A Look Back At Last Year’s Champions League Final
With football finding itself within the vice-like grip of a global pandemic, it was enough to put last season’s Champions League at risk and with pan-continental competition being considered an absolute no, it would require a considerable amount of thinking outside the box to restart it.
Thinking that was required for this and the Europa League, to reach a rightful conclusion and with the usual format of home and away legs scrapped, it meant one nation would host each of the final phases of these respective competitions.
For the Europa League, it was the home of the Bundesliga which become rather welcome hosts and once again it would be Sevilla who became accustomed to the trophy, as they managed to get the better of Inter Milan in the final.
While for the pinnacle of European club football, it was Portugal which hosted eight of the biggest clubs in the land and although Porto will have to get ready to host this season’s edition of the final, it was Lisbon which was tasked with staging duties last summer.
Because with UEFA’s other crown jewel having been delayed by 12 months, the lack of European Championships meant a huge void in the usual summer football schedule and, therefore, a different looking Champions League for 2020 was a welcome replacement.
A replacement that saw a rather simple format installed, as eight teams would eventually be whittled down to a winner by virtue of a straight knockout competition and one that Barcelona would not play a substantial part in.
Although their part was still memorable and that was down to the eight goals that they conceded to Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals and such was the result, that it was nearly enough for Lionel Messi to leave the Camp Nou for good.
The Argentine is still calling Catalunya home for now and even if he does pen a new contract in the next few weeks, the sight of him and his teammates being mauled by the Munich based outfit is one that will be etched in his mind for near eternity.
Going into the game, a look at the sports betting stats would have suggested that there was not a great deal between the two sides and although it looked like being a rather close contest on paper, it was nothing of the sort come the final whistle.
Disaster for Quique Setien and his Barcelona men and with the former Real Betis manager falling on his sword soon after, it was a result that subsequently saw Ronald Koeman take the reins during the off-season.
While if it was a disaster for the club that won the 2015 edition of the competition, it was progress for the team that thrashed them and lying next in wait, was Ligue 1 outfit Olympique Lyonnais in the Semi-final.
Olympique Lyonnais or Lyon as they are perhaps better known had a considerable amount riding on this game and if they were the next outfit to be dumped out by the German giants, there would be no European football for them the following season.
That’s because with Ligue 1 being curtailed early after instruction from the French government, they found themselves lying outside the qualification places for any of the UEFA competitions and with no time to make up any necessary ground.
Unfortunately for them, they were no match for a once again brilliant Bayern side and although the level of defeat was not as high on the Barcelona scale, the German champions of 2020 still managed to put three unanswered goals past their opponents.
An outcome which meant they would find themselves in the final and the question was who would be joining them in the showpiece event. A question that was eventually answered by Thomas Tuchel’s star-studded PSG.
After scoring two late goals against Atalanta, the dominant force in French football managed to snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat and in doing so, booked a Semi-final meeting with RB Leipzig.
A meeting that was just as once sided as the other semi-final and although RB Leipzig are backed by a famous energy drink, they had certainly run out of fizz by the time they squared off against Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.
Because if RB Leipzig have designs on being considered one of football’s elite, they were shown that there is still some way to go and with manager Thomas Tuchel overseeing a 3-0 win, it meant more German opposition for him in the final.
A final that pitted last season’s Bundesliga winners versus the outfit who were crowned the kings of Ligue 1 and with these two combustible elements, everybody was preparing for the sparks that were set to fly.
Only that was not really the case and although it would be unfair to label last season’s Champions League final as an anti-climax, it certainly did not live up to the hype. The hype that was generated by the prospect of Neymar and Mbappe going up against the fearsome Robert Lewandowski.
However, it would be neither of these three who would score the game’s only goal and in doing so, write themselves into football folklore. Because that honour was bestowed to Bayern Munich’s Kingsley Coman.
The former PSG youngster was on hand to finally break the deadlock after the interval and in doing so, he put himself and his teammates in pole position to see out the remaining half-hour of the game as winners.
Something that would be achieved come to the final whistle and although the players on the field will have taken the credit, their success would also cap a remarkable debut season in charge for manager Hans-Dieter Flick.
Only installed the previous November as an interim, he would transform the Bavarian outfit and after already winning a German trophy double before leading his side to battle in Portugal, success on August 23 would complete what at one point seemed like being a rather unlikely treble.