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Champions League To Be Completed In Final 8 In Lisbon, Final On August 23

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The 2019-2020 Champions League, suspended since March because of the coronavirus pandemic, will be completed in a ‘Final Eight’ in Lisbon in August, UEFA said on Wednesday.

Europe’s top club competition will be decided by a series of one-off matches beginning in the Portuguese capital on August 12, with the final on August 23, European football’s governing body confirmed.

Similarly, the Europa League will be completed with a ‘Final Eight’ across four German cities including Cologne, with the final there on August 21. The closing stages of the women’s Champions League will go ahead in Bilbao and San Sebastian at the end of that month.

The men’s Champions League final was initially due to be played in Istanbul at the end of May before the Covid-19 crisis took hold. The Turkish city will now host the 2021 final instead.

The quarter-finals and semi-finals are usually held over two legs, home and away, but will now be played as single ties, with games in the last eight on August 12 to 15 and the semi-finals on August 18 and 19.

UEFA said all matches would be split between Benfica’s Estadio da Luz home, and the nearby Estadio Jose Alvalade, home of Sporting.

The 65,000-capacity Estadio da Luz hosted the final of Euro 2004 and the Champions League in 2014, while Sporting’s 50,000-seater stadium was also used at Euro 2004 and for the UEFA Cup final in 2005.

Portugal’s credentials to host a Champions League mini-tournament were boosted by the fact that it has not been as badly hit by the pandemic as other western European countries, and it has no clubs left in the competition.

The Portuguese top flight resumed at the start of this month, with matches being played behind closed doors.

With the European death toll from the coronavirus easing and numerous EU countries this week opening their borders once again to visitors, there is some hope that matches can be played in front of crowds.

However, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said no decision would be made on whether to let spectators in “until mid-July”.

“If I would answer today then we don’t think we could have spectators but things are changing rapidly,” Ceferin said in a videoconference.

“We don’t know if (it would be) only the local fans, if no fans, or even if fans from different clubs could travel.

“As it looks now, we would decide that we would play without fans but we have to wait because the siutation is changing every day.”

Before getting to the quarter-final stages, there are still four Champions League last 16, second legs to be completed, and it is possible those games could also be moved to Portugal.

“A decision is pending on whether the four remaining round of 16 second legs will take place at the home team’s stadium or in Portugal,” a UEFA statement said.

If needed, the games will be played in the northern Portuguese cities of Porto and Guimaraes.

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Football Legend, Maradona Is Dead 

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Football legend Diego Maradona has died at the age of 60 as a result of cardiac arrest.
He recently underwent an operation to remove a blood clot on his brain on October 30.
Mirror reports that the Gimnasia boss fell unwell after his side beat Patronato 3-0 and was taken to hospital in La Plata, near the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires.
Scans discovered a subdural hemetoma, requiring Maradona to undergo immediate surgery to remove the problem before being sent home to continue his recovery.
Reports in Argentina say Maradona was showing signs of recovery, but the 60-year-old then suffered a cardiac arrest and has passed away.
A tweet by the Argentine Football Association through its President Claudio Tapia, expressed its deepest pain at Maradona’s death saying he will always be in their hearts.
Gary Lineker referred to Maradona as “arguably the greatest of all time”.
Lineker tweeted: “By some distance the best player of my generation and arguably the greatest of all time. After a blessed but troubled life, hopefully he’ll finally find some comfort in the hands of God.”

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Ibrahimovic Scores, Limps Off As AC Milan Stay Top In Serie A

