One of the world’s most prestigious and high-profile football competitions the UEFA Champions League is back. The draws for arguably the most popular football competition were conducted on October 1st, 2021. 32 of the best club sides in Europe were put into 8 separate groupings after qualification for the group stage. They are set to do battle when the hostilities commence on the 20th of October, 2020.
This season promises to be just as exciting as last term with many of Europe’s elite ready to face off for the biggest prize in club football. Here are some things to know about this season’s Champions League.
Change in Schedule
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic the timetables for the commencement and conclusion of the competition have had to be adjusted. The group stage is set to start on the 20th of October, 2020 and will run through till the 8th of December, 2020 when the final match day 6 fixtures are expected to be played. The knockout rounds will first commence with 2nd round fixtures on the 16th of February, 2021. Quarter and Semi-final fixtures will begin from 14th April and 5th May, 2021 respectively. The Finals are scheduled to be played on the 29th of May, 2021. All matches will be played behind closed doors until further notice.
Venue of Finals
The finals of the 2020/21 UEFA Champions League lis set to be played at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul, Turkey on May 29, 2021. The venue had initially been chosen to host the 2020 final before the COVID-19 enforced disruptions. The 70,000 plus capacity stadium is set to host the finals of this prestigious tournament for a second time having been the venue for the finals played between AC Milan and Liverpool FC in the 2004/2005 season. Opened in 2002, the stadium is the primary home venue of the Turkish national team, but has also been the temporary home ground of Turkish clubs Galatasaray, Besiktas and Istanbul Basaksehir. Named in honor of Founder and first Turkey president Mustafa Kemal Ataturk the stadium was built ahead of a failed Olympic games bid.
The usual 32 teams were drawn into 8 different groups following the draws held in early October at UEFA Headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland. In Group A defending champions FC Bayern Munich will face off against Spanish giants Atletico Madrid, Austrian side RB Salzburg and Lokomotiv Moscow from Russia.
Another group to watch out for is Group G with the potential renewed rivalry between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi as their clubs Juventus FC and FC Barcelona go toe to toe. Dynamo Kiev of Ukraine and Ferencravos of Hungary make up the rest of the group.
Other groups include Group B (Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Inter Milan, Borussia Monchengladbach), Group C (Porto, Manchestar City, Olympiacos, Olympique Marseille), Group D (Liverpool, Ajax, Atalanta, Midtjylland), Group E (Sevilla, Chelsea, Krasnodar, Rennes), Group F (Zenit. Saint Petersburg, Borussia Dortmund, Lazio, Club Brugge) and Group H (Paris St. Germain, Manchester United, RB Leipzig, Istanbul Basaksehir) respectively. The top two teams in each group will qualify for the knockout stage while the 3rd best drops to the Europa League. You can read our article on the Winners and Losers of the 2020/21 UEFA Champions League Group Draws.
Four teams will be making their debut in the group stage of the Champions League. They are Turkish League champions Istanbul Basaksehir, French Side Rennes, Russian new comers Krasnodar and Danish league winners Midtjylland.
Turks Basaksehir qualified by virtue of winning the Turkish Super Liga. Rennes qualified by finishing 3rd in the prematurely ended France 2019/2020 Ligue 1 season claiming one of the allotted Champions League qualifying spots. Midtjylland and Krasnodar, however had to go through the qualifying playoffs route. The Russians side defeated Greek side PAOK 4-2 aggregate to book their place in the group stage for the first time in their history. Danish champions Midtjylland, however had to overcome Czech side Slavia Prague beating them 4-1 over two legs to book their place into the elite competition of Europe for the first time.
The official ball for the group stage of the 2020/21 UEFA Champions League has also been unveiled by kit maker Adidas. The ball features a unique textured design which creates depth through layering of different colored graphics.
The ball highlights the unique UEFA Champions League symbol. The famous stars in royal blue framed in a dynamic design hexagon that include signal coral and sky tint colors, that epitomizes light and speed.
The ball also comes with the latest Adidas performance technology an innovative surface texture that gives players more precision on the ball. The new outer texture coating also offers secure grip and complete control, while the thermally bonded seamless construction guarantees ultimate performance.
Number of Substitutes
UEFA has decided to increase the number of substitutes club sides are allowed to make during a match this season. Teams will be able to make up to five substitutions in a match and will also be allowed to increase the number of players on the team sheet to 23.
The favourites to win the 2020/21 UEFA Champions League season are defending champions, Bayern Munich, last season’s finalists, Paris St. Germain and Manchester City. Barcelona are also desperate to win the Champions League, while Real Madrid and Liverpool are are also favourites for the 2020/21 Champions League trophy.