By Andrew Warshaw
June 17 – This season’s Champions League, suspended in March at the last-16 stage because of the Covid-19 pandemic, will be completed with a mouth-watering eight-team knockout tournament held in Lisbon over 12 days in August, UEFA confirmed today following a meeting of its executive committee.
And although it is likely to be played behind closed doors, that is by no means 100% certain.
In an unprecedented move due to the need for a condensed programme, the eight quarter-finalists and four semi-finalists will play single knockout games at two venues in the Portuguese capital with extra time and penalties if necessary. Fixtures will begin on August 12 with the final on Sunday, August 23 .
Istanbul, the original host for this season’s final, will now stage the 2022 climax. The knock-on effect is that St Petersburg will get 2022, Munich 2023 and Wembley 2024.
A decision will be taken by July 10 as to whether the second legs of this season’s four unfinished last-16 ties, due to be played on August 7 and 8, can take place on home grounds or whether they, too, will be switched to Portugal. Atlético Madrid, RB Leipzig, Atalanta and Paris Saint-Germain have qualified for the last eight but the rest were unfinished when coronavirus forced football off the map.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said that obviously clubs due to host second legs “would prefer to play at home” but health, safety and quarantine arrangements would have to be taken into consideration.
The last eight of the Europa League will have a similar format, in Germany from August 10 to 21 but across four cities: Duisburg, Gelsenkirchen, Frankfurt and Cologne with last of those staging the final on Friday, August 21.
The polish city of Gdansk, originally due to host, will now stage the 2021 final.
“I am delighted that we are able to resume almost all of our competitions. I am confident that we will not have to endure the fans’ absence for long and that they will be allowed into stadiums sooner rather than later,” Ceferin told an on-line press conference.
“UEFA took a bold decision when it decided to postpone EURO 2020. But in doing so, we created the space which has allowed domestic club competitions across the continent to resume, where possible, and play to a conclusion.”
As a result of the new scheduling and delays caused by Covid-19, the qualifying phase of the 2020-21 Champions League, set to begin on August 8, will also be played as single-leg fixtures until the play-off phase.
Although matches are likely to be played behind closed doors in Portugal and Germany, Ceferin did not rule out a limited number of fans attending, saying UEFA would make a ruling by mid-July. It seems highly likely, if spectators are allowed in, that they would only be local.
“If I would answer today, we don’t think we could have spectators at the Champions League or Europa League finals, but things are changing rapidly,” Ceferin said.
“We will assess the situation at the beginning of July and we will see what the situation will be. It would be incompetent from us if we were to decide in advance about the situation.”
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