UEFA insists there is “no reason to prepare a Plan B” for the final eight of the Champions League in Lisbon despite Portuguese authorities reintroducing restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus.
“We hope everything will be fine and that it will be possible to organise the tournament in Portugal. For the moment there is no reason to prepare a Plan B,” a UEFA spokesperson told AFP.
The spokesperson added that European football’s governing body is in “constant contact with the Portuguese Football Federation and the local authorities”.
UEFA announced earlier this month that the latter stages of the Champions League would be staged exceptionally as a straight knockout competition from the quarter-finals onwards with all matches in Lisbon.
Earlier this month, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said: “For now things look well, and we hope everything will be fine until we organise the final eight.”
He added: “We are assessing the situation, not week by week but day by day, and we will adapt when the time comes, if necessary.”
Portugal had not suffered to the same extent as other western European countries during the pandemic but last week Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa announced that some coronavirus restrictions would be reimposed in and around the capital to help control fresh outbreaks.
From Wednesday, 19 neighbourhoods on the northern edges of Lisbon will go back into lockdown.
Gatherings will be limited to a maximum of five people in these areas, compared to 10 people in the wider Lisbon area and 20 people across the rest of Portugal.
The final eight is due to begin with the first quarter-final on August 12, with the final scheduled for August 23.
Matches will be played at Benfica’s Estadio da Luz and the nearby Estadio Jose Alvalade, home of Sporting.
Atletico Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, RB Leipzig and Atalanta all qualified for the quarter-finals before the competition was suspended in March.
The remaining last 16, second legs are: Juventus v Lyon; Manchester City v Real Madrid; Bayern Munich v Chelsea and Barcelona v Napoli.
It is hoped those matches — set for August 7 and 8 — will not need to be played on neutral ground but they could also be moved to Portugal, with UEFA standing by to spread the matches around the country, in Lisbon as well as in the northern cities of Porto and Guimaraes.
Ceferin has admitted that it is unlikely any of the matches will be played in front of crowds but said UEFA would re-assess the situation in July.
Lists of clubs who have qualified for the 2020/2021 Confederation of African Football (CAF) competitions after Simba of Tanzania secured a place in the Champions League at the weekend:
Two entrants permitted
Angola: Petro Luanda, Primeiro Agosto; Democratic Republic of Congo: TP Mazembe, V Club; Guinea: Ashanti Siguiri, Horoya; Nigeria: Plateau Utd, Enyimba
Burkina Faso: Rahimo; Cameroon: PWD Bamenda; Congo Brazzaville: AS Otoho; Equatorial Guinea: Cano Sport; Gambia: Real Banjul; Ivory Coast: Racing Abidjan; Kenya: Gor Mahia; Malawi: Nyasa Big Bullets; Mozambique: Costa do Sol; Niger: AS Sonidep; Reunion: JS Saint-Pierroise; Rwanda: APR; Sao Tome e Principe: Agrosport Monte Cafe; Tanzania: Simba SC; Togo: ASKO Kara; Uganda: Vipers; Zimbabwe: FC Platinum.
— Ethiopia and South Sudan say they will not enter clubs.
Two entrants permitted
Angola: Bravos Maquis, Sagrada Esperanca; DR Congo: AS Maniema Union, DC Motema Pembe; Guinea: CI Kamsar, Wakriya; Morocco: Tihad Casablanca; Nigeria: Rivers Utd.
Botswana: Orapa Utd; Burkina Faso: Salitas; Cameroon: Coton Sport; Central African Republic: Stade Centrafricain; Congo Brazzaville: Etoile Congo; Equatorial Guinea: Akonangui; Gambia: Armed Forces; Ivory Coast: San Pedro; Malawi: Blue Eagles; Mozambique: UD Songo; Niger: US Gendarmerie Nationale; Reunion: SS Jeanne d’Arc; Rwanda: Rayon Sports; Sao Tome e Principe: Porto Real; Somalia: Horseed; South Sudan: Al-Rabita; Togo: Unisport Sokode; Uganda: Kampala Capital City Authority.
— Ethiopia say they will not enter a club
— Top 12 ranked countries can enter two clubs in each competition
— Competitions scheduled to begin on August 7 but likely to be delayed due to coronavirus pandemic.
Full-back Thomas Meunier could still play in the latter stages of this season’s Champions League for Paris Saint-Germain despite signing for Borussia Dortmund, the Bundesliga club’s CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke said on Sunday.
Belgian international Meunier has signed a four-year deal with Dortmund and will join on a free transfer after the end of his PSG contract at the end of this month.
“We told him, ‘If you want to play in the Champions League, it’s OK for us’,” Watzke told Sport1.
