5 teams that could benefit from the format change | UEFA Champions League 2019-20
- A look at five sides who stand to benifit because of the truncated format of the 2019-20 Champions League.
- The Champions League is set to resume on 7th August.
With the world slowly returning to normal after a three-month global shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the footballing world has led the way in helping to achieve a semblance of normalcy. After several major leagues across Europe resumed in the last few weeks, it is now the turn of the Champions League to follow suit.
At the height of the pandemic, there was widespread confusion about when or indeed if the 2019-20 footballing season could be completed, with football understandably taking a backseat, while more pressing needs took the front burner.
However, thanks to the superhuman efforts of medical practitioners around the world, the green light was given for the resumption of footballing activities. Understandably, stringent measures have been put in place to ensure that matches can be played in a safe manner to avoid nullifying the gains made in the fight against the deadly virus.
The German Bundesliga was the first mainstream league to restart and it has since been followed by La Liga, the Premier League, Austrian Bundesliga among others. The Italian Serie A is expected to follow suit after having wrapped up proceedings in the Coppa Italia.
Given the logistics involved in hosting continental competitions, the UEFA Champions League and indeed Europa League were under genuine threat of not being concluded. But having overseen the successful test-run in major European leagues over the last three weeks, the continental governing body came out with plans to conclude this season's competition over a 16-day period.
The Champions League is expected to restart on August 7, with the four games yet to be decided likely to be played at their original venues. From then on, it will enter a 'mini-tournament' format, with quarterfinal ties to be played from August 12-15 in straight knockout fixtures, the semifinals taking place on August 18-19 and the final on August 23.
This truncated version of the Champions League would do away with the established home-and-away fixtures, with all ties to be decided in Lisbon in a 'World Cup format'. While it might seem strange to the more traditional fans of the Champions League, these are desperate times and desperate measures had to be taken with an eye on next season's calendar as well.
Expectedly, this change in format could play to the advantage of some teams left in the hat. On that note, we take a rundown of five sides who stand to benefit from this change in the Champions League.
Five teams that could benifit in the revamped 2019-20 Champions League:
#5: RB Leipzig
If you had offered Leipzig a quarterfinal ticket to the Champions League at the start of the season, the German team would have grabbed it with both hands. But as things stand now, they are perhaps best positioned to take advantage of the Champions League's change in format.
The Red Bull-owned side have taken giant strides since gaining promotion to the Bundesliga for the first time in 2015. Under the management of the tactically savvy Julen Nagelsmann, they have scaled even greater heights.
Having easily dispatched Tottenham Hotspur in the Round-of-16, the German team would have considered themselves lucky to go beyond their next opponents but they have been handed a huge lifeline in the form of the revamped Champions League format.
With the elimination of away ties, Leipzig have the advantage of being underdogs with nothing to lose. They are usually at their devastating best when allowed to play on the front foot, knowing there is no away tie to keep them in check.
Furthermore, the fact that the Bundesliga would round up almost a month before other mainstream leagues means that Leipzig would be relatively fresher then their opponents who would be coming off the back of gruelling league fixtures.
Like Leipzig, Atalanta are another side that have nothing to lose in the Champions League. They are basically punching above their weight by being in the quarterfinal of the most prestigious club competition in the world.
Earlier in the season, the competition debutants became the first team in Champions League history to reach the knockout round after losing their first three games.
Le Dea are arguably the best pound-for-pound side in the world today. With their shackles unleashed in single-legged ties, they would fancy their chances of causing upsets in the knockout rounds, safe in the knowledge that they can outscore any side on the continent on their day.
Having overcome the Round of 16 barrier to reach the Champions League quarterfinals, PSG would benefit greatly from the changed format of the competition. This is because they have often been at the receiving end of disastrous away results in knockout Champions League fixtures in recent years against the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester City.
If Thomas Tuchel can keep his players fit (read Neymar), the Parisians could go all the way, in the Champions League. Although in this regard, the French's government's ill-advised decision to end Ligue 1 prematurely could rob PSG players of much-needed match fitness.
#2: Atletico Madrid
Diego Simeone deserves praise for his remarkable transformation of Atletico Madrid since taking over the reins of the club in 2011. But for all the giants strides taken by Los Colchoneros since then, the Champions League trophy is conspicuous by its absence in their trophy cabinet.
It is not for want of trying though, and Atleti have inarguably been one of the most consistent sides not to have gotten their hands on the Champions League in the last six years. The Rojiblancos made two final appearances and had one semifinal elimination in the Champions League during this period.
The Spaniards are the masters of the 'dark arts', and they know how to get the job done when it matters most. Previous big scalps like Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Chelsea and most recently Liverpool all serve as proof of Atletico Madrid's prowess. Their defensive solidity and positional awareness are perfectly suited for the truncated Champions League format.
#1: Bayern Munich
With or without a changed Champions League format, Bayern Munich were flat-out favourites for the competition. Domestically, they overcame a wobbly start to their campaign to romp their way to yet another Bundesliga title.
For those who might snicker that the German league is not the toughest of leagues, it is pertinent to note that the Bavarians also ran roughshod over both Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur earlier in the campaign. In Robert Lewandowski, they have by far the most lethal marksman in all of Europe at the moment.
With the Bundesliga wrapped up and the DFB Pokal soon to follow, Bayern Munich can turn their full attention to the Champions League where they first have the small matter of wrapping up proceedings against Chelsea in the Round of 16 before attempting to win a sixth Champions League crown.Published 18 Jun 2020, 04:46 IST