Europe’s biggest clubs begin their quest for the holy grail, the UEFA Champions League, on Tuesday (October 20). The prestige and glory associated with the title remains intact, but the competition has introduced some regulations in the light of the ‘new normal’ that the world is facing.
Bayern Munich were crowned champions of the continent less than two months ago. They haven’t had too long to celebrate as they open their title defence against Atletico Madrid on Wednesday. The late finish to last season has not only reduced the gap with the new season, it has also curtailed the time between two ties in this campaign.
After football resumed after months of hiatus, UEFA was forced to stage the tournament, quarterfinals onwards, behind closed doors in Lisbon. The last-eight and last-four stage matches were one-off affairs, and were not played on a home-and-away basis as would have been the case under normal circumstances. The competition finished almost three months behind schedule.
UEFA says the season “will be played out in its entirety, in its existing (traditional) format with the final in Istanbul” on May 29 next year. The Turkish city was due to host the showpiece game last season before the pandemic intervened.
The six rounds of group games that begin on Tuesday are scheduled to be over on December 9, i.e., in eight weeks. In contrast, last season’s group stage ran for a week short of three months. The Round of 16 ties will be held in February-March with the quarterfinals in the first half of April and the semifinals in late April and early May.
UEFA will allow fans at stadiums “at a maximum of 30 per cent of capacity”, but whether spectators are allowed is dependent on local administrations.
As was the case with ‘Project Restart’ at the end of last season, five substitutions will be allowed per team in a match. A sixth will be allowed if a knockout game goes into extra time. But there will be only three opportunities to make substitutions (four if there’s extra time). There can be a maximum of 12 players on the substitutes’ bench.
Andrea Pirlo, Lionel Messi and Neymar will all be hoping to be the stars of opening night as the UEFA Champions League returns on Tuesday.
Tuesday’s fixtures (click for live build-up)
Group E: Rennes vs Krasnodar (21:00CET)
Group E: Chelsea vs Sevilla (21:00CET)
Group F: Zenit vs Club Brugge (18:55CET)
Group F: Lazio vs Dortmund (21:00CET)
Group G: Dynamo Kyiv vs Juventus (18.55CET)
Group G: Barcelona vs Ferencváros (21:00CET)
Group H: Paris vs Man. United (21:00CET)
Group H: Leipzig vs Başakşehir (21:00CET)
Rennes vs Krasnodar
Rennes: Gomis; Traoré, Da Silva, Aguerd, Dalbert Estevão; Nzonzi, Camavinga, Doku, Bourigeaud, Terrier; Guirassy
Out: Maouassa (ankle), Lea Siliki (adductor)
Krasnodar: Safonov; Petrov, Martynovich, Kaio, Cristian Ramírez; Utkin, Gazinski, Vilhena; Claesson, Berg, Suleymanov
Out: Ari (knee), Wanderson (thigh), Stotski (knee), Cabella (illness), Markov (illness)
Chelsea vs Sevilla
Chelsea: Mendy; Azpilicueta, Thiago Silva, Zouma, Chilwell; Jorginho, Kanté; Pulišić, Havertz, Mount; Werner
Out: Marcos Alonso (suspended), Gilmour (knee)
Doubtful: Ziyech (knee), Mendy (thigh)
Sevilla: Bounou; Navas, Gómez, Carlos, Acuña; Fernando, Rakitić, Jordan; Ocampos, Suso, De Jong
Out: Koundé (illness)
Doubtful: Escudero (hip), Idrissi (unspecified)
Lazio vs Dortmund
Lazio: Strakosha; Patric, Acerbi, Luiz Felipe; Marušić, Milinković-Savić, Lucas Leiva, Luis Alberto, Fares; Correa, Immobile
Out: Lazzari (thigh), Radu (thigh), Pereira (fever)
Doubtful: Cataldi (illness), Luiz Felipe (ankle)
Dortmund: Bürki; Piszczek, Hummels, Delaney; Meunier, Bellingham, Witsel, Guerreiro; Reus; Sancho, Haaland
Out: Akanji (illness), Can (suspended), Schmelzer (knee), Schulz (thigh), Zagadou (knee)
Doubtful: Piszczek (eye)
Zenit vs Club Brugge
Zenit: Kerzhakov; Karavaev, Lovren, Rakits’kyy, Zhirkov; Erokhin, Ozdoev, Barrios, Kuzyaev; Azmoun, Dzyuba
Out: Douglas Santos (suspended), Malcom (knee)
Club Brugge: Horvath; Sobol, Ricca, Mechele, Mata; Balanta, Vanaken, Vormer, Rits, Lang; Diatta
Out: Mignolet (illness), Koussounou (illness), Krmenčík (illness), Mitrović (foot), Deli (suspended)
Dynamo Kyiv vs Juventus
Dynamo Kyiv: Bushchan; Kędziora, Zabarnyi, Popov, Mykolenko; Sydorchuk, Shaparenko; Tsygankov, Buyalskiy, De Pena; Supryaha
Out: Tymchyk (adductor)
Juventus: Szczęsny; Danilo, Bonucci, Chiellini; Cuadrado, Rabiot, Bentancur, Ramsey, Kulusevski; Morata, Dybala
Out: De Ligt (shoulder), Ronaldo (illness), McKennie (illness), Alex Sandro (thigh)
Doubtful: Ramsey (undisclosed)
Barcelona vs Ferencváros
Barcelona: Neto; Dest, Piqué, Lenglet, Junior; Pjanić, De Jong, Messi, Coutinho, Fati; Griezmann
Out: Alba (Hamstring) Ter Stegen (match fitness)
Doubtful: Umtiti (unspecified)
Ferencváros: Dibusz; Lovrencsics, Blažič, Kovačević, Ćivić; Sigér, Kharatin, Somália; Zubkov, Isael, Nguen
Paris vs Man. United
Paris: Navas; Florenzi, Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Bakker; Herrera, Danilo, Gueye; Di María, Mbappé, Neymar
Out: Bernat (knee), Icardi (knee), Kehrer (groin), Paredes (thigh), Verratti (thigh)
Doubtful: Draxler (hamstring)
Man. United: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelöf, Tuanzebe, Shaw; Matić, Pogba, Mata, Bruno Fernandes, Rashford; Martial
Out: Maguire (unspecified), Greenwood (unspecified), Cavani (match fitness), Bailly (unspecified), Lingard (unspecified)
Doubtful: Tuanzebe (foot)
Leipzig vs Başakşehir
Leipzig: Gulácsi; Orbán, Upamecano, Halstenberg; Mukiele, Kampl, Adams, Angeliño; Olmo, Forsberg; Poulsen
Out: Sabitzer (thigh), Laimer (knee), Klostermann (knee), Hartmann (knee), Haidara (illness)
Başakşehir: Mert Günok; Rafael, Škrtel, Epureanu, Bolingoli; İrfan Kahveci, Mahmut Tekdemir, Aleksić, Višća; Crivelli, Demba Ba
Out: Azubuike (unspecified), Chadli (unspecified), Kaldırım (unspecified)