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Build-Up to Europe

Updated: Sep 8, 2020

The long-awaited return of European football is almost over. Between Europe’s two club competitions, there is a jam-packed schedule with 26 matches in the space of 19 days. The quarterfinals and semi-finals in both tournaments will be contested over single-leg ties, as opposed to the usual two-legged encounters. UCL matches are being staged in Portugal (final in Lisbon), whereas Europa games are due to take place in Germany (final in Cologne).

149 days since the last UEFA Champions League match, Friday 7 August sees Juventus host French side Olympique Lyon while Real Madrid visit the Etihad Stadium to take on Man City.

The following day Bayern Munich entertain Chelsea, and FC Barcelona face a tricky test against Italian outfit Napoli.

Four teams are already through to the UCL quarterfinals – Atalanta, Atletico Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and Red Bull Leipzig.

Real Madrid and Juve were crowned champions of their respective leagues this season and both have it all to play for in their UCL reverse legs. After capturing their 34th La Liga title, Zinedine Zidane’s Los Blancos will be looking to overturn the deficit against Pep Guardiola’s Man City. Madrid will be without captain Sergio Ramos, who was sent off in the first-leg at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium.

City meanwhile are without talisman Sergio Aguero who misses out through injury.

Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus have five goals apiece in the Champions League this season.

Juventus’s 9th successive Scudetto title was a first league triumph for 61-year-old manager Maurizio Sarri, however the Bianconeri have been in shoddy form recently – winning just 2 of their final 8 league games.

Heading into their match vs Lyon, Juve need a classic performance from Ronaldo and co.

The Italian champions recently appointed World Cup & Champions League winner Andrea Pirlo as their new U/23’s coach. As a player, Pirlo represented Juventus between 2011-2015.

Lyon ended their domestic season poorly finishing in 7th place and, in doing so, failed to qualify for continental football for the first time since 1996.

Barcelona have not been having it all their own way as of late and are on course for a trophy-less season for the first time in 12 years. Arturo Vidal will be unavailable for La Blaugrana after being dismissed in their first-leg encounter in Italy.

Opponents Napoli also did not have the best of league campaigns after finishing in 7th spot in the 19/20 Serie A. Dries Mertens has scored 6 goals in the UCL this season.

Napoli recently completed a mega-money move for 21-year-old Nigerian forward Victor Osimhen.

Bayern Munich head into their match with Chelsea with one foot already in the quarterfinals. Sharpshooter Robert Lewandowski leads the competition’s scoring charts with 11 goals so far for the Bavarians; Serge Gnabry has 8 goals to his name.

Ahead of their visit to Germany, the Blues have a 3-goal deficit to overturn if they are to progress further.

UCL Round of 16 first-leg scores:

Real Madrid 1-2 Man City

Lyon 1-0 Juventus

Napoli 1-1 Barcelona

Chelsea 0-3 Bayern Munich

UCL schedule:

12 August – Atalanta vs PSG (QF 4)

13 August – RB Leipzig vs Atletico Madrid (QF 2)

14 August – Barca / Napoli vs Bayern / Chelsea (QF 3)

15 August – Man City / Real Madrid vs Juventus / Lyon (QF 1)

18 August – SF 2 (Winner QF 2 vs Winner QF 4)

19 August – SF 1 (Winner QF 1 vs Winner QF 3)

23 August – Final

The UEFA Europa League resumes on Wednesday 5 & Thursday 6 August with the remaining Round of 16 games. Man Utd come into their return fixture with a comfortable lead over LASK (Austria). Swiss team FC Basel, as well as Bayer Leverkusen (Germany) and Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine) all hold advantages over their respective opponents ahead of their upcoming reverse-leg encounters.

Two ties did not contest a first-leg prior to lockdown, namely Inter Milan vs Getafe, & Sevilla vs Roma. These two ties will both be decided by a single-leg fixture in a neutral venue in Germany.

Man United are all but confirmed as UEL quarterfinalists having won 5-0 in the first-leg. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is likely to field a rotated side for the second-leg, with many youngsters in contention to get minutes under their belts.

Bruno Fernandes and Mason Greenwood have been in top scoring form in the competition – so far bagging six and five goals, respectively.

Wolves earned an away goal in their first-leg clash at Olympiacos which ended 1-1. Nuno’s team won 5 of their 9 games following the resumption of the league season, capping off a respectful 7th place Premier League finish.

Diogo Jota has the joint-highest goals (6) in this season’s Europa League. Wolves' hopes of European football for next season rest in winning the Europa League this season.

Bayer Leverkusen are in the front seat heading into their home leg tie with Steven Gerrard’s Rangers. Leon Bailey and Kai Havertz were both on target in Bayer’s 3-1 victory in Glasgow.

The Scottish side need to pull their weight if they have any hope of reaching the quarters. Nobody has scored more goals in Europa this season than Rangers striker Alfredo Morelos (6).

It is do or die for Getafe, Inter Milan, Roma & Sevilla as their fates will be decided over 90 minutes instead of 180. Inter have already qualified for Champions League football next season but Antonio Conte will be looking to win his first European title as a manager.

Sevilla, too, are confirmed to take part in the UCL next season. After finishing 4th in La Liga, they will want to finish their season as strongly as possible. Munir has scored 5 times in the UEL this season.

UEL Round of 16 first-leg scores:

Basaksehir 1-0 Copenhagen

Frankfurt 0-3 Basel

Getafe N/A Inter Milan

LASK 0-5 Man Utd

Olympiacos 1-1 Wolves

Rangers 1-3 Bayer 04

Roma N/A Sevilla

Wolfsburg 1-2 Shakhtar

UEL schedule:

10 August – Getafe / Inter vs Bayer Leverkusen / Rangers (QF 3)

LASK / Man Utd vs Basaksehir / Copenhagen (QF 2)

11 August – Olympiacos / Wolves vs Roma / Sevilla (QF 4)

Shakhtar / Wolfsburg vs Basel / Frankfurt (QF 1)

16 August – SF 2 (Winner QF 3 vs Winner QF 1)

17 August – SF 1 (Winner QF 4 vs Winner QF 2)

21 August – Final

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