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European Football returns: All you need to know

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The curtain has been drawn on the major leagues in Europe with the La Liga, Serie A, and the Premier League coming to an end over the last few weeks.

Now the race for major 2019-20 European club honours is about to restart.

After a five-month delay because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Champions League and Europa League will be back on our screens this week with lots of packed action and excitement.

For the English teams still representing in Europe, Manchester City and Chelsea will compete in the Champions League, Manchester United, Wolves and Rangers will continue their quest in the Europa League.

About 26 games will be played over two and a half weeks with the tale of European football finally coming to an end with the Champions League final in Lisbon on 23 August, two days after the Europa League final in Cologne.

The journey so far

Drama ensued on the 11th of March, which was the last Champions League matchday before football got suspended. Current holders Liverpool were eliminated by Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid. Paris St-Germain also overcame Borussia Dortmund to move into the quarter-finals.

Atletico and PSG joined Champions League debutants Atalanta and German side RB Leipzig in the last eight.

But there are still four last-16 ties to be completed, including Manchester City against record 13-time winners Real Madrid.

Pep Guardiola’s side edge the tie on aggregate (2-1) currently going into Friday’s second leg at Etihad Stadium.

On the same evening, Italian champions Juventus will attempt to overturn a 1-0 deficit against Ligue 1 side Lyon in Turin.

Chelsea will travel to Germany to face Bayern Munich on Saturday, with the Bundesliga winners firm favourites to progress after a commanding 3-0 victory at Stamford Bridge.

The other match between La Liga runners-up Barcelona and Serie A’s Napoli at the Nou Camp is poised at 1-1 after the first leg.

The Europa League, however, restarts on today, Wednesday, 5th of August 2020. It currently still has a few last-16 matches to be wrapped up – with Manchester United’s game against LASK at Old Trafford being one of four fixtures on that night. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side holds a 5-0 advantage from the first leg in Austria.

Rangers and Wolves both return to European action on Thursday. Steven Gerrard’s side travels to Germany looking to overturn a 3-1 first-leg deficit against Bayer Leverkusen, while Wolves host Greek champions Olympiakos at Molineux with the tie 1-1.

All remaining games in both competitions will be played behind closed doors amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Single legs, neutral venues

UEFA has already announced a new format to get the remainder of the season’s European competitions to the finish line as opposed to previous editions.

From the quarter-finals till the finals, all Champions League and Europa League ties will be single-leg affairs and played at two venues in Lisbon from 12-23 August and venues across Germany, including Dusseldorf, Gelsenkirchen, Duisburg and Cologne respectively.

Current season and qualification for next season takes place same time

The start of the qualifying stages for the 2020-21 Champions League will kick off this week.

While Chelsea face Bayern Munich, and Barcelona host Napoli in the 2019-20 edition – the preliminary round for the following season’s competition begins.

Northern Ireland’s Linfield are among the four clubs involved.

The draw for the first and second qualifying rounds of the 2020-21 Champions League will take place on 9 and 10 August respectively.

Scottish champions Celtic and Connah’s Quay Nomads, champions of the Welsh Premier League, are among the teams involved in the first qualifying round draw.

The draw for the preliminary round and first qualifying round of the 2020-21 Europa League also takes place on 9 and 10 August.

Possibility of eight English teams in Europe next season

Arsenal winning the Emirates FA Cup has brought about the talk of the possibility of seeing eight Premier League teams in Europe next season.

The Gunners came from behind to beat Chelsea 2-1 at Wembley in the final of the FA Cup on Saturday and automatically qualify for the Europa League next season.

Premier League winners, Liverpool alongside Manchester City, Manchester United, and Chelsea will also compete in the Champions League group stage – with Leicester City guaranteed a place in the Europa League group stage after finishing fifth in the Premier League.

Tottenham Hotspur will have to compete for a spot in the Europa League next season’s second qualifying round as the sixth-placed team because second-placed Manchester City won the Carabao Cup.

For this to be a possibility, Wolverhampton Wanderers will have to win the Europa League and in doing so, England gets eight places in Europe – five in the Champions League [Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Wolves] and three in the Europa League [Leicester, Arsenal, Tottenham].

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