After long months of forced abstinence, the great thrill of the Champions League once again runs through the spines of players from Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique Lyonnais. Weaned from football since mid-March, the only two French clubs still competing on the continental scene discovered on Friday what their sequel to the continuation and end of the most prestigious of the 2020 European Cups vintage 2020, interrupted in the spring by the Covid- 19. So that his rich track record, sketched out in 1955, would not be sullied with a "nothingness" in front of the "winner" line and to get out of the crisis without too much damage - it was important not to draw a line under the very lucrative rights TV -, UEFA struggled to organize an unprecedented Final 8 in Lisbon from August 12 to 23. Despite the resurgence of the virus in Portugal, so far everything is fine. And given the program, inevitably enticing, the summer promises to be hot in the city of Saint-Antoine de Padoue, even without the presence of supporters in the stands.
Paris facing the Atalanta furia
Thomas Tuchel may repeat that he only thinks of the Coupe de France final (against Saint-Etienne on July 24 at the Stade de France) and the Coupe de la Ligue final (July 31 against Lyon in the same stadium), his players have already head to Portugal. Since the resumption of training on June 22, at Camp des Loges there has been the murmur of a conquest that is really nothing impossible. Neymar & Co repeat it over and over: they are only two games away from a first Champions League final since this Final 8 has put aside the traditional round-trip confrontations that Paris has so often badly negotiated these last years. To dream of the big night and this coronation erected in Grail by the Qatari owners, it will first be necessary to defeat in the quarter-finals (August 12) Atalanta Bergamo, true sensation of Italian football for two seasons. A team "that attacks and scores a lot of goals", summarizes Tuchel at the mention of a "complicated" draw according to him.
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The best attack in Serie A, far ahead of Juventus (85 against 65), is impressive, especially in the transition game, trademark of Gian Piero Gasperini, elected best coach in Italy last year. In the round of 16, Slovenian striker Josip Iličić and his family had eight goals in Valencia in two games (4-1, 4-3). Beaded with uncertainties on the physical level because at the stop for too long, the Parisian defensive line, the future starter Thiago Silva at the head, is warned. However, Paris does not have to tremble. His convincing qualification against Dortmund in the previous round rekindled the flame and his offensive armada (Mbappé, Neymar, Icardi, Di Maria) was of a completely different caliber than that of Bergamo. And this, even if it must now do without the best scorer in the history of the club, Edinson Cavani (200 goals), who did not wish to finish the European campaign, beyond the expiration date of his contract (June 30th).
"Gasperini said if it was PSG that came out, we would have a card to play"Antonio Percassi, president of Atalanta
The president of Atalanta, he expects a memorable match against PSG. "This is something historic for Bergamo," enthuses Antonio Percassi. We are going to play against a very, very strong opponent and for us it's like going to school. For Atalanta, it is a pride to be among the last eight. For the city too, it is a source of pride. PSG is a very strong team. We had talked to Gasperini. We hoped to avoid the bigger teams but he also said that if it was PSG that came out, we would have a card to play. We will try to look good. We will also try to make a people who have suffered a lot smile ( Editor's note, Bergamo was strongly affected by the Covid-19 crisis ). ” In the event of qualification, the Parisians, who will play their first friendly return match on Sunday in Le Havre (in front of 5,000 authorized spectators), will face the winner of the duel between the Germans in Leipzig and the Spaniards of Atlético de Madrid. Tackling the Colchoneros of Diego Simeone would not be an easy task as the latter is a specialist in derailing the greats of Europe. But the pedigree of opponents on the other side of the table allows us to say that PSG is doing pretty well. It remains to prove it in the field.
Flood of Cadors for Lyon
Since the final stoppage of Ligue 1 against which he fought with all his might, until he put some of French football on his back, Jean-Michel Aulas has set two goals for his club: to beat PSG in final of the League Cup to ensure a European qualification that he did not obtain via the championship (7th) and, why not, achieve an epic in Lisbon. "If we have to win it in the coming years, we have to put it all this year because there are very few games left," thought "JMA" on RMC last week. Double problem for the boss of OL: his club is still far from Portugal and the program until a hypothetical presence in the final on August 23 is strewn with XXL pitfalls. Unlike Paris, Lyon has not yet passed the pitfall of the 8th. He will defend his good, but short, result of the first leg (1-0) in Turin on August 7.
Not an easy task since Cristiano Ronaldo has once again become the scoring machine that he never really stopped being (26 goals in Serie A, a record for a Juventino since 1960) and when Juve will have revived for a long time with the competition unlike the Gones. In the event of qualification in Piedmont, the latter will still be condemned to new exploits. In quarters, in the Luz or Alvalade stadium, only two kilometers away from Lisbon, stand Manchester City or Real Madrid, armadas led by two of the best coaches in the world, Pep Guardiola and Zinedine Zidane. The Mancunians, in favorable waivers after their success (2-1) at the Bernabeu in the round of 16, go back to good memories in Lyon who had won at the Etihad Stadium two years earlier. If Rudi Garcia's men managed to defeat one of these two ogres in a match, the last step to climb to the final would be just as high with a possible semi-final against Barcelona, Chelsea, Bayern Munich or Naples. But in this extraordinary season where nothing went as planned, "the glorious uncertainty of the sport" seems more relevant than ever.
Round of 16 (return matches)
Friday August 7 (9:00 p.m.)
- Juventus (ITA) - Lyon (FRA) in Turin (1-0 for Lyon on the outward leg).
- Manchester City (ENG) - Real Madrid (ESP) in Manchester (2-1 for City one way).
Saturday August 8 (9:00 p.m.)
- Bayern (GER) - Chelsea (ENG) in Munich (3-0 for Bayern one way).
- FC Barcelona (ESP) - Naples (ITA) to Barcelona (1-1 one way).
Quarter-finals (in a single match)
Wednesday August 12 (9:00 p.m.)
Atalanta Bergamo (ITA) - Paris SG (FRA) at the Luz stadium in Lisbon.
Thursday August 13 (9:00 p.m.)
RB Leipzig (GER) - Atlético Madrid (ESP) at José-Alvalade stadium in Lisbon.
Friday August 14 (9:00 p.m.)
Naples (ITA) or FC Barcelona (ESP) - Chelsea (ENG) or Bayern Munich (GER) at Luz stadium in Lisbon.
Saturday August 15 (9:00 p.m.)
Real Madrid (ESP) or Manchester City (ENG) - Lyon (FRA) or Juventus Turin (ITA) at José-Alvalade stadium in Lisbon.
Semi-finals (single match)
Tuesday August 18 (9:00 p.m.)
RB Leipzig (GER) or Atlético Madrid (ESP) - Atalanta Bergamo (ITA) or Paris SG (FRA) at the Luz stadium in Lisbon.
Wednesday August 19 (9:00 p.m.)
Real Madrid (ESP) / Manchester City (ENG) or Juventus Turin (ITA) / Lyon (FRA) - Naples (ITA) / FC Barcelona (ESP) or Chelsea (ENG) / Bayern Munich (GER) at José-Alvalade stadium in Lisbon.
The final will take place on Sunday August 23 (9:00 p.m.) at the Luz stadium in Lisbon.
- Calendar and results