Lisbon to host Champions League mini-tournament

Lisbon will host this season’s Champions League final on Aug. 23 after UEFA confirmed that the final stages of the 2019-20 competition will be held in the Portuguese capital between August 12 and 23, rather than Istanbul as originally planned.

Following a meeting of UEFA’s executive committee on Wednesday, it has also been announced that the Champions League will be completed as a mini-competition from the quarterfinal onward, with Benfica’s Estadio da Luz and Sporting’s Estadio Jose Alvalade being used to stage the games.

The round-of-16 matches will be completed Aug. 7-8, and if possible will be played at the ground of the home club. However, if this is not possible the games will be played in Portugal, with the homes of Porto and Guimaraes being made available. Manchester City are due to host Real Madrid at the Etihad in the return leg, while Chelsea are scheduled to go to Munich to face Bayern. The draw for the remaining rounds will be held on July 10.

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin said: “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.

“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. While the game has suffered huge difficulties as a result of the pandemic, those blows would have landed much harder if we had not shown leadership in those early days.”

With both the Champions League and Europa League competitions suspended before completion of the round of 16 in March because of the coronavirus pandemic, UEFA has been forced to implement emergency measures in order to complete the two tournaments later this summer.

It is reported that Istanbul, which was due to host the Champions League final for the first time since 2005, had expressed reservations last month about staging the game because of the pandemic, which has led to ongoing restrictions of international travel into Turkey.

And with UEFA deciding that the best way to conclude this year’s Champions League was by staging a mini-tournament in one city, Istanbul stood down as host, leaving Lisbon to step in.

Istanbul will now host the 2021 final. Next year’s original host, St. Petersburg, Russia, will instead be the site in 2022.

The close proximity of Lisbon’s two stadiums — both built to host games at Euro 2004 — and ease of travel within a city with a high number of hotels make it well-equipped to accommodate eight squads and stage this summer’s mini-tournament.

When asked about the prospect of fans being able to attend the Champions League or Europa League finals, Ceferin said: “If I answer today, I don’t think spectators will be at the Champions League quarterfinals, semifinals or final, but things are changing rapidly. A month ago, I wasn’t even sure if we would play the competitions, but now we will do it, hopefully.

Benfica’s Estádio da Luz could host this season’s final.

“We haven’t decided yet about fans or not. We will assess at the beginning of July. It would be incompetent for us to decide in advance about an uncertain situation.”

Lisbon hosted the Champions League final as recently as 2014, when Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo scored in Real Madrid’s 4-1 victory over Atletico Madrid at Estadio da Luz.

Meanwhile, the Europa League quarterfinals, semifinals and the final will be played as an eight-team knockout tournament in the German cities of Cologne, Duisburg, Dusseldorf and Gelsenkirchen between Aug. 10-21.

As with the Champions League, the round of 16 ties could also be completed in Germany if teams are unable to play at home. Manchester United and Wolves are due to face LASK and Olympiakos respectively in England. The ties Inter Milan vs. Getafe and Sevilla FC vs. AS Roma will be one-legged, with the venue to be confirmed.

UEFA also confirmed that teams in both competitions can add three players to their squads for the remaining matches, though the players must be already registered at the club.

The UEFA Super Cup, between the winners of the two European competitions, takes place in Budapest on Sept. 24.

There are also changes to the format for 2020-21, with qualifying single-legged knockout ties for all rounds — other than the Champions League playoff round, which remains two-legged. The home team will be drawn for each tie. The group stages will begin on Oct. 20 and be completed before the end of the year.

UEFA Champions League 2020/21

Preliminary round: Aug. 8 and 11
First qualifying round: Aug. 18/19
Second qualifying round: Aug. 25/26
Third qualifying round: Sept. 15/16
Play-offs: Sept. 22/23 and 29/30
Group stage: Oct. 20/21 and 27/28, Nov. 3/4 and 24/25, Dec. 1/2 and 8/9

UEFA Europa League 2020/21

Preliminary round: Aug. 20
First qualifying round: Aug. 27
Second qualifying round: Sept. 17
Third qualifying round: Sept. 24
Play-offs: Oct. 1
Group stage: Oct. 22 and 29; Nov. 5 and 26; Dec. 3 and 10

The Women’s Champions League will be completed Aug. 21-30 in Spain, also as single-legged games. Matches will be split between San Sebastian and Bilbao.

Arsenal are the only English team still in the competition, and winning the tournament offers their only opportunity to compete in it again next year as they finished outside the top two in this season’s FA Women’s Super League.

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