As well as Cologne, the nearby German cities of Duisburg, Duesseldorf and Gelsenkirchen will be used for the Europa League final eight, starting on August 10.
Before that there are a host of last-16 ties to complete. Only six of the first legs have been played, and none of the second legs.
The Europa League final was supposed to be played in the Polish city of Gdansk, which will now host next year’s final instead.
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