European football is about to return after what has felt like an eternity-long coronavirus-enforced break. Finally that giant void in every football fan’s life can be filled as we gear up for a quick fire end to the 2019/20 European football season.
Here’s everything you need to know.
While the Bundesliga staged its return three weeks ago and France’s Ligue 1 season has been completely cancelled, with PSG retaining the title, we still get to look forward to the return the remaining three of Europe’s top five leagues – Spain’s La Liga, Italy’s Serie A and, of course England’s FA Premier League – after everything was put on hold as a result of the coronavirus epidemic.
However, football obviously doesn’t end with the 2019/20 season and there’s very little time left until the 2020/21 season is supposed to be kicking off, so the remaining league fixtures will be played over a far shorter period of time than we’re used to.
What will change in the 2019/20 European Football season ?
For us fans, it’s kind of a dream scenario – akin to a World Cup – where our favourite teams will be playing every couple of days, rather than once a week. Obviously, it’s going to be a bit of a nightmare for players, who are bound to suffer muscle injuries from the sheer fatigue brought about by playing several games a week. The leagues themselves have anticipated this and will be putting measures in place, such as allowing coaches to make five substitutes in a game, rather than the usual three.
It will add a brand new element to football as we know it, but it’s still bound to be as entertaining as ever for all of us fans. Speaking of which, the players will be playing in empty stadiums, for obvious reasons and the ever-present threat of coronavirus (read our previous article on post-pandemic sport here).
Many of the leagues are also banning hugging during celebrations and spitting, which will now be bookable offences. Many leagues are talking about slowly phasing in bringing fans into stadiums, such as packing them to 1/3 capacity, but there are also broadcasters that will be offering coverage with augmented reality techniques, using FIFA20’s crowd animations and sound effects, to make TV audiences feel a little more familiar with the games and so not to lose their atmosphere.
Another factor to take into consideration is that home ground advantage won’t play as big a role, because teams are no longer playing in front of their own fans. For this reason, some of the leagues, like the Premier League, have opted to play out the remaining fixtures at neutral venues.
So when will the action get back underway and what are the highlights?
La Liga kicked off again last night, with Sevilla beating Real Betis in the Seville Derby 2-0, while Grenada-Getafe will play tonight, followed by the Valencia derby between Valencia and Levante. Saturday will see Mallorca and Barcelona at the centre of attention for an action-packed day. Athletic-Atletico, Real Madrid-Eibar, Real Sociedad-Ossasuna will make up Sunday’s fixtures. The next matchday will take place from Monday until Thursday, and the following matchday kicks off next Friday. You can find the full list of fixtures at the official La Liga site.
Italy’s top league, Serie A, will only get underway next Saturday, with Torino-Parma and Verona-Cagliari making up the day’s fixtures. Inter Milan will be playing next Sunday and AC Milan, Fiorentina and reigning champions Juventus will play the following Monday. You can find the full list of fixtures here.
As for Europe’s most popular league, the FA Premier League, you will be treated to the first fixtures on Wednesday, with Manchester City and Arsenal squaring off in arguably the biggest fixture of the matchday. Spurs and Manchester United square off next Friday evening, while Chelsea and Liverpool fans will have to wait until Sunday to see their teams in action against Aston Villa and Everton, respectively. You can find the full list of fixtures here.
So now that we get to see light at the end of the tunnel, with the Bundesliga coming to an end on 27 June, La Liga ending on 19 July, the Premier League on 26 July and Serie A on 1 August, there is really only one thing left to discuss, Europe’s Premier and silver completions: The Champions League and Europa League.
The remaining round of 16 fixtures in the Champions League, Lyon-Juventus, Manchester City-Real Madrid, Bayern Munich-Chelsea and Barcelona-Napoli are still yet to be played and those, along with the next set of Europa League fixtures are still yet to be announced. However, a decision over the fixture list is expected to be made next week. The plan, from what we know so far, is to wait for all of the league fixtures to end before playing the competitions out in their entirety over the month of August (which would usually be the summer break for players.
It has been rumoured that UEFA may be changing the regular two-legged tie format into single, once-off fixtures in neutral venues to cut down on the inevitable fatigue that will come with playing such a high level of football over such a condensed period of time. Another rumour coming through the grapevine is that the Champions League final, which was set to be hosted in Lisbon, may rather be hosted in Madrid.
How are transfers affected?
Of course, there is also the matter of breaks/holidays and, the ever-active transfer window. Neither FIFA nor the other footballing bodies have provided any real clarity on how these things will turn out. Right now, players with contracts set to end on June 30 will have their contracts automatically extended until the finer details about moves are worked out, but there’s no telling exactly how we will be transitioning from the 2019/20 European football season into 2020/21.
With rising temperatures brought about by the European summer, social distancing measures, empty stadiums and tightly packed fixture lists, there’s no telling exactly how different football is going to be. And we don’t know when, or even if, it’s going to go back to normal again; but one thing is for sure – football is back and, with what remains of the season, us fans are going to be in for a real treat!