In this special version of the UEFA Champions League, the organizers have set up the remaining twelve contestants into an interesting draw following the conclusion of the last legs of previous play which are scheduled for the seventh and eighth of August. Indications are that the usual suspects might move on, but this delayed Champions League seems anything but straightforward.
The organizer’s choice to resume play in August allows all contenders a short break from domestic play and an opportunity to sort out and shore up deficiencies. It will also make next season feel longer what with 2021 domestic play following soon behind the conclusion of continental play, but with many teams still not fully fit, it might just be helpful to some to maintain a continuous level of fitness running into next season. This delayed Champions League could turn into an unexpectedly interesting competition.
Real Madrid must play at Etihad stadium trailing Manchester City 1-2 and their prize, should they win, will be to meet the winner of the Juventus-Lyon tie which the French side lead 1-0.
Leipzig have been drawn to play against Atletico Madrid and Atalanta will play PSG, but Napoli and Barcelona must still complete their tie which stands at 1-1 while Bayern Munich and Chelsea must complete theirs which the Germans lead 3-0.
The smart money has Man City beating Real Madrid, particularly as the Merengues will have key suspensions to navigate. Juventus look like moving on but Man City are revitalized since their drubbing of Liverpool and City coach, Pep Guardiola, seems hungry for some silver this summer. Atletico and PSG seem the stronger duo and will likely progress from their one-of matches. Barcelona should beat Napoli and Chelsea should find it difficult to come back against a galvanized Bayern who feel it is their year for a treble.
But the potential for all types of mischief abounds. What if Real Madrid’s La Liga run is for real and they can replicate their tenacity and good fortune on the continental stage? What if Juve’s recent embarrassing loss to AC Milan engenders the rallying cry they need to bring Cristiano Ronaldo back to Portugal to content for another trophy? Could Atletico see this silverware as their one achievement in this shortened year and translate their stellar domestic play into something more? Is Lionel Messi ready to inspire his side to a reversal of fortune? Will this be the year PSG puts it all together—ironically as they are about to become a team of another make-up after the competition? Any single one of these scenari0s could make this delayed Champions League something special, but imagine if a couple of them materialize.
Something tells me there may be more surprises in store for us all in the weeks ahead and that what seems likely outcomes today will not all be so when the dust settles.