champions league preview

UEFA Champions League Preview: Who is going to win this unique UCL campaign in Portugal’s capital?

With domestic football concluded, we turn our attention to the highly anticipated last instalment of the 2019/20 season. We provide a rundown of all things Champions League: the state of play, schedule, players and more…

When is the Champions League returning?

The round of 16 second leg ties on Tuesday March 10th and Wednesday March 11th, were the last fixtures to be played. Having been on hold since March 11th, the most prestigious competition in club football returns on Friday 7th August, with two of the four remaining second leg round of 16 fixtures: Juventus vs Lyon and Man City vs Real Madrid.

How are games being scheduled in the Champions League? 

With half the round of 16 fixtures completed in March, the remaining second legs for the round of 16 will take place on the 7th and 8th of August.

From there on in the knockout stage of Europe’s premier club competition will have an unusual dynamic: this season’s quarter-finals (12th – 15th August), semi-finals (18th – 19th August), and final (23rd August), will be played as a straight knockout tournament, replacing the sequence of fixtures that is normally followed beyond the last-16 stage of the competition. All these ties being single-leg fixtures, so, instead of two-legged quarter-finals and semi-finals followed by the final, the ‘final eight’ Champions League tournament will be a series of straight knockout ties.

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Are Champions League teams playing at their own stadiums?

Lisbon, Portugal will be the host of the 2020 Champions League ‘mini tournament’. They will play games in two venues: Estadio da Luz (home of Benfica) and Estadio Jose Alvalade (home of Sporting), with Estadio da Luz the venue for the final. The original venue for the final was at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul.

A decision was left pending on whether the remaining round of 16 second legs would take place at the home team’s stadium or in Portugal, but following a UEFA Executive Committee meeting on Thursday 9th July, it has now been confirmed that these games can be staged behind closed doors at the home team’s stadium: Turin, Manchester, Munich and Barcelona respectively.

What time will kick off be in the Champions League?

The second legs of the round of 16 fixtures will kick-off at the usual 8pm, and whilst the times haven’t been confirmed for the subsequent matches for the latter stages of the competition, we suspect it’ll be the same customary 8pm kick-off the Champions League has become synonymous with.

What is the state of play in the Champions League?

The Quarter-finals drawn on July 10th are as follows:

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Here is the Champions League draw in full! ✅🏆

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It means that at least one of this season’s Champions League finalists will be a team that has never won the competition.

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What have been the talking points in Champions League this season?

  • Tottenham 2-7 Bayern Munich. A game that will undoubtedly etch itself firmly amongst the list of classic Champions League games. One of the last nails in the coffin of Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs career, a night in Tottenham that once again proved, North London is red, no thanks to former Gunner Serge Gnabry, who brutally bagged four goals on the night, humiliating the Lilywhites.
  • New boys on the block. For the first time in their 112 year existence, Atalanta stepped foot into the Promised Land of the Champions League – and wow have they made their mark. It didn’t start in the manner they’d have hoped, losing their first three group games. Yet remarkably, thanks to an unbeaten in their next three group games, Atalanta somehow finished second, to Valencia’s dismay; who would later experience exactly why this Atalanta team are Champions League standard, beaten by the Italian outfit a staggering 8-4 on aggregate in the round of 16.
  • “Liverpool’s love affair with the European Cup [*dis*]continues…”. The reining Champions could not defend their continental crown, falling short to the Atletico antagonists. Or should I say antagonist Adrian…? Liverpool’s second choice goalkeeper played the round of 16 tie because of Alisson Becker injured, and it was because of the Spaniard’s two awful blunders that gifted Marcos Llorente an inexplainable brace, a brace that would send the six time European Champions out of the Champions League, having clawed so hard to bring the tie to extra time in the second leg.
  • Fairy-tale to failure. Last year’s semi-finalists Ajax, in which they appeased all the football romantics during their run-in to the semis, couldn’t even advance past this year’s group stages. They finished Group H in 3rd position on 10 points, one point behind the top two Valencia and Chelsea, despite winning the same amount of games (3). Only Napoli have been eliminated from the competition on more points, during the 2013/14 UEFA Champions League Napoli finished Group F 3rd on 12 points, the same as the top two Dortmund and Arsenal, but didn’t advance because of their inferior goal difference of +1; compared to Dortmund’s +5 and Arsenal’s +3. Fine margins.

Who are the top players in Champions League this season?

  • Robert Lewandowski (Bayern): If I was Robert Lewandowski, I’d be livid about the cancellation of this years Ballon d’Or, considering that the 2019/20 Bundesliga top scorer and joint 4th all time Champions League top scorer currently heads this years competition in goals and goal involvements with 11 and 13, respectively. The Pol is on course to become the first player not named Ronaldo or Messi to end as the competition’s top goal scorer for that season, since 2014/15 campaign when Neymar scored 10, making him the joint-top scorer, alongside, you guessed it… Ronaldo and Messi.
  • Toni Kroos (Real Madrid): Despite approaching the twilight of his career at 30 years of age, Toni Kroos continues to be the metronome of Real Madrid. Of the top ten in the Champions League who make the most passes per game, in which he sits 4th on 86.6, Kroos has the 2nd highest pass success percentage: 93.3%, 0.3% behind Manchester City’s Rodri. In fact, that pass success percentage is the 7th best in the entire competition, and the former Munich man sits joint first in the entire competition for crosses per game, 2.2, and better still, the German serial winner blasts the rest of the pack in terms of key passes per game, making the most at 4.4, an incredible 1.2 more than arguably the best midfielder in the world, Kevin De Bruyne.
  • Erling Haaland (Dortmund): What better stage than the grandest of them all is there to announce yourself to the world? The Norway forward completed a first-half hat-trick on his UEFA Champions League debut against Genk and registered in each of his first five outings. In his debut campaign in the Champions League, the now 20-year-old is the competitions 2nd top goal scorer this season, with ten goals (eight for RB Salzburg and two for Dortmund), deserving of his place in the Champions League breakthrough team of 2019.
  • Angel Di-Maria (PSG): The 2014 Champions League final UEFA Man of the Match not only has two goals this campaign, but sits joint-top of the assist charts with four, alongside: Hakim Ziyech, Riyad Mahrez and fellow PSG teammate Kylian Mbappe. Though the former United ‘flop’ has played the most minutes out of the aforementioned (583), he’s three years older than the oldest on that list, Riyad Mahrez, and is first in the Champions League in terms of through balls player per game with 0.9, proving class is permanent.

Can I bet on the Champions League matches behind-closed-doors?

Yes. At Mark Jarvis, we have over 130 different markets for each match in the Champions League. For Champions League markets, click here.

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Aman Ahmed is an Undergraduate at UCFB University studying Football Business & Media.

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