Coronavirus: UEFA to produce qualification guidelines in cases of cancelled leagues

By Sports Desk April 21, 2020

UEFA is to produce guidelines outlining qualification criteria for its competitions from domestic leagues that cannot be completed but once again recommended they should be finished if possible.

The coronavirus continues to wreak havoc with the footballing schedule, with the 2019-20 season suspended indefinitely across the majority of Europe, which resulted in Euro 2020 being pushed back by a year.

Both the Champions League and Europa League finals were postponed in March after it became apparent hosting them on their original dates was not feasible.

As yet there is no concrete date set for the resumption of a suspended European league, while UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin conceded the campaign would likely be lost if seasons cannot resume by the end of June.

In a video conference with its 55 member nations on Tuesday, UEFA said any decisions taken will be announced after the executive committee convenes on Thursday.

A statement read: "UEFA met its 55 member associations via video conference and presented an update of the options being looked into by the two working groups that were created mid-March. 

"A variety of calendar options were presented covering both national team and club competition matches.

"The funding of national associations through UEFA's HatTrick programme was also discussed with UEFA reiterating its commitment to meeting the payments to member associations as planned.

"There was a strong recommendation given to finish domestic top divisions and cup competitions, but some special cases will be heard once guidelines concerning participation to European competitions - in case of a cancelled league - have been developed."

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    Bayern Munich are making plans for Lionel Messi, but Hansi Flick is well aware of the threat of the rest of the Barcelona team in their Champions League quarter-final.

    Bayern face Barca in Lisbon on Friday in a match the Bundesliga champions are expected to win, having been in dominant form in recent months.

    But the Blaugrana have Messi in their ranks, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner seemingly determined to get his hands on a fifth European crown, the most recent of those coming in 2015.

    Questions at Flick's pre-match news conference focused on the threat of Barca's number 10, yet the head coach was keen to remind reporters there will be more to the match than Messi.

    "It's not Bayern Munich against Messi, but against Barcelona," he said. "Of course we have thought about how we will play against him.

    "It is possible that we will play together to counter him as a team. We have to recognise the spaces, put him under pressure and try to win the one-on-one duels."

    Flick added: "We have the necessary respect for Barcelona because they have been the dominant team in recent years. Many coaches and clubs have been inspired by Barca.

    "They're nice to watch, the way they play, the way they train, their enthusiasm.

    "Messi is not the only player who stands out. [Gerard] Pique, [Antoine] Griezmann, [Ivan] Rakitic and [Luis] Suarez are top players. [Marc-Andre] ter Stegen is a world-class goalkeeper.

    "They have enormous quality and experience and we have to go against that as a team and bring our quality. We have a plan and hope that it works."

    While opposite number Quique Setien suggested Robert Lewandowski was not in the same class as Messi, Flick refused to be drawn into a comparison between his talisman and Barca's.

    "You can't compare the two players," he said. "Lewandowski is a world-class striker and has tremendous quality. For us, he is someone who guarantees goals but also creates goals.

    "Messi has been by far the best footballer over the past few years. He's an exceptional player and I don't know if someone like that will come around again."

    Teenage left-back Alphonso Davies has been one of the stars of the Champions League campaign so far but may now be the man tasked with marking Messi.

    Team-mate Thomas Muller is determined not to leave the Canadian to face his mammoth task alone, though.

    "Messi is in good shape, but you never defend him alone," Muller said. "My experience from the games in which I faced him was that it worked when the whole team was there.

    "We have to act together against this individual quality. Alphonso Davies is also key here, but he is not alone."

  • Lewandowski's extraordinary but Messi's from another planet – Vidal Lewandowski's extraordinary but Messi's from another planet – Vidal

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    Both Barca and Bayern came through their last-16 ties relatively comfortable in the end, Quique Setien's side beating Napoli 4-2 over two legs and the German champions crushing Chelsea 7-1 on aggregate.

    Such an emphatic progression, coupled with their form after the coronavirus-enforced pause, has led to many deeming Bayern to be frontrunners to win the competition.

    Lewandowski will surely be crucial if they do go all the way – the Poland striker having scored 53 times across all competitions this term, including 13 in just seven Champions League matches.

    But claims from former Bayern players that Lewandowski is ahead of Messi are wide of the mark, according to his former team-mate Vidal.

    "Lewandowski is extraordinary, very dangerous, a tireless scorer," the Chilean told reporters ahead of the showdown on Friday. "I was with him three years; I know how he prepares. It will be very difficult to stop him.

    "But comparing him with Leo [Messi] is impossible, because Leo is from another planet, although Lewandowski is the best striker alongside Luis Suarez."

    Setien agreed, stating: "Lewandowski is a great footballer but I don't think he's up to Leo's level.

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    Another player who has caught the eye since the Champions League's resumption is Neymar, who produced a typically exuberant – albeit somewhat wasteful – display as Paris Saint-Germain claimed a dramatic 2-1 win over Atalanta to reach the last four on Wednesday.

    The Brazilian is reportedly a long-term target of Barca, the club he left to join PSG in 2017 for a world-record fee, and Vidal acknowledged that Neymar would strengthen the Blaugrana.

    "It is understood that Barca wants to recover him [Neymar], not only because of yesterday's game," Vidal said.

    "He was already at Barca and had an exceptional performance, he showed his level. He is very talented and would help the team a lot, but I don't know more.

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    Winger Dembele has been out since November after rupturing his thigh muscle but is in line for a long-awaited return in Lisbon on Friday.

    Setien told a pre-match news conference: "We have arrived in good spirits. This is the game we are waiting for. We have prepared well.

    "It is a satisfaction for all of us that Dembele is in the squad and I think he will be in a position to participate for a few minutes if we consider it appropriate.

    "We are excited that he can play and get it right."

    Bayern look well placed to go all the way in the competition, having romped to a domestic double in Germany and swept Chelsea aside in their previous European tie.

    Barca, on the other hand, lost their LaLiga title to rivals Real Madrid and have struggled to convince in recent months.

    But Setien remains positive of their chances, saying: "Of course, we are convinced we can go through.

    "We know the potential of the opponent, their numbers and their capacity, with extraordinary potential, but we have that, too.

    "I think it will be an even game. We have a lot to say in this game."

    The coach is keen to ensure Lionel Messi is not left to do the job alone, however, even if he is highly likely to play a key role.

    "Leo can help win the game, obviously, but I have always believed in the strength of the team," Setien said.

    "We will have to assist Leo because both Messi, like any other outstanding player, is weaker without the strength of the team."

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