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Post COVID Champions League Return

The Champions League will return in August after a four-month suspension due to the outbreak of coronavirus. Domestic leagues have started to return slowly with new protocols as social distancing and health precautions remain in pace. Major changes have been made to the format and location of the Champions League in order to complete the tournament.

The Champions League has gone through a complete restructure and the remaining fixtures, and last four second legs of the round of 16, will be played out behind closed doors. The quarter final, semi-final and final are all scheduled to be played between the 12th and 23rd August. They will take place as a straight knockout tournament and in single legs, with the winner progressing straight to the next round. All games kicking off at 9 p.m. (CET). Draws for the forthcoming rounds will all take place in Nyon on July 10th.

However, the left-over ties from the last 16 still need to be completed between the 7th and 8th of August. These fixtures could be played out at the home team’s stadium but this has not been confirmed and, depending on the number of cases of coronavirus in a country or region, the fixtures could also take place in Lisbon.

If this format goes ahead, two of the big favourites, Manchester City and Real Madrid play at the Etihad with City leading the tie 2-1 on aggregate. Chelsea would travel to Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich, hoping to overturn a 3-0 deficit. Barcelona would also need to decide their 1-1 draw with Napoli at the Nou Camp, while Juventus will be hoping to stage a comeback as they trail Lyon 1-0 going into the second leg at the Allianz Stadium.

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Before football was suspended, Paris St Germain, RB Leipzig, Atletico Madrid and Atalanta progressed to the quarter finals. Atletico Madrid dramatically knocked out holders Liverpool in the last round, taking the Reds to extra time at Anfield and eventually progressing 3-2 on aggregate. PSG knocked out German giants Borussia Dortmund, Leipzig cruised past Tottenham with a 4-0 aggregate score over two legs. But the surprise package has been Atalanta. The Italian club knocked out La Liga side Valencia comfortably, scoring eight goals over the home and away legs so they could be the outsiders to make a run for the Champions League title.

All remaining fixtures will take place in Lisbon, Portugal, with fixtures either taking place at Benfica’s Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica or Sporting CP's Estádio José Alvalade. The stadiums are in close proximity and there is a high number of hotels in the city to accommodate teams and staff. The final was originally going to take place in Istanbul, Turkey, for the first time since 2005, but the Atatürk Olympic Stadium will now host the 2021 final.

As has become the norm in professional football over the past months, all fixtures will take place behind closed doors with no fans allowed into grounds and only a select number of staff permitted to enter the stadium. The five-substitution rule will also stay in place for the Champions League fixtures and teams can register an additional three players to their squads, as long as they were already registered for the club by the last UEFA deadline in February. However, this does not apply to newly transferred players, for example, Timo Wermer, although he already joined Chelsea from RB Leipzig, cannot play for the Blues in their Champions League games.

Although formal safety rules have not been announced, it is likely that players will undergo coronavirus testing before the tournament begins. Temperatures will also be taken before anyone enters the stadium, while the disinfectant of balls, goal posts, corner flags etc. will take place during games as the new Champions League mini-tournament gets under way in August.