Istanbul to host 2021 UEFA Champions League final instead of 2020
PARIS- Agence France-Presse
The 2019-2020 Champions League, suspended since March because of the coronavirus pandemic, will be completed in a ’Final Eight’ in Lisbon in August instead of Istanbul, UEFA said on June 17.
Europe’s top club competition will be decided by a series of one-off matches beginning in the Portuguese capital on August 12, with the final on August 23, European football’s governing body confirmed.
Similarly, the Europa League will be completed with a ’Final Eight’ across four German cities including Cologne, with the final there on August 21. The closing stages of the women’s Champions League will go ahead in Bilbao and San Sebastian at the end of that month.
The men’s Champions League final was initially due to be played in Istanbul at the end of May before the Covid-19 crisis took hold. The Turkish city will now host the 2021 final instead.
The quarter-finals and semi-finals are usually held over two legs, home and away, but will now be played as single ties, with games in the last eight on August 12 to 15 and the semi-finals on August 18 and 19.
UEFA said all matches would be split between Benfica’s Estadio da Luz home, and the nearby Estadio Jose Alvalade, home of Sporting.
The 65,000-capacity Estadio da Luz hosted the final of Euro 2004 and the Champions League in 2014, while Sporting’s 50,000-seater stadium was also used at Euro 2004 and for the UEFA Cup final in 2005.
Portugal’s credentials to host a Champions League mini-tournament were boosted by the fact that it has not been as badly hit by the pandemic as other western European countries, and it has no clubs left in the competition.
The Portuguese top flight resumed at the start of this month, with matches being played behind closed doors.
With the European death toll from the coronavirus easing and numerous EU countries this week opening their borders once again to visitors, there is some hope that matches can be played in front of crowds.
However, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said no decision would be made on whether to let spectators in "until mid-July".
"If I would answer today then we don’t think we could have spectators but things are changing rapidly," Ceferin said in a videoconference.
"We don’t know if (it would be) only the local fans, if no fans, or even if fans from different clubs could travel.
"As it looks now, we would decide that we would play without fans but we have to wait because the siutation is changing every day."
Before getting to the quarter-final stages, there are still four Champions League last 16, second legs to be completed, and it is possible those games could also be moved to Portugal.
"A decision is pending on whether the four remaining round of 16 second legs will take place at the home team’s stadium or in Portugal," a UEFA statement said.
If needed, the games will be played in the northern Portuguese cities of Porto and Guimaraes.