By Adedapo Adesanya
The two best footballers in the world, Lionel Messi of Barcelona and Cristiano Ronaldo of Juventus will again meet face-to-face for the first time since 2018 in the group stage of this season’s Champion League organised by the Union of European Football Association (UEFA).
The respective clubs of the two players have been put under the same group in the draws held on Thursday. The duo will be expected to give fans something to savour again after Ronaldo left Real Madrid in Spain to join his new Italian outfit.
Speaking of spectators at the stadiums, UEFA has said it will allow the partial return of fans for UEFA matches where local laws permit, starting from next week’s national team matches.
This followed the successful test match between Bayern Munich and Sevilla (the UEFA Super Cup) in Budapest, Hungary on 24 September.
Business Post understands that the number of spectators will be capped at a maximum of 30 per cent of the respective stadium capacity and away supporters will not be allowed into the games until further notice.
Both the admission of fans and the capacity limit are subject to the decision of local authorities. UEFA matches cannot be played with spectators where local authorities do not allow it and the limit of 30 per cent may be reached only where the limit set by local authorities is not lower, in which case such limit would apply.
Social distancing will be mandatory for spectators and additional precautionary measures, such as the wearing of masks must be implemented in accordance with local regulations.
These measures form part of the ‘UEFA Minimum Health and Hygiene Requirements for the Return of Spectators‘ which were approved by the UEFA Executive Committee and which match organisers will have to respect. However, the exact health and safety measures that must be adopted must be based on the local situation and on specific laws and regulations imposed by competent local authorities.
The UEFA Super Cup demonstrated that it is possible for fans to attend football matches in the right circumstances by putting their health and safety first with comprehensive mitigating measures in place. The match also demonstrated the acceptance of fans for precautionary sanitary measures and their readiness to follow them and behave accordingly.
Commenting on the decision, UEFA President, Mr Aleksander Čeferin, said: “Today’s decision is a sensible first step which puts fans’ health first and respects the laws in each country. While we all face a common enemy in COVID, different countries have different approaches and different challenges at any given moment. This decision allows much more local flexibility to deal with admitting fans than was previously the case, always respecting the assessment of local authorities.
“27 countries on the continent already allow fans to some extent. This decision will allow for a coherent approach on a country-by-country basis and not on a competition-by-competition basis which was sometimes difficult to understand for fans.
“In these difficult times, it is important to bring more hope and passion back into the lives of football fans and we urge them to behave appropriately and respect sanitary measures in place for their own health and for the health of their fellow club or national team supporters,” he noted.
At the UEFA Champions League draws held today, the following teams were put in eight groups:
Group A – Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid, Salzburg, Lokomotiv Moscow.
Group B – Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Inter Milan, Borussia Mnchengladbach.
Group C – Porto, Manchester City, Olympiakos, Marseille.
Group D – Liverpool, Ajax, Atalanta, Midtjylland.
Group E – Sevilla, Chelsea, Krasnodar, Rennes.
Group F – Zenit St. Petersburg, Borussia Dortmund, Lazio, Club Brugge.
Group G – Juventus, Barcelona, Dynamo Kyiv, Ferencvros.
Group H – Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United, RB Leipzig, Istanbul Baakehir.
During the draws, awards were given and the best defenders of the men’s and women’s Champions League were – Bayern Munich’s Joshua Kimmich and Lyon’s Wendie Renard.
The best midfielders of the men’s and women’s Champions League were – Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne and Lyon’s Dzsenifer Marozsan.
The best forward of the men’s and women’s Champions League were – Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski and Wolfsburg’s Pernille Harder (she now plays for Chelsea). Also, the UEFA men’s and women’s player of the year went to both footballers.
The best manager of the men’s and women’s Champions League were – Bayern Munich’s Hansi Flick and Lyon’s Jean-Luc Vasseur.
In the face of travel restrictions, UEFA has noted that it will allow matches on neutral territory. If a club suffers a Covid-19 outbreak, a game can go ahead as long as each team has at least 13 fit players including one goalkeeper.
The group stage starts on October 20, more than a month later than usual, and all six rounds of games will be packed into eight weeks.
However, in the event of more delays, UEFA has set January 28 as the deadline to complete the group stage.
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