During the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, a finish to the 2019/20 Champions League looked to be a long shot to happen.
We saw Liverpool lift the title last season, and a new name will be on the trophy this season. However, the situation has improved, domestic football has returned, and we now have a plan in place to finish the competition this season.
This plan involves games being played in August, with the culmination of the last-16 round that was interrupted, followed by seven games in 11 days to round off the quarter finals, semi-finals and final.
The timing is not perfect for some clubs and will have an impact on things but the main area to focus on here is that football is back and we will see a winner of the competition this season.
The new schedule is certainly different, but it is very simple.
Every game will be played in Lisbon, beginning with the remaining last-16 fixtures before we reach the quarter finals. From that stage, we will have seven games in 11 days as the tournament comes to a very quick ending, similar to the kind of scheduling we see at international events.
This means that teams will need to be at the top of their game for a period of just over a week, where three wins are needed to lift the trophy. Some will argue that it takes away some of the shine for the winners this season, but these are certainly not easy circumstances to win in.
It hasn’t yet been confirmed, but it is highly likely that fans will not be able to attend the games due to the risk of infection spreading between them and going back to different countries after the games.
This is hard to say because we don’t know when next season will begin domestically.
The leagues finishing this season, the Premier League, Serie A and La Liga will all finish at the end of July, so players will be in peak fitness ahead of the Champions League.
In Germany, the Bundesliga is set to finish at the end of June, meaning over one month without competitive games for their teams. They could restart next season at the end of August, meaning the Champions League would fall during pre-season for the likes of Bayern Munich.
We also have leagues that have already ended to consider, with PSG for example who play in Ligue 1. They haven’t played competitively since March and will more than likely be in pre-season when the Champions League returns, so it is going to be fascinating to see how they cope with the demands of high quality football.
With the last-16 games still to be completed, we don’t have a definite last eight just yet. Despite that betting is available and it is dominated by an England and German club, the teams who we have just spoken about having very different build ups to this.
Manchester City and Bayern Munich are the two favourites, but with clubs such as PSG, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus behind them in the betting, it shows the quality remaining.
Betting on the action will be strong as it always is with this competition with many people wagering with their favourite bookmaker. Bet365 offer generous bonuses for new customers that sign up with them and these can be used on Champions League matches.
When the last eight is known we will have a fixed betting list available, but for now, Manchester City and Bayern Munich are dominating things with fans ahead of the games in August.