“The quarter-finals of the Champions League is a hell of a level of football.
“If he wishes, we will have to negotiate the details with Paris. He is still thinking and we will try to resolve this matter with Paris.”
PSG beat Dortmund 3-2 on aggregate in the last 16 to reach the quarter-finals before the coronavirus lockdown, with the Champions League set to be concluded with a ‘final eight’ tournament in Lisbon in August.
Real Sociedad’s surprise challenge for Champions League qualification appears to be over after they suffered a third consecutive defeat at home to Celta Vigo on Wednesday.
La Real have taken just a point from their four games since La Liga restarted on June 11 and now sit seventh, six points adrift of Sevilla in fourth.
Iago Aspas’ penalty on the stroke of half-time was enough to seal a 1-0 victory for Celta Vigo, who move seven points clear of the relegation zone, albeit having played a game more than Real Mallorca in 18th.
Unlike their opponents, Celta have found a different gear since coming back from the three-month suspension.
They have now taken seven points from their last nine, scoring seven goals in that time and conceding none.
Real Sociedad’s Diego Llorente conceded a penalty in the loss to Real Madrid on Sunday and he was at fault again, tugging down Aspas, who made the most of the defender’s mistake.
Aspas slid home the penalty for his 11th goal of the season as Celta took a big step towards survival at Anoeta.
Osasuna are all but safe after they won 1-0 away at Alaves to put 12 points between them and the bottom three.
Toni Lato found the corner with an excellent finish shortly after the hour to give Osasuna their first win in four matches. Alaves drop to 13th.
UEFA has announced that this season’s Champions League, suspended in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will resume on August 7th and be completed with an eight-team mini-tournament which will take place in Lisbon.
UEFA deputy general secretary Giorgio Marchetti made the confirmation after an executive committee meeting held by video conference.
The quarter-finals and semi-finals will be played over one leg, instead of the usual two, with the final to be held on Aug. 23.
There are still four outstanding round-of-sixteen fixtures to be played. These ties are Real Madrid v Manchester City, Juventus v Lyon, Napoli v Barcelona and Chelsea v Bayern Munich. The fixtures will take place on Aug. 7/8, either at the originally scheduled venues or in Portugal.
Paris St Germain, Atletico Madrid, Atalanta, and RB Leipzig have already qualified for the quarter-finals.
The plan allows for quicker completion of the season than the traditional two-legged home and away format but does mean the competition will have six fewer games which will cost UEFA broadcast revenue.
The Europa League, which is halfway through its last 16 stage will follow a similar pattern, with the final rounds to be played in western Germany, with Inter v Getafe and Sevilla v Roma, both of which had their first-leg postponed due to COVID-19, moving to neutral venues and becoming single-leg ties. Again, it is yet to be decided whether the remaining second legs will be played at home or neutral venues.
According to Giorgio Marchetti, “The quarters, the semi-final and the final will be played at four German venues in the same reason: Cologne, Duisburg, Dusseldorf, and Gelsenkirchen between the 10th and 24th of August.
“The round of 16 matches will be played on the 5th and 6th of August. Then we have the special cases of Inter vs Getafe and Sevilla vs Roma”, Marchetti concluded.
Istanbul, which was due to host the 2020 final, will now instead be the venue for the 2021 edition, with all other scheduled hosts moving back a year, UEFA stated.
La Liga resumes on June 11 after a three-month absence due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Real Madrid and Barcelona have been unable to pull away from each other at the top of the table while Atletico Madrid are involved in what looks like a four-way fight for Champions League qualification.
AFP Sport takes a look at some key issues ahead of the run-in. Turbulent title race
When Real Madrid beat Barcelona 2-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu on March 1, it seemed they had halted a dip in form and seized control of the title race.
But a week later, they handed the initiative back as Barca regained first place by beating Real Sociedad and Madrid lost away at Real Betis.
A three-month break means a fresh start but Barcelona’s two-point lead reflects badly on their challengers, given Barca’s own problems off the pitch, including the switch to Quique Setien as coach in January.
Both sides’ imperfections mean there will be more slip-ups to come but if this Barca make it five league titles in six years, Madrid will only have themselves to blame.
Real Madrid have been given permission by La Liga to play their remaining home games at the Alfredo di Stefano Stadium at their training ground to allow planned construction work to go ahead at the Santiago Bernabeu this summer.
With games being held behind closed doors there would have been little advantage to playing at their usual home and the players might even be better off avoiding an empty 81,000-seater stadium that they are used to being almost full. Unexpected returns
Neither Eden Hazard nor Luis Suarez expected to play much, or perhaps any, part in the run-in after Hazard underwent surgery on a broken foot in March and Suarez had an operation on his right knee in January.
