Thursday's soccer news starts with the shift in attention to the Champions League and a lesser extent the Europa League. UEFA pushed its tournaments into August after the domestic leagues and domestic cups conclude. In strange times, that gives them a spotlight they normally wouldn't have.
For those needing the reminder, the Champions League was midway through the round of 16 prior to the hiatus. Half the bracket finished their series with the other half waiting to play their second-legs. That includes Manchester City trying to hold onto a 2-1 lead over Real Madrid, now the Spanish champions. Lyon is up 1-0 over Juventus, now the Italian champions. Napoli and Barcelona are tied 1-1 with Bayern Munich holding a 3-0 lead over Chelsea.
Ligue 1 winners PSG is the clear favorite on the completed side of the bracket, even if they had to come back to advance past Borussia Dortmund in February. They play Atalanta in the quarterfinals with RB Leipzig and Atletico Madrid in the other game. Atletico knocked out Liverpool, a reminder that the bracket's top-half had the eventual Premier League champion.
With no home field advantage for any of the participants in neutral site Lisbon after the round of 16, UEFA is switching to knockout games starting with the quarterfinals.
Meanwhile, the Europa League's round of 16 is complicated. No team finished their series, with Sevilla vs Roma and Inter Milan vs Getafe not even getting in their first-legs due to the outbreak. Those are now single-series. The quarterfinals move the competition to Germany's North Rhine-Westphalia with the same single-game knockout scenario as the Champions League.
For both the Champions League and Europa, August is new territory. That adds another change of scope to a competition that is already well out of its element. Months of delays, the domestic leagues done, neutral sites, knockout instead of home and away, five substitutes, water breaks, and so on. We already know that teams adjusted post hiatus. That in itself was a major accomplishment, showing that the games could continue safetly in Europe. It's still worth the reminder that it didn't get complete buy-in from all countries and their leagues. With that in mind, is it even worth asking why getting to a champion that will undoubtedly always carry an asterisk real or imagined is so important in the midst of a global pandemic?
SI.com's Brian Straus explains what the change in qualifying may mean for the USMNT. The Athletic's Paul Tenorio talks to Lille and USMNT player Timothy Weah. The NY Times' Tariq Panja on Bahrain putting money into Ligue 2 club Paris FC. The Independent's Jack de Menezes reports on a Swiss criminal investigation of FIFA president Gianni Infantino.
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