Man City, Barcelona and Juventus can host Champions League last-16 ties

By Sports Desk July 09, 2020

Manchester City, Juventus and Barcelona will have home advantage for the crucial second legs of their Champions League last-16 ties after a UEFA ruling on Thursday.

Their respective clashes against Real Madrid, Lyon and Napoli are all on a knife edge after tight first games.

There had been talk of the return games possibly being played on neutral territory, as European football's governing body deals with how to finish its 2019-20 competitions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Champions League will be played to a conclusion in Portugal from the quarter-final stage onwards, and the Europa League will conclude similarly with its final rounds being played in Germany, with each competition aiming to complete by the end of August.

UEFA said it considered the "principle of sporting fairness" in reaching its decision regarding the last-16 ties that had started but were unresolved in each competition.

That means Manchester City will defend their 2-1 lead over Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium, Juventus will welcome Lyon to Turin, chasing a deficit after losing 1-0 to the French side in the first game, and Barcelona and Napoli will play again at Camp Nou after a 1-1 draw in Italy.

Bayern Munich, who lead Chelsea 3-0 after a successful trip to London, will take on Frank Lampard's side at the Allianz Arena.

The same rule will apply in the Europa League, although two last-16 ties in that competition have yet to begin and have been moved to Germany, where they will be played as single-leg fixtures, with Inter facing Getafe and Sevilla playing Roma.

UEFA said in a statement: "Consistent with the principle of sporting fairness and considering that current conditions - all clubs due to play at home the return leg of the round of 16 are currently playing the remaining matches of their domestic leagues in their own stadiums and that travelling is possible without restrictions for the visiting clubs – the UEFA executive committee decided that the remaining UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League round of 16 second-leg matches will be played at the home teams' stadiums.

"UEFA will continue to monitor the situation and reserves the right to reassign any such matches to the venues of the final tournament of the relevant competition should new events occur that would make it impossible to play one or more matches at the original venues."

UEFA said it would announce fixture details after Friday's quarter-final draws at its Swiss headquarters.

The governing body also said all its matches would be played behind closed doors until further notice.

"UEFA will monitor the evolution of the situation and advise on any full or partial lifting of restrictions at the appropriate time," its statement added.

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    Los Blancos lost 2-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu in the first leg of the last-16 clash at the back end of February, with the return meeting postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

    Madrid were outstanding when LaLiga resumed in June, though, winning 10 and drawing their final game en route to beating Barcelona to the title, their first since the 2016-17 season. 

    Former City and Madrid striker Adebayor says Zinedine Zidane's side still have the players capable of turning the tie around but the presence of Ronaldo – who won the Champions League four times with the Spanish club before departing for Juventus in 2018 – would have significantly increased their chances. 

    "If you had asked me that question two years ago, I would have said yes [Madrid can turn the tie around]," Adebayor told AS.  

    "Madrid would have been favourites with Cristiano. Back then, they had Cristiano, who is a goal machine. He can make the difference at any moment and he would give the team 50 goals a season.  

    "They lost the first leg at home and it's going to be very difficult without the fans, against Manchester City, the city, the weather but it's not impossible. 

    "Madrid have players with a lot of experience like Marcelo, [Karim] Benzema, [Thibaut] Courtois and they are used to playing in big games like this one." 

    Adebayor believes Madrid did not fully appreciate how difficult it would be to replace a player such as Ronaldo, who became the club's record goalscorer during nine prolific seasons. 

    "Without Cristiano, Madrid know what they have lost, but maybe not what they could have won if he was still there," he added.  

    "I think maybe they thought they would get another player like Ronaldo but players like him only come along once every 200 years." 

    Karim Benzema has taken on much of the scoring burden and has surpassed 20 LaLiga goals in the past two seasons. 

    Adebayor says the French striker is crucial to Madrid, saying: "When Ronaldo left, he had to take up the responsibility and I think he's done really well.  

    "He's scored a lot of goals, important goals so he'll be a danger, no doubt about it." 

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    "I love Mourinho, we had a great relationship and he was the one who brought me to Madrid, although it wasn't easy for him to find a place for me in the side," he said.  

    "The only trophy I have ever won was at Madrid with him. Now he's at Tottenham and I wish him the best of luck. He is the best coach in the history of football." 

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    He is quoted as saying by UEFA.com: "[The first leg] was the first match I watched [after suffering a serious knee injury], and I saw a team spirit that made me so very happy.

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