Soccer News: Same Game, Different Look
It is definitely weird to see club games in late June instead of international competitions, but that’s where we are in 2020. The major international tournaments Euro 2020, Copa America, the African Nations Championship, the OFC Nations Cup, and the Women’s U-20 World Cup were all postponed.
Qualifying for the 2022 World Cup has also been pushed back with the CONCACAF Nations League postponed.
Instead, we are knee-deep into domestic leagues that were scheduled to end in May before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. All of the major European leagues are now back underway other than Ligue 1 in France, which canceled in April.
The German Bundesliga returned May 16 and will finish domestic play at the end of June. But the title is already clinched, as Bayern Munich won at Werder Bremen in matchweek 32 to clinch their eighth straight league title.
They outpaced Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig under coach Hansi Flick to win the title as Robert Lewandowski set a record for most goals by a non-German-born player.
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The DFB-Pokal has also resumed, and Bayern Munich will face Bayer Leverkusen in the final on July 4 in Berlin. A win there gives Bayern a chance at a treble with the Champions League resuming in August.
The Race Is On
La Liga action resumed June 11, and as usual, it is going to be a race to the title between the rivals in Barcelona and Real Madrid. Barca went into the break with a two-point lead after losing to Los Blancos 2-0 in March.
The leaders stumbled in their third game back with a 0-0 draw against Seville, opening the door for Real Madrid to snap Barca’s two-year winning streak.
Right behind them, Seville, Atletico Madrid, Getafe, Real Sociedad, Real Villarreal, and Valencia are battling for the other two Champions League spots. Meanwhile, Real Sociedad and Athletic Club have made the Copa del Rey Final, but no date has been announced as the teams are holding out hope of playing in front of a crowd.
Napoli Lifts the Cup
Calcio returned to Italy with Coppa Italia games take place before league play. Juventus and Napoli advanced to the final in Rome straight out of the break and then played to a 0-0 draw at Stadio Olimpico.
Juve missed their first two penalty kicks, and Napoli converted four in a row to lift the cup for the first time since 2014.
The rest of the top-tier Italian teams jumped back into action two days after the Coppa Italia final. Juventus holds a one-point lead over Lazio with Internazionale, Atalanta, Roma, Napoli, and Hellas Verona battling for two Champions League spots.
The Coronation Is Ready
The only question left for the top of the English Premier League is when Liverpool will win the title. It could come as early as Monday, though it will likely be when the Reds host Crystal Palace on Wednesday.
They lead Manchester City by 22 points after City returned to action with a 3-0 thumping of Arsenal.
FA Cup play will resume with the quarterfinals on the weekend of June 27-28. In league play, draws were the theme of the return.
Tottenham and Manchester United played a 1-1 game as did Leicester City and Watford, while Sheffield United and Aston Villa returned to a 0-0 draw after a refereeing calamity.
The Best of the Best
UEFA announced this week that the Champions League and Europa League would resume in August but not under the traditional format. The Champions League teams will head to Lisbon, Portugal, for the quarterfinals, while Europa League teams will head to three cities in Germany.
So while things are not like usual, at least we are finally back into the full swing of daily soccer matches across Europe, and MLS is ready to return July 8 as well with its Orlando-based tournament.