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Football: Champions League to deliver more drama

Last updated on: August 17, 2020 18:59 IST
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The Netflix of football, Champions League to deliver more drama

Champions League

IMAGE: The UEFA Champions League logo. Photograph: Reuters

Perhaps the Champions League has, inadvertently, found the right formula for the Netflix era.

Rather than having to wait two weeks for the second episode of two-legged knockout games, allowing for distractions and loss of attention, fans have been binge watching the action every night.

 

The COVID-enforced final eight mini-tournament in the Portuguese capital has delivered real drama, with unexpected plot twists in every installment.

The only pity is that the four single-leg knockout games have been played out in empty stadiums in front of only a handful of team staff, medical officials, security guards and a few, very fortunate, journalists.

With fans barred, however, UEFA has put on a made-for-TV production and the all-star cast has truly delivered.

The most shocking 90 minutes came on Friday at the Estadio da Luz -- it might not have been a surprise for Bayern Munich to eliminate a fading Barcelona but to humble them 8-2 was certainly unexpected.

The Germans face Olympique Lyonnais next face on Wednesday, after the French side pulled off the biggest upset by beating big-spending, pre-tournament favourites Manchester City 3-1 on Saturday.

Pep Guardiola, regarded as the greatest tactician of the modern era, headed out of Portugal to mass criticism of his formation and selection, which backfired to leave his team out in the quarters for the third straight season.

On opening night, unheralded Atalanta from Bergamo, the Italian city worst hit by the pandemic, looked set to continue their unlikely run in the tournament before Paris St Germain struck twice in the final minutes to seal a 2-1 victory.

PSG, with Brazilian Neymar and French World Cup winner Kylian Mbappe in attack, will on Tuesday face RB Leipzig, the Red Bull-owned club from Eastern Germany who have risen from the regional leagues to Europe's elite in just 11 years and who knocked out Atletico Madrid in the quarters.

The form book suggests a Bayern-PSG final, but after this week, which has generated the kind of buzz and narratives normally reserved for a World Cup or European Championship, predictions are far from certain.

What has been clear is that German coaching and tactics have proved to be the cutting edge of the modern game. Three of the coaches in the last four are Germans, with former Borussia Dortmund boss Thomas Tuchel in charge of PSG.

It is more than likely that this improvised format is a one-off and once health conditions allow, UEFA will return to the tried and tested, two-leg home and away fixtures for next year's quarters and semis.

While the new structure has worked, it has reduced the number of games broadcasters can generate revenue from and the logistics of having eight groups of supporters in one city, in a single week, would probably make a repeat impossible.

So enjoy it while you can -- there might never be a sequel to this thriller.

Vincent Kompany retires as player to become Anderlecht manager

Vincent Kompany

IMAGE: Vincent Kompany applauds fans after the match. Photograph: Carl Recine/Reuters

Vincent Kompany has announced his retirement from playing football to take over as full-time manager of Anderlecht, the Belgian Pro League club said on Monday.

The 34-year-old Kompany, who had shared first-team duties with Frank Vercauteren, will be head coach for the next four seasons.

 

Kompany joined Anderlecht as player manager in May last year after spending 11 years with Premier League side Manchester City.

He stepped down from his management role three months later to concentrate on playing.

Anderlecht finished eighth in the Belgian Pro League last season with Kompany making 15 appearances.

"I want to fully commit to my role as a coach and need 100 per cent of my time and focus for it. That's why I'm quitting as a football player," Kompany said in a club statement.

"I want to stay with the club for at least 4 seasons and prove that Anderlecht can play a modern style of football, with results."

Kompany joined Manchester City from Hamburg in 2008 and soon became club captain, helping them win four Premier League titles, two FA Cups and four League Cups.

He made 89 appearances for Belgium and was part of the squad that finished third at the 2018 World Cup.

Kompany will make his full-time managerial debut in Sunday's league game against Mouscron. Anderlecht are third in the standings with four points from two games.

Mbappe could start for PSG against Leipzig - Tuchel

Paris St Germain striker Kylian Mbappe could start Tuesday's Champions League semi-final against RB Leipzig, his coach Thomas Tuchel said.

Mbappe came off the bench for the last 30 minutes against Atalanta last week to set up the winning goal, and Tuchel said the France World Cup winner had suffered no reaction to his injured ankle.

"Yes, he played 30 minutes against Atalanta and had no problems with his ankle," Tuchel said.

"So he will train and if there is the possibility for him to start, we will see if can play the 90 minutes," he added.

Lyon shares surge on stock market after victory over Manchester City

Shares in French soccer club Olympique Lyonnais (OL) surged following Lyon's surprise victory over Manchester City in Europe's top-flight Champions League tournament.

Lyon shares were up 6.9 per cent in early session trading.

Lyon stunned pre-tournament favourites Manchester City with a 3-1 victory on Saturday to move into the semi-finals of the Champions League where they will face Bayern Munich.

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