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Lyon asks French prime minister to reconsider early end of Ligue 1 season

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Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas is asking French authorities to backpedal on their decision to end the football season prematurely amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The men’s league was canceled four weeks ago with 10 rounds remaining, Paris Saint-Germain declared champion, and Lyon finished outside the European places in seventh.

In a letter on Monday to French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu, Aulas argued the premature conclusion of the season will have catastrophic consequences for French clubs, which could face losses of “700 to 900” million euros ($760 million to $980 million).

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Alongside Amiens and Toulouse – the two clubs demoted to the second division – Lyon took action against the league decision but their case was thrown out last week by a Paris administrative court. Lyon now wants France’s highest administrative court, the Council of State, to issue a ruling on the matter.

In the letter, Aulas said the fact that the French league was the only one among the seven biggest European leagues to opt for an early end should convince authorities to reconsider their move.

In Europe, the Dutch and Belgian leagues have also ended their 2019-20 seasons early.

Aulas has argued for the French league to be given a chance to be completed by late August with a temporary playoff system, but with PSG staying the champion given its large lead before play was stopped.

“The Bundesliga resumed matches on May 16, Spain will resume matches on June 8. Italy, Russia and Portugal have resumed collective training and England is working on a resumption after June 19,” Aulas wrote. “How can France not be downgraded very quickly and see its professional football devalued?”

On June 2, the French government is expected to make further announcements related to France’s lockdown exit strategy.

“Many developments and hopes are expected on this date, so that France can gradually regain a good dynamic,” Aulas said. “Could we imagine that June 2 is also a great opportunity to rectify the mistake concerning French football and to allow, with a health protocol used everywhere, to give the starting point for a gradual resumption of training (in June) and, why not, a resumption of the 2019-2020 season over the months of July or August?”

Lyon, meanwhile, still hopes to reach the quarterfinals of the Champions League after beating Italian champion Juventus 1-0 in the first leg of their round of 16 match on Feb. 26. The return leg in Turin was suspended.

Who could miss Champions League if tables don’t change?

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Atletico Madrid outside the UEFA Champions League?

That would be the case if La Liga does not return this season and the Spanish Football Federation’s plan is used, with European places awarded on the table as it stands.

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Atleti is just two points back of third-place Sevilla but sits sixth on the congested table and would head to the Europa League, ending a six-season run in the UCL.

Who else would miss out on the Champions League if the tables remain as they were when the league paused for the coronavirus pandemic.

Roma, Napoli, and AC Milan would not take part in the UCL, sitting fifth throughs seventh in Serie A. They’d join Spurs and Arsenal, the latter of whom wouldn’t play in Europe at all.

Lyon and Schalke currently sit outside the UCL places, while Feyenoord and PSV Eindhoven would also lose their places. CSKA Moscow and Dynamo Kiev, too.

Of course this assumes that UEFA doesn’t use a different method for awarding European places, like past participation and success in the tournament.

FFF president rips Lyon leader: ‘The only enemy today is the virus’

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The French Football Federation’s president isn’t holding back when it comes to the thoughts of Lyon president that the Ligue 1 season should be “null and void” due to the coronavirus.

Well, if he is holding back, then we’d love to hear his unobstructed takes on the matter.

Lyon boss Jean-Michel Aulas claimed earlier this week that the Ligue 1 season should be annulled and that European qualifiers would remain the same as 2018/19 while no teams would be relegated to Ligue 2.

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It should, of course, be noted that Aulas is acting only out of self-preservation. Lyon qualified for the Champions League last season but is nine points back of the top four.

See-through stuff, and Marseille president Jacques-Henri Eyraud called the comments “the selfishness of someone whose only compass is his participation in the Champions League.”

Marseille, you could probably guess, sits in a UCL place after failing to qualify last season.

French football president Noel Le Graet took it even further, blasting Aulas for his comments and taking aim at Eyraud for the response.

From the AFP, via France24.com:

“I don’t want any controversy. It’s the French Football Federation that will decide if it continues or not, the only enemy today is the virus,” he said.

“I find it quite ridiculous, stupid, clumsy and inappropriate to what’s happening,” he added, asking the two club presidents “to calm down and be dignified in their statements, which make no sense and don’t make them any bigger.”

He’s right, even if his past resume is far from unimpeachable. The Lyon president is acting foolishly, and Eyraud would’ve done better to hold his tongue.

More coronavirus connections to soccer:

Lyon scores memorable win over misfiring Juventus

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Lucas Tousart’s first-half goal led Lyon to a 1-0 defeat of visitors Juventus in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie. (video)

Juve had 14 shots but failed to put one on target in the loss.

The second leg is March 17 in Turin.

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Tousart opened the scoring when he leapt to smack a Houssem Aouar cross past Wojciech Szczesny in the 31st.

Karl Toko Ekambi blazed a shot over the bar later in the half to let Juve off the hook.

As the match passed the hour mark, it was going according to Lyon’s plan. Juve had 62 percent of the ball but Lyon had double its visitors’ chances (12-6). None of Juve’s efforts were on target.

The Old Lady was much better in the latter stages, but Lyon still managed to hold Cristiano Ronaldo without a shot on target. Lyon was whistled for four fouls against the Portuguese.

Juve had a goal late, but the flag was up.

UCL, Live: Real Madrid v. Man City; Lyon v. Juventus

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Finally, after months of waiting, the tie of the 2019-20 UEFA Champions League round of 16 is set to kick off.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

Real Madrid, who have won Europe’s most coveted prize in four of the last six seasons, will host Manchester City, the two-time reigning Premier League champions and arguably this season’s favorites, in the first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday. Pep Guardiola will be reacquainted with the Madrid faithful, and Man City will take the next step toward winning the Champions League — at least, they hope so — before they are currently set to be banned from the competition for the next two seasons.

Guardiola has thrown a massive curveball by dropping Sergio Aguero to the bench and electing to start Gabriel Jesus instead. Raheem Sterling, who was deemed “fit and ready” to return to action from a hamstring injury, is also on the bench.

In the day’s other game, Lyon will host Juventus.

Below is the full schedule for the two UCL last 16 first leg games on Wednesday, with both games kicking off at 3 p.m. ET. You can follow the action live by clicking on the link above.


Wednesday’s Champions League action

Real Madrid v. Manchester City
Lyon v. Juventus