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored twice to bring his tally to 10 league goals this season before limping off with a muscle strain as AC Milan stayed top in Serie A on Sunday with a 3 -1 win at 10 -man Napoli.
Milan move back two points ahead of Sassuolo — 2- 0 winners earlier at Hellas Verona — with Roma third after Henrikh Mkhitaryan netted a brace in a dominant 3 – 0 win over Parma.
“ For me Zlatan is stronger now than 10 -12 years ago ,” said Napoli coach Gennaro Gattuso of his former Milan teammate .
“ Milan strongly believes in Ibra, his teammates trust him 100 percent .
“ In my opinion, their team is not the strongest but they have the mentality.
“ We play well but lose as soon as it gets difficult. ”
Ibrahimovic continued his fine form , heading in a Theo Hernandez cross after 20 minutes , sending in the second with his knee nine minutes after the break .
But the 39 -year – old pulled up clutching his left hamstring and was substituted after 79 minutes.
The Swede has scored in all six games he has played this season, having missed two after contracting coronavirus.
Coach Stefano Pioli missed the trip south with Covid- 19 , but his side got their first league win in Naples since October 2010 , the season they last won the Scudetto , with Ibrahimovic also on the scoresheet that time .
Napoli played the final half an hour a man down after Tiemoue Bakayoko was sent off for two yellow cards , just after Dries Mertens had pulled a goal back for the hosts .
Norwegian Jens Petter Hauge completed the scoring five minutes into injury time , the 21 – year -old getting his first Serie A goal .
Champions Juventus are fourth — four points off top spot — after winning 2 -0 at Cagliari on Saturday .
Last season’ s runners -up Inter Milan are just behind in fifth , after a Romelu Lukaku double inspired a 4 -2 comeback win over Torino , with Napoli dropping from third to sixth — six points off top spot .
– Inter ‘lack ferocity ’ –
In Milan , Torino got off to a strong start despite playing without top striker Andrea Belotti who pulled up during the warm – up .
Simone Zaza took the skipper ’ s place and scored the opener just before the break with Cristian Ansaldi adding a second from the penalty spot after an hour .
Inter reacted in the 64 th minute , with Alexis Sanchez bundling the ball in after Lukaku ’ s initial effort was tipped onto the crossbar , before the Chilean set up his fellow former Manchester United forward for the equaliser three minutes later .
Lukaku pulled Inter ahead from the penalty spot six minutes from time and then provided the cross for substitute Lautaro Martinez to score the fourth on 90 minutes.
“ I didn’t like what I saw ,” said Inter coach Antonio Conte three days before his side host Real Madrid in the Champions League.
“ We lack the ferocity of last season.
“ But we showed character as being 2 -0 down could have destroyed us. ”
Torino drop into the relegation zone after their fifth defeat .
In Verona , Sassuolo continued their impressive run thanks to goals in either half from Jeremie Boga and Domenico Berardi .
The side from Emilia Romagna are unbeaten this season and are the joint top scorers with 20 goals .
Roma meanwhile stretched their unbeaten run in all competitions to 10 matches , cementing victory with three first- half goals .
Borja Mayoral got his first Serie A goal just before the half -hour mark, with Mkhitaryan adding two more before the break to bring his tally to five in two games after scoring a hat -trick last time out against Genoa .
In Tuscany , Cesare Prandelli had a nightmare start as coach of struggling Fiorentina with a 1 -0 home defeat by Benevento .
Former Italy coach Prandelli returned to the ‘ Viola ’ a decade after leaving for the Azzurri job in 2010 , but the team fell to their fourth defeat.
To add to Prandelli ’s woes, French midfielder Franck Ribery went off injured .
“ The fragility worries me most , ” said Prandelli .
“ Perhaps the team succumbed to their fears and negative thoughts when Franck came off .”
Riccardo Improta scored his first Serie A goal for Benevento on 52 minutes , slotting in a Gabriele Moncini cross after a Cristiano Biraghi defensive error.
Fiorentina slip to 15 th in the Serie A table , just behind Benevento.
(AFP)

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AFCON Qualifiers: CAF Opens Door For Fans 

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Confederation of African Football has opened the door to fans’ participation in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
This was one of the changes made in face of the COVID-19 restrictions. Although CAF had ruled that no fans will be allowed into stadia for November games, nevertheless, there is a tweak should any host association’s government insists on having fans around.
“All the matches must be played without spectators, however, should a host association’s government approve that matches can be played with spectators, the host federation must obtain prior approval from CAF,” it noted.
“The number of spectators shall not exceed 50% of the stadium capacity. These measures are effective and are valid only during the current context of global health crisis due to the COVID-19.”
Other changes include the Afcon 2022 qualification games, CAF Champions League and CAF Confederation Cup will have the number of players increased by 10 players as that will allow participating teams to replace any player who contracts the virus.
“For the competitions where the regulations impose a list with a limited number of players (Example: Interclubs, Competitions with final tournament system…): increase the number of players with 10 players; (if for example, the regulations impose a list of 30 players, the number will be increased to 40),” a statement from CAF read.
“The number of substitutes allowed on the start list remains unchanged in conformity with each competition’s regulations. Five substitutions will be allowed for matchday 3 and 4 of the Afcon 2021 qualifiers,” it added.

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