This season’s Champions League competition has gone into limbo as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage across the planet, leaving a distraught sporting world in its wake.
The competition, which is regarded as the elite European contest of the football world, is halfway through. With 12 teams left in the tournament, only four have so far made it through to the quarterfinals.
They are Atalanta, who beat Valencia 4-3 on aggregate; Atletico Madrid who beat Liverpool 3-2; Paris Saint-Germain who beat Dortmund 3-0, and RB Leipzig who beat Tottenham Hotspur 4-0.
But the Coronavirus outbreak has prevented any further matches being played, leaving the other eight teams high and dry pending the results of their second leg fixtures, if and when they can take place. The teams are Manchester City who is 2-1 up after their first meeting; Juventus, who trail Lyon 1-0; Barcelona, who are level with Napoli with one goal apiece, and Bayern Munich who lead Chelsea by 3-0.
Former Chelsea and England player, Shaun Wright Philips, said in a recent interview that he thought that Chelsea had the quality to win the tournament if they got the luck of the draw. But when they came out of the hat to face Bayern Munich, it was a bad draw for the South Londoners Bayern are on superb form and are on top of the Bundesliga table. They are tough opponents and the return fixture in Germany will almost certainly prove to be a bridge too far for Chelsea.
But, who knows what effect the Coronavirus enforced suspension will have on teams and players? Some clubs have had infections confirmed and have been forced to self-isolate. While others may not have any confirmed infections, they will self-isolate anyway to decrease the likelihood of players spreading the virus among their squads.
When they do get to play again after such a long layoff, form and fortunes may change.
Last Tuesday, on the 17th of March, UEFA said that they were discussing various options with regard to continuing the Champions League competition. Ideally, they want both the Champions and Euro League finals to be played by the end of June. At this point in time, that is beginning to look like wishful thinking.
It has already been decided and announced that the Euro 2020 nation tournament will be postponed by 12 months. UEFA intends to give priority to domestic leagues. In the meantime, they have set up a working group to keep close tabs on the situation as it changes over the coming weeks and months.
In the UK, the Premier League season has been put on hold until the 30th of April at the earliest. It is therefore quite improbable that any European fixture will take place before that date.
The target for the Champions League is for the competition to reach a conclusion with a last-four knockout tournament taking place in one city over a four-day period. To date, the games have been played in 12 cities across Europe. It means that Istanbul, which was already due to host the final, will now host the final knockout games as well,
Prior to this, the remaining eight games of the last 16 have to be played. The quarterfinals are likely to be in a single-game format, played at neutral grounds so no one team is disadvantaged. At this stage of course, with the COVID-19 pandemic still accelerating, this is all sheer speculation.