Champions League in a Format Never Seen Before

Our favourite game returned to action in most coun

A Football Report
Champions League in a Format Never Seen Before

Our favourite game returned to action in most countries in the last week. Bundesliga was the first to restart and was followed by Spanish La Liga, Coppa Italia, and ultimately English Premier League. The only question mark is currently related to the biggest of the competitions, the UEFA Champions League.

Final 8 in Lisbon

According to leading UK tipping site, the greatest continental competition is set to be completed in an 11-day mini-tournament featuring the best eight European teams in Lisbon from August 12th to 23rd. It will clearly be a historical finish to the campaign as the competition has never previously been completed this way. Two-legged ties are scrapped as the last seven matches (four quarter-finals, two semi-finals, and the final) will be played in a single-leg format at the two largest Lisbon Stadiums. The homes of Benfica and Sporting Lisbon should play host to the best eight teams on the continent in the mentioned time-frame. Estadio da Luz, which hosted 2014 final, will have the honour of welcoming the best two clubs in the last game of the competition.

Four last 16 round games remaining

This looks like a legit way for the season to be saved in such circumstances, but the problem is that we do not have the full list of quarter-finalists yet. We left the Champions League just midway through the last 16 phase in March as four rematches are remaining to be played. Bayern Munich's clash with Chelsea is only a formality as the Bavarians clinched a demolishing 3-0 victory (Serge Gnabry and Robert Lewandowski scorers) at Stamford Bridge in late-February. Manchester City are also in a fantastic position having defeated the record 13-time winners Real Madrid 1-2 at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu. Barcelona are favourites against Napoli having drawn 1-1 in the first leg in Italy, while Juventus will have a difficult task to go past Lyon after losing the first leg in France without scoring a goal (1-0).

Although it is yet to be confirmed with a 100% certainty, these four fixtures will most likely be played in Turin and Barcelona.

Manchester City and PSG chasing their first titles

We will surely get a new winner as the reigning champions Liverpool were eliminated in the last 16 round. They conceded three extra-time goals in the reverse fixture of the tie with Diego Simeone’s warriors Atletico Madrid. Los Colchoneros could be one of the dark horses of the competition as they are capable of beating anyone in a single leg on their day.

Speaking of the top contenders, we have to mention the likes of Manchester City and PSG even though neither of them has ever won the competition before. PSG have been dominating the domestic league for years and they might just be set for the much-desired breakthrough at the continental stage. The huge problem for the team led by Thomas Tuchel might be the fact Les Parisiens won’t play a single competitive game before August as Ligue 1 was one of the rare leagues to have ended the season.

Manchester City do not have a chance to catch Liverpool at the top of the Premier League standings but Pep Guardiola’s machinery will have the luxury of playing competitive matches as the English top tier resumed in mid-June. They have a significant edge from the first leg of the last 16 round tie with Real Madrid and we have rights to call them the top contenders at this stage.

Bayern Munich are lethal in the final third

The Bavarians have just secured the landmark 30th Bundesliga trophy after beating Werder Bremen 0-1 on the road on June 16th. It was the team’s eighth successive victory since German football returned to action this spring. The five-time Champions League winners will be looking for their maiden crown since the 2012/13 campaign when they dispatched Borussia Dortmund 2-1 in the final at Wembley. The Bavarians had previously demolished Barcelona 7-0 on aggregate in the semi-final.

Der FCB have been super efficient in this term of the Champions League. They took the maximum 18 points in the group stage although they’ve played the last term runners-up Tottenham Hotspur twice in the process. Hans Flick’s men bagged at least three goals in six of seven matches in the competition so far, a streak that includes the aforementioned 0-3 demolition of Chelsea in the first last 16 round leg at Stamford Bridge.

Barcelona & Juventus looking to squeeze into the final eight

Blaugrana and Bianconeri have been representing dominant forces in their domestic leagues in the last decade. However, both sides are looking for a breakthrough in the strongest continental competition. Although they are yet to advance to the quarter-final, we have to consider them major contenders. You simply have to be among the closest favourites with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi in the squad. Any of the two best players of the modern era has the potential of making the difference in any game, against any opposition. Barcelona were brutally eliminated by the latter champions Liverpool in the last term semi-final despite winning the first leg 3-0 at the Camp Nou. Can Quique Setien guide the star-studded line-up to the much-wanted Champions League success?

The underdogs

We’ll complete the list with the likes who will hardly be able to stay competitive against the aforementioned heavyweights when it matters most. Debutants Atalanta are the most pleasant surprise of the whole competition. They made it to the quarter-final netting eight goals past Valencia in two last 16 round legs and despite losing each of the opening three group stage affairs. However, we can't imagine their leaky defense keeping hold of the main stars of the game.

RB Leipzig stormed past Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur 4-0 on aggregate in the last 16 stage. However, the lack of experience at this level and a slow spell of form in the latest phases of Bundesliga make them heavy underdogs in a potential match-up with the giants of the game. Chelsea are all but eliminated, while Lyon, Napoli, and Real Madrid will all have heavy challenges to even reach the quarter-final.

To sum it all up, we are in for a hot summer featuring the elite continental competition in the format we have never seen before. Stay tuned and enjoy your favourite game at its most thrilling.