The break has allowed both players to recover and the question now is whether either can find peak form and fitness in time to make an impact in the remaining 11 games.
Suarez’s return could be particularly helpful for Barcelona but Setien has said the Uruguayan, who has often taken time to regain sharpness, is not yet ready.
Real Madrid’s Hazard, plagued by injuries in recent months, has had a nightmare first year in Spain but has an unexpected chance to turn things around. Fight for Atletico
Atletico Madrid’s momentous win over Liverpool in the Champions League offered Diego Simeone some relief after what has been a disappointing season in La Liga.
His team sit sixth in the table, having long fallen out of the reckoning for the title and facing a fight even to make the top four.
Ahead of them between fifth and third are Getafe, Real Sociedad and Sevilla, and with only two points between the four, Atletico could still scrape in.
But the resilient Getafe and free-flowing Real will both be eager to finish off brilliant campaigns while Sevilla appeared to be hitting their stride before games were suspended.
Atletico cannot afford to be complacent.
Pressure at the bottom
At the other end of the table, Espanyol look doomed, sitting in last place, six points adrift of safety. Leganes, who still have to play away at Barcelona before hosting Real Madrid on the final day, are only three points better off.
One point then separates Mallorca, Celta Vigo and Eibar, whose players have expressed concerns about the safety of football returning too quickly. Real Valladolid in 15th have a four-point cushion over the bottom three but two wins in their last 10 games suggests they could easily be pulled in too.
The economic hit from the coronavirus pandemic means the stakes are even higher for these clubs, as they battle to avoid the considerable financial blow of relegation. For all of them, the pressure is on.
UEFA has proposed postponing this year’s European Championship until 2021, a source close to European football’s governing body told AFP on Tuesday, as the continent battles with the coronavirus pandemic.
The source’s confirmation of the proposal came after the Norwegian FA tweeted that the new plan is for the tournament to take place from June 11 to July 11 next year, turning Euro 2020 into Euro 2021.
The proposal was made as UEFA held crisis talks with its national associations as well as clubs and players bodies via videoconference on Tuesday. The proposal is likely to be ratified at a UEFA Executive Committee meeting in the afternoon.
The move comes with most of Europe’s domestic leagues having ground to a halt over the last week as football confronts its biggest issue in modern times.
The UEFA Champions League and Europa League competitions for clubs have also been suspended, with both still in the last-16 stage, but postponing the European Championship for national sides means they, along with national leagues, will have the chance to be completed, assuming travel restrictions are lifted in time.
Europe has become the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, with France on Tuesday having joined Italy and Spain in applying strict lockdown measures and European leaders also planning to ban all non-essential travel into the continent.
More than 2,100 people have died in Italy, which was supposed to host the opening game of Euro 2020 in Rome. The head of the Italian football federation, Gabriele Gravina, had already led calls for the Euros to be postponed.
Euro 2020 was due to be held in 12 different cities across the continent, from as far apart as Dublin and Bilbao, to Saint Petersburg and Baku.
The semi-finals and final were due to be played in London and there would considerable knock-on effects to postponing the competition — the women’s European Championship is scheduled to run from July 7 to August 1 next year in England, with the final at Wembley.
UEFA have also planned to stage an Under-21 Euros in Hungary and Slovenia in June next year.
Twenty of the 24 teams set to take part in the Euro have already qualified, but play-offs to determine the final four participants, due to be played later this month, will have to take place at a later date.
– Collision course with FIFA? –
Moving the Euro by a year also puts UEFA on a collision course with football’s world governing body FIFA, whose president Gianni Infantino has planned to stage the inaugural edition of his highly lucrative Club World Cup in June and July next year in China. Some of Europe’s top club sides are expected to be involved.
“FIFA will keep in regular contact with all relevant stakeholders during this difficult period and look to find in due course solutions in a spirit of cooperation, taking into account the interests of football at all levels,” Infantino wrote in an open letter on Monday.
“Health first and sporting solidarity should be the key principles guiding decision-making at this important moment in time and I am sure that the whole football community will live up to the great values of our sport.”
– ‘Final Four’ proposal –
As for its flagship club competitions, UEFA may come to a decision to try to complete the Champions League and Europa League by curtailing the competitions, meaning ties up to the semi-finals could be decided in one-off matches.
Reports on Tuesday also indicated both tournaments could conclude with a ‘Final Four’ meeting in the scheduled host cities — Istanbul for the Champions League and Gdansk in Poland for the Europa League, meaning the two-legged semi-finals would be removed.
