Continental competition returns for four Premier League clubs
The 2019/20 Champions League and Europa League campaigns resume this week; we take a look at the four English clubs’ chances of progressing to the finals competitions in Portugal and Germany.
The Champions League and Europa League were brought to a sudden halt in March when Europe began to lock-down to minimise the spread of the coronavirus. The competitions are now able to restart behind closed doors, although only the remaining round-of-16 fixtures will be held in the clubs’ stadiums.
The quarter finals, semi-finals, and final of the Champions League will be held in Lisbon, while the Europa League finals will take place in Cologne, Duisburg, Düsseldorf and Gelsenkirchen. To reduce the amount of time needed to complete the tournaments, those ties will be decided with a single match.
All four English sides still involved in European competition have a second leg of their last-16 tie to contend with before they make it to the finals stage which will begin on 10 August. Here’s the situation that Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United and Wolverhampton Wanderers find themselves in for the restart.
Next game: Real Madrid (H), Friday 7 August (21:00 CEST)
Pep Guardiola’s men may have been a distant second in the Premier League this season but they are the current favourites for the Champions League after an impressive 1-2 victory at the Santiago Bernabéu in their last outing in Europe. They have been in imperious form at the Etihad Stadium since the restart, winning all of their six matches there and keeping five clean sheets. They will however be without Sergio Agüero for the return leg with the Argentinian hoping to be fit for the latter stages. He will only have a week before a prospective quarter-final meeting with the winner of Juventus and Olympique Lyon.
The Champions League is the one prize that has eluded City in recent years, a semi-final appearance under Manuel Pellegrini in 2015/16 their best performance to date. They have been eliminated at the quarter-final stage in the last two seasons under Guardiola, who has not lifted the Champions League since 2011.
The picture is decidedly less optimistic for Chelsea who have a mountain to climb against Bayern Munich in their second-leg tie. The German giants, who recently clinched an eighth consecutive Bundesliga title, were 0-3 victors at Stamford Bridge back in March and are second-favourites to win the whole competition. The winner of this tie will face either Napoli or Barcelona in the next round.
Chelsea will be praying for another miracle in Munich, the venue for their Champions League triumph in 2012 against the same opposition. The Bundesliga season ended in June and Bayern have not played a competitive fixture since the DFB-Pokal final a month ago, so may be lacking a bit of match sharpness for the game. However Chelsea are without Christian Pulisic who has been so impressive in recent months, after the American picked up a hamstring injury in his side’s FA Cup final defeat last Saturday.
Another Manchester club tipped to go far in Europe, United are the favourites for this season’s Europe League and a 5-0 first-leg victory over LASK leaves them on the brink of a place in the quarter finals. Assuming there is no catastrophic reversal at Old Trafford, United will face either Turkish champions Istanbul Basaksehir or Copenhagen in the next round.
United last entered the Europa League in 2016/17 when they won the competition under former boss José Mourinho. If they can do the same this year it would be Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first piece of silverware since his return to the club. The Norwegian can call upon one of the Europa League’s top performers in Bruno Fernandes who has recorded six goals and four assists in this season’s competition, the bulk of which came with Sporting Clube.
Wolves’ first season in European competition since the mid-1990s began on 25 July 2019 with a 2-0 victory over Northern Irish side Crusaders in the second qualifying round. Over a year later and they find themselves going into the second-leg of their last-16 meeting with Olympiacos with the score tied at 1-1. Wolves went a goal behind in Greece but after picking up an away goal they know that a victory or a clean sheet will be enough to see them through to the finals in Germany.
23-year-old forward Diogo Jota has not always started for Wolves this season but hat-tricks against Besiktas and Espanyol leave him tied with Fernandes on six goals and he seems likely to start at Molyneux on Thursday. If they do progress they face a tough game in the quarter-finals, playing the winner of Sevilla and Roma.
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