ISTANBUL: UEFA plans to complete this season’s Champions League and Europa League competitions by playing all rounds from the quarter-finals onwards in one host city, according to Getafe president Angel Torres.
Both competitions were put on hold at the last-16 stage in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, with the Champions League final in Istanbul and the Europa League showpiece in Gdansk also being postponed.
“UEFA’s idea is to play the Champions League and Europa League, starting from the quarter-finals, across one match in one venue although nothing has been confirmed yet,” Torres told Spanish radio station Cadena COPE on Friday. “They will come to a decision on June 17 [when the executive committee meets].”
From the group stages onwards, each round of both competitions until the final are held across two matches, one being played at the home of each team.
UEFA said: “A working group has been set up with the participation of representatives from the leagues and clubs to examine calendar solutions and format options that would allow for the completion of the current season. A variety of options are being looked at and no decisions have been made at this stage.”
Getafe’s last-16 first leg match away to Inter Milan was postponed after fierce criticism led by Torres at the game going ahead in Italy, which at the time was the European epicentre of the pandemic.
Sevilla’s first leg match at home to AS Roma was also postponed, although the six other first leg games did take place.
The second legs of four Champions League last-16 ties still need to be played, while Atletico Madrid, Paris St Germain, Atalanta and RB Leipzig have already booked their places in the last eight.
ISTANBUL HOPES TO HOST ‘HISTORIC’ FINAL
Although no date has been announced for the resumption of games, the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) hopes the Champions League final will be played in August — the month when Istanbul is usually sunk into the hot and humid summer torpor.
The final was set to be held on Saturday at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium.
Today, the uncertainty reigns not only over the date of a possible resumption of the Champions League, suspended during the last 16, but also on the rest of the competition as speculation abounds whether will it return as normal, if there will be no return legs, or even if a “Final four” tournament will be staged.
“Whatever the scenario — final or mini-tournament — we are ready,” said the TFF, highlighting Turkey’s infrastructure and record against the pandemic.
Ankara claims to have brought “under control” the fatal virus which, according to official figures, has caused about 4,500 deaths among some 160,000 confirmed cases in the country.
In terms of infrastructure, Istanbul, a major tourist destination, has a large hotel fleet.
And in addition to the Ataturk Stadium, the city can make available the home grounds of Galatasaray, Fenerbahce and Besiktas, which hosted the UEFA Super Cup clinched by Liverpool against Chelsea last August.
“I would not expect any problems in terms of the logistics ... The main concern for me is whether fans would be able to come,” noted Emre Sarigul, co-founder of the specialised website Turkish Football.
“It is difficult to talk with certainty about anything regarding football right now because of how quickly the health situation can deteriorate,” he said.
Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2020