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UEFA postpones all June international matches amid coronavirus

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Following a meeting of all 55 member nations on Wednesday, UEFA announced the postponement of all June international matches, among a number of other decisions as the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc throughout the soccer calendar.

The summer international calendar included the pushed back Euro 2020 qualifying playoffs, but those have now been put on hold indefinitely and it is possible there will be no international games played until September.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

In addition, the Champions League and Europa League competitions have both been suspended indefinitely, no longer tying a potential return to a specific date. Nothing else has been confirmed regarding the competitions, but there are reports swirling that the resumption of the Champions League and Europa League would come with games behind closed doors, potentially all the way through the finals of the competitions.

The European governing body had already pushed back Euro 2020 to next summer in an effort to make room to finish the domestic seasons, but as the coronavirus pandemic continues to linger, questions are mounting over the possibility of finishing all competitions at a later date or if there is simply not enough time. Reports continue to stream in that UEFA significantly favors finishing domestic competitions over all else.

UEFA did announce that all registration deadlines for international club competitions have been suspended indefinitely as well, throwing the summer transfer window into further disarray as well.

“As a result of the increasing uncertainty generated by the ongoing extraordinary events,” UEFA said in its statement, “the Executive Committee also decided to suspend the club licensing provisions that relate to the preparation and assessment of clubs’ future financial information. This decision applies exclusively for participation in the 2020/21 UEFA club competitions.”

Report: UEFA considering one-leg format to finish competition

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According to a report by The Mirror reporter John Cross, UEFA is considering slashing its Champions League and Europa League tournaments nearly in half the rest of the way in order to finish the competitions after COVID-19 fears caused an indefinite suspension of play.

The report states that UEFA could chop down the remaining fixtures in this season’s tournament from two-legged matches to 90-minute matches to lessen the load on the calendar as the European governing body tries to conceptualize how to proceed when play theoretically resumes from the coronavirus hiatus. It is unclear who would be the host club in each individual situation.

The Champions League was halted in the middle of the Round of 16, with Paris Saint-Germain, Atletico Madrid, Atalanta, and RB Leipzig already confirmed through to the quarterfinals but the other four matchups still in question. Manchester City and Real Madrid, Chelsea and Bayern Munich, Juventus and Lyon, and Barcelona and Napoli all have second legs to contest.

The Europa League is in a similar situation, also in the midst of its Round of 16 with every single matchup yet to be determined. All but the two matchups involving Italian teams have concluded the first leg of the matchups, with Manchester United thrashing LASK 5-0 and Wolves drawing Olympiakos 1-1 on Friday.

The aim, according to Cross’s report, is to hold firm to the finals dates, with the Champions League final scheduled for May 30 in Istanbul, while the Europa League final will be contested May 27 in Gdansk, Poland. The report states that the Round of 16 would finish as planned, and then both the quarterfinals and semifinals would be moved to a one-off game similar to a final.

Next week’s games have already been postponed across both competitions and UEFA is gearing up for a Tuesday videoconference with all 55 member associations to discuss plans for both club and international competitions moving forward. While the Champions League and Europa League will be the most immediate concern, the Euro 2020 tournament this summer could be a major talking point as well. It may be possible that Euro 2020 is postponed to next summer or outright cancelled in order to make room for club competitions on both a domestic league and European level. The Nations League could also be on the chopping block to make room for World Cup qualifiers, opening the door to successfully move Euro 2020 to next summer.

Neymar hammers PSG for resting him before Champions League

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After Paris Saint-Germain fell 2-1 at Borussia Dortmund in the first leg of their Champions League meeting at Westfalenstadion, star winger Neymar has gone on record blasting his own club for keeping him on the sidelines too long.

The Brazilian had missed the last four Ligue 1 games officially with a rib injury, but according to the man himself he was ready to go.

“It is hard after four games without playing,” Neymar said after the loss, going after his own club. “It was not my choice not to play, the club took this decision. The club made this decision with the medical team. I wanted to play, I felt good. The club was afraid, and it is I who suffers from it.”

