The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic led to the postponement of the UEFA Champions League earlier this season, but now we have a condensed tournament in front of us which is arguably going to be even more exciting than the usual tournament. Once the pending round-of-16 second leg ties were completed, the remaining eight teams were whisked off to Lisbon, Portugal, where they are now playing a two-week knockout tournament. The current situation regarding travel restrictions and quarantines meant that having home-and-away knockout rounds was out of the question, so we now have the quarter-finals and semi-finals being single-leg ties, which will increase the stakes much more, and also increase the chances of an upset.
The round-of-16 saw Manchester City defeat Real Madrid and Bayern Munich beat Chelsea, while Olympique Lyon scored a famous upset win over Juventus and Barcelona overcame Napoli. They joined RB Leipzig, Atalanta, PSG and Atletico Madrid in Portugal for this extravaganza of high-level football. It was also interesting to see how the odds for the tournament had changed in the interim. Bayern Munich, who were struggling earlier on in the season, went on a superb run since the turn of the year under new manager Hansi Flick, claiming the Bundesliga title with ease and also picking up the DFB-Pokal to keep their hopes of a treble alive. They have looked superb while doing so, which is why it is no surprise that Betway in 2021 and other betting sites have already installed them as favourites for the Champions League title. These predictions were made even stronger by Bayern’s 8-2 demolition of Barcelona in the quarter-finals, which could signal the end of an era at the Catalan club.
On the other hand, Atalanta had gained many admirers through their attacking style of play in Serie A, and they had some standout performances in the Champions League as well, most memorably beating Valencia 8-4 on aggregate in their round of 16 tie. The side from Bergamo scored 98 goals in Serie A while finishing in third place, and so there were hopes that would be able to continue their fairytale in knocking out PSG. It looked like those hopes would bear fruit, as the Italian side took the lead in their quarter-final, but the fatigue of having played 14 games in less than two months to finish the league season, coupled with the stifling heat in Lisbon, meant that Atalanta wilted physically towards the end of the game, and PSG took advantage to score two goals in the last two minutes of the game to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
RB Leipzig sealed their place in the last four with a 2-1 win over Atletico Madrid, and we await the last semi-finalist from the game between Manchester City and Lyon. All signs point towards a potential PSG-Bayern Munich final, although Pep Guardiola will have something to say to that, and Leipzig will be no pushovers for PSG either in the semi-final. Whatever the outcome, this version of the tournament has seemed a lot more exciting than the usual format, and UEFA could consider making this a permanent change.