After halt of almost five months, the Uefa Champions League and Europa League resume this week to clear up the last remaining business in a troubled season.
Both competitions were frozen in March as the coronavirus pandemic took hold across the continent, and while European football’s governing body acted swiftly to move Euro 2020 back a year, for a long time it was unclear how it would manage to complete its two landmark club competitions.
In the end, the solution was to set up two mini-tournaments bringing all teams together in one place from the quarterfinals onwards, with all ties being decided in one-off matches behind closed doors.
And so the Champions League will move to Lisbon for the ‘Final Eight’ starting on 12 August and ending with the final at Benfica’s Estadio da Luz on 23 August.
The Europa League, meanwhile, will be played to a conclusion at a series of venues in western Germany, with the last eight beginning on 10 August and the final in Cologne on 21 August.
“I believed it from the first moment,” said the Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin recently when asked if he ever doubted it would be possible to play the tournaments to a conclusion.
“You should always be optimistic, and if something like this crisis happens, you must have a plan ready.”
“At the present time, we will be playing matches without spectators until further notice. We will not take any risks.”