Neymar scored his team’s only goal – a valuable away goal – and was effective one-on-one in the attacking third, completing three take-ons and creating three chances. However, he struggled to link up with teammates, completing just 13 of his 27 attacking-third passes and only one of five attempted inside the penalty area.

All told, PSG’s potent attack of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, and Angel Di Maria was held to just 0.58 expected goals on nine shots outside of Neymar’s converted effort.The French side was expected to trouble the Dortmund back line much more given the hosts had struggled defensively leading up to the game. The Dortmund defense had conceded at least three goals twice in Bundesliga play since the start of 2020 and once more in DFB-Pokal competition.

Neymar has been an absolute menace on the field this season, scoring 16 goals and assisting 10 more in 19 games across all competitions, but he has again missed significant time with nagging injuries or suspensions. The Brazilian has been sidelined for 21 games this season for various reasons, including four in Champions League play and another 11 in Ligue 1 competition. Before Tuesday in Germany, the club’s only two losses this season had come with Neymar looking on.

Report: Atletico players angered by Klopp accusations

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Atletico Madris’s strategy at the Wanda Metripolitano on Tuesday evening were on display for all to see. When Saul Ninguez scored an early goal, Diego Simeone had what he came for. The hosts sat back and protected the lead, as is tradition.

The Spanish side, known for its defensive prowess ever since Simeone took charge, successfully absorbed the waves of Liverpool pressure en route to a 1-0 first-leg victory at home in their Champions League Round of 16 matchup against title-holders Liverpool. It was a solid accomplishment for a team that has otherwise not looked itself this season.

[ MORE: Atleti tops Liverpool | Klopp ready for leg 2 ]

Still, Jurgen Klopp was not necessarily impressed.

The Reds boss believed that some relatively recalcitrant methods were utilized as the hosts fought to maintain their early lead. After withdrawing valuable winger Sadio Mane at halftime, there were concerns that the Senegalese star was injured, but Klopp waved those away, instead revealing his true intentions behind the move.

“It’s part of football, I don’t like it,” Klopp said in his post-match press conference. Indeed, Mane had picked up a first-half yellow card on a coming together with Sime Vrsaljko, and Klopp admitted feeling the need to protect his attacker from further disciplinary action. “The [Atletico Madrid] plan was to get Sadio out of the game with a yellow card.”

“I was afraid that his opponent would go down if Sadio only took a deep breath. After 30 minutes, three Atletico players were on the ground, not even injured.”

Klopp was not the only one to notice such tactics, known colloquially by a naughty word not necessarily repeatable here. The players took a slightly more diplomatic route to the same conclusion. Atletico Madrid “started falling over and things like that, trying to get under our skin” according to Andy Robertson, while Virgil Van Dijk said: “That is the way they play, that’s Spanish football.” Even some in the media were tactfully astute.

 

Still, the Atletico Madrid players did not take kindly to those accusations, according to an ESPN report out Wednesday morning. Per the report: “ESPN has been told that Atletico’s players are surprised by the complaints, and said it is important to be ‘gracious’ in defeat as well as in victory, and that Klopp should focus more on his own team’s shortcomings, given that they ‘didn’t get a shot on target in 90 minutes.’

It’s no secret how Atletico Madrid plays, yet they still found a soft spot in one of the best defenses in Europe and effectively shut down one of the more potent attacks on the continent as well. Job done by the midway point. The second leg on March 11 after “the longest halftime break you can wish for” according to Klopp, will likely feature more of the same, and should make for appointment viewing.

The 2 Robbies podcast: Champions League, Europa League return

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Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle reflect on the opening round of UEFA Champions League and Europa League fixtures.

Manchester City bounced back from their defeat at Norwich. Who is ready to step up and lead Tottenham (8:00)? Liverpool slipped up at Napoli (19:00). There was penalty drama at Chelsea (30:00). The Robbies look ahead to the weekend’s marquee matchup: Chelsea v. Liverpool (37:00), before wrapping up with Arsenal (41:00), Manchester United (45:00), and Wolves’ opening Europa League matches (51:30).

To listen to more lively conversations and passionate debate from Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe, subscribe to The 2 Robbies Podcast on Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

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