Financially, UEFA will undoubtedly prefer postponements to outright cancellations, or playing matches behind closed doors, even if it is impossible at this stage to know when club football can resume.
The last European Championship, held in France in 2016, generated total revenue of close to two billion euros ($2.2 billion) for UEFA.
“The financial stakes are enormous,” according to one senior figure in the international game. “We know that FIFA has significant reserves but we don’t know about UEFA or the different leagues.”
Klopp’s side had lost the first leg of the clash 1-0 but the holders looked to have ended Atletico’s dogged resistance when Roberto Firmino put them ahead in the tie after Georginio Wijnaldum’s first-half header forced the game into an extra 30 minutes.
Marcos Llorente, however, made Liverpool pay for a host of missed chances as he netted twice before an Alvaro Morata strike, in added time, sealed a place for Diego Simeone’s men in the quarter-final.
While speaking in the post-match press conference, Klopp congratulated the Spanish side even though he said it does not feel right losing to them.
According to the former Borussia Dortmund boss, he is an “under-average loser,” stressing that talking more about the game would make him feel like the “worst loser in the world.”
“At least tonight, if I would say all the things I have in my mind I would look like the worst loser in the world, so I best stop here,” the German was quoted in Liverpool’s website as saying after the game.
He, however, praised his players for their “exceptional” showing at the Anfield and admitted that playing “against a defensive set-up like that, to cause a team that many problems is really exceptional, so I loved that.”
Klopp added that at some point in the game, his players were a bit tired unlike their opponents who looked fresher.
Atletico Madrid ended Liverpool’s defence of the Champions League on Wednesday as Marcos Llorente’s double and Alvaro Morata’s late strike stunned Anfield with a 3-2 win after extra time to progress 4-2 on aggregate.
The holders looked to have ended Atletico’s dogged resistence when Roberto Firmino put them ahead in the tie after Georginio Wijnaldum’s first-half header forced the game into an extra 30 minutes.
However, Liverpool were made to rue a host of missed chances to kill the tie off in 90 minutes as Llorente twice curled home from outside the box before Morata twisted the knife by breaking away to score in added time of extra time.
Defeat ends Jurgen Klopp’s proud record of never losing a two-legged European tie as Liverpool manager.
However, it remains to be seen if and when the last eight will even be able to take place due to the chaos caused across the continent by the new coronavirus.
A packed Anfield played its part in trying to roar Liverpool onto another famous Champions League conquest as, unlike in numerous countries across Europe, no restrictions have so far been put on supporters attending games in the United Kingdom.
But it was the nearly 3,000 travelling fans in attendance, despite the fact games in Spain will be played behind closed doors for the next two weeks, that celebrated a stoic rearguard display from their side.
The European champions did not manage a single shot on target in a 1-0 defeat in Madrid three weeks ago, but Jan Oblak was quickly put to work.
Wijnaldum’s flicked header offered a warning for Atletico of what was to come before Oblak parried Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s driven effort.
Just as the Spaniards thought the job was half done with no damage done, Wijnaldum’s powerful downward header left Oblak with no chance two minutes before the break.
Oblak keeps Liverpool at bay
The goal did not change Atletico’s approach as they played a risky game and relied on Oblak to keep them in the game.
The Slovenian saved from Mohamed Salah, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Firmino as Liverpool missed a number of chances that ultimately came back to cost them.
Andy Robertson came closest to the knockout blow with a close-range header that came back off the bar before he, Mane and Salah all fired over.
Atletico thought they had stolen the tie with the last touch of the 90 minutes when Saul Niguez headed home a free-kick, but the Spanish international was flagged offside to send the tie to an extra 30 minutes.
Despite Liverpool being on the brink of a first Premier League title in 30 years, their number nine Firmino had not scored at home all season until four minutes into extra-time.
The Brazilian’s header from Wijnaldum’s cross came back off the post and perfectly back into his path to slot home with Oblak grounded.
However, no sooner had Liverpool gone in front for the first time in the tie than Atletico hit back with a sucker-punch.
The visitors had barely tested stand-in Liverpool goalkeeper Adrian, but the loss of Alisson Becker to a hip injury eventually proved Liverpool’s downfall.
Adrian fired a simple clearance straight to Joao Felix, who fed Llorente and he found the bottom corner.
Llorente had joined Atletico from bitter rivals Real Madrid in a controversial move in June.
But the man whose father and great uncle, Francisco Gento, also played for Real, made himself a Rojiblanco hero with a second that secured Atletico’s place in the last eight with another precise low finish in added time at the end of the first half of extra time.
Another former Real player Morata then sealed a famous win as Liverpool were caught on the counter-attack to lose at home in the Champions League for the first time since October 2014.