Five major changes in UEFA Champions League that you should know about
- A look at the major changes made by the UEFA ahead of the UCL restart.
- The final of the Champions League will be played on August 23.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that has fiercely struck almost every part of the world, football is one discipline that is on course to resumption through a step-by-step process.
The Bundesliga was the first top-flight competition to resume their season, followed by the La Liga and now, the Premier League. They have kept the league and government protocols in mind, and it is safe to say that it has been a massive success so far.
The above holds significance to the domestic stage where players travel within the country's limits. There was considerable doubt over how the European matches would be conducted, but UEFA have finally given the green light to start the much-awaited Champions League.
Naturally, they have altered the regulations to a reasonable extent to ensure a smooth flow of the competition alongside the safety of all involved. Europe's elite competition is slated to commence on August 7, kicking-off with the remaining round of 16-second leg fixtures. Without further delay, let's look at the five significant changes in the forthcoming UCL.
#1 Remaining last-16 may be played at original venues
The four remaining round of 16 matches have been scheduled for August 7 and 8. UEFA have confirmed that all these matches may take place at their original venues as per the usual system.
This surely would bring equity between the two sides playing the fixture, as appointing a neutral venue for the second leg after one team has already enjoyed its home advantage would be unfair.
If need be, the Estadio do Dragao in Porto, and the Estadio D. Afonso Henriques in Guimaraes will serve as hosts to the round of 16 matches.
Half of the ties have been conducted successfully before the outbreak, with Paris Saint-Germain, Atletico Madrid, RB Leipzig and Atalanta already having booked their spot in the last eight.
The remaining round comprises 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). As always in the first round of UCL knockouts, there are upsets expected, where the unthinkable becomes a real possibility.
#2 All matches from the quarter-finals to be held in Lisbon
All matches after that, starting from the quarter-finals to the final match-up will be held in Lisbon. The last eight are to be held from 12-15 August, while semi-finals will take place on August 18 and 19. The most anticipated match, the final, will be staged on August 23.
These set of games will be split between Benfica's Estadio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica and Sporting CP's Estadio Jose Alvalade.
This would bring about a neutral venue right from the quarters, in turn, avoiding travel and enhancing safety measures. Each of these fixtures will kick off at 21:00 CET. (00:30 IST)
#3 No second legs in quarters or semis
Again, in order to avoid the hassles of traveling and adding to the danger of the spread of the coronavirus, UEFA has announced that there would be no second legs in the quarter-final and semi-final rounds.
On their website, the European football union wrote:
"The 2019/20 UEFA Champions League quarter-finals, semi-finals and final will be played as a straight knockout tournament in Lisbon, Portugal in August. All these ties will be single-leg fixtures."
This means teams will have a shorter tournament of course, but the weight of every fixture will be doubled given that there is no home advantage in one leg or another. Every encounter, simply put, will be like a cup final.
Neutrals would be delighted at this news as it undoubtedly adds to the urgency and excitement of the contest.
#4 Key amendments to regulations for club competitions
Due to the absence of competitive football for over three months, players have and will face challenges concerning their fitness levels heading into a busy round of matches.
As a result of the same, all the domestic leagues have allowed teams to use up to five substitutes with UEFA set to follow suit.
They have also decided to allow teams to register three new players on their List A for the rest of the ongoing season. Teams must, however, keep in mind that these players should be eligible and already enrolled under the previous registration deadline. (February 3, 2020)
Newly-transferred players will not be eligible to play, while List A can hold a maximum of 25 players only. UEFA also announced that for the 2020/21 term, only three substitutions will be permitted.
#5 Medical protocols and next UCL finals
Fundamental principles of medical protocol such as disinfecting the venues and providing masks to the substitutes and staff will be followed. Furthermore, a detailed plan to keep the coronavirus in check will be finalized and announced soon.
UEFA also confirmed that they would regularly assess the continental situation with each passing fixture and also liaise with local authorities to learn more about fans returning to stadiums.
Lastly, UEFA also charted out a list of venues that will host the finals for the next five years. The most notable addition is that of Istanbul, a stage that was supposed to take charge of the current season's final.
The list of venues are as follows:
2020: Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica, Lisbon, Portugal
2021: Atatürk Olympic Stadium, Istanbul, Turkey
2022: Saint Petersburg Stadium, Saint Petersburg, Russia
2023: Football Arena Munich, Munich, Germany
2024: Wembley Stadium, London, EnglandPublished 17 Jun 2020, 23:16 IST