UEFA Champions League: Back Already


European soccer leagues have been up and running for some time since the COVID break, but the overarching federation of European soccer, UEFA (Union of European Football Associations), which includes the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League, is set to begin group stage action in both leagues. The draft lottery has been completed and the schedules have been determined. Thirty-two teams qualify for each tournament, divided into eight groups where teams play each of their opponents twice. After that, the two teams with the most points from each group move on to the Round of 16.

Due to the shortened COVID timeline, last season’s dramatic Champions League final was less than two months ago. In that game, Bayern Munich of Germany defeated Paris Saint-Germain of France to win the most coveted club trophy in the soccer world, plus a handsome purse of over 100 million Euros. Kinsley Coman’s single goal gave Bayern their sixth Champions League win.

Many teams will be looking to go farther into the tournament than last season. Manchester City’s loss to lowly Olympic Lyon in the semifinals and Barcelona’s humiliating defeat to Bayern should be plenty of motivation for those squads. Red Bull Leipzig, Manchester United, and Atalanta will face fierce competition right at the beginning from their difficult group-mates. Others, like Manchester City and Chelsea, have easier group opposition and are almost guaranteed to move on to the elimination round.

Last year’s Europa League ended with a bang, as Sevilla won the tournament on an own goal by Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku in the final, while the surprise team of the tournament was the modest Shakhtar Donetsk of Ukraine, who made it all the way to the semifinals. Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s search for a trophy was ended by Luuk de Jong’s game winning goal for Sevilla in the seventy-eighth minute. In the upcoming Europa League, teams hope to lift the trophy and automatically qualify for the Champions League in the next season. Bayer Leverkusen, Tottenham Hotspur, and Leicester City will be hoping to win the competition and bring home the substantial cash prize.

European competition is a great chance for star players to display their amazing capabilities outside of their home leagues. Lionel Messi looked like he was going to depart from struggling Barcelona for the first time because of disagreements with the management. In the end, he stayed under new manager Ronald Koeman, who signed a two-year contract. This coach will have a chance to prove his critics wrong and win Barça their sixth Champions League trophy.

If he can recover from COVID quickly, superstar Cristiano Ronaldo will also have a chance to succeed under a new coach, as Juventus have ditched manager Maurizio Sarri for former club legend Andrea Pirlo, even after Sarri led his team to win the Italian league. The Juventus management will be hoping that they made the right choice and that Pirlo takes them far into the tournament.

The coronavirus pandemic has affected all aspects of the soccer world. While a limited number of fans are finally being allowed back into games, because of the lack of revenue from gate receipts, clubs have suffered terrible financial losses. The effects of these setbacks will certainly play a role in the upcoming January transfer window. Managers across Europe are facing selection challenges because of unfit players. Many players have been infected with coronavirus and some games have been moved or cancelled. Juventus’ Paulo Dybala and Cristiano Ronaldo, Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi, and AC Milan’s Zlatan Ibrahimović, among others, have all contracted the virus, while close games leave players with little rest in the adjusted schedules.

Champions League group stage action begins on October 20th and ends on the 9th of December. Meanwhile, the Europa League starts up on October 22nd, while the final group stage match takes place on December 10th. Make sure to follow all the soccer action throughout the tournaments!