Europe’s biggest clubs begin their quest for the holy grail, the UEFA Champions League, on Tuesday (October 20). The prestige and glory associated with the title remains intact, but the competition has introduced some regulations in the light of the ‘new normal’ that the world is facing.
Bayern Munich were crowned champions of the continent less than two months ago. They haven’t had too long to celebrate as they open their title defence against Atletico Madrid on Wednesday. The late finish to last season has not only reduced the gap with the new season, it has also curtailed the time between two ties in this campaign.
What happened last season?
After football resumed after months of hiatus, UEFA was forced to stage the tournament, quarterfinals onwards, behind closed doors in Lisbon. The last-eight and last-four stage matches were one-off affairs, and were not played on a home-and-away basis as would have been the case under normal circumstances. The competition finished almost three months behind schedule.
How is the scheduling this season?
UEFA says the season “will be played out in its entirety, in its existing (traditional) format with the final in Istanbul” on May 29 next year. The Turkish city was due to host the showpiece game last season before the pandemic intervened.
So will this be more hectic than ever before?
The six rounds of group games that begin on Tuesday are scheduled to be over on December 9, i.e., in eight weeks. In contrast, last season’s group stage ran for a week short of three months. The Round of 16 ties will be held in February-March with the quarterfinals in the first half of April and the semifinals in late April and early May.
Will there be spectators at the venues?
UEFA will allow fans at stadiums “at a maximum of 30 per cent of capacity”, but whether spectators are allowed is dependent on local administrations.
What do the new regulations state on the minimum number of players?
With coronavirus cases on the rise in the football world (with one of the game’s biggest stars Cristiano Ronaldo having fallen victim), UEFA has put measures in place to ensure that its premier club competition can proceed on schedule. Matches can go ahead if each team has at least 13 fit players, including a goalkeeper.
What if the host city for a match doesn’t allow visitors?
If there are travel restrictions in place for a host city, a game can be played at the away venue, or even at a neutral venue.
What if a team refuses to take to the pitch?
If a team refuses to play or is considered responsible for the match not taking place, they will be deemed to have forfeited the game. If this applies to both the teams in question, both will be disqualified.
What if infections render a team unable to play?
If a team has players and/or officials testing positive for Covid-19 and as a result, unable to play the match before the deadline set by UEFA, they will be deemed to have forfeited the game. Even if postponements are unavoidable, the group stage has to be completed latest by January 28.
How many substitutes are allowed?
As was the case with ‘Project Restart’ at the end of last season, five substitutions will be allowed per team in a match. A sixth will be allowed if a knockout game goes into extra time. But there will be only three opportunities to make substitutions (four if there’s extra time). There can be a maximum of 12 players on the substitutes’ bench.
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