AFC ‘confident’ of finishing Champions League season: Top official

Windsor John, AFC general secretary
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Updated 05 September 2020

AFC ‘confident’ of finishing Champions League season: Top official

  • Windsor John AFC general secretary

KUALA LUMPUR: Asia’s football body is “confident” of completing its coronavirus-hit Champions League this year, a senior official told AFP on Friday, as it heads into a frantic period of games with some venues still unknown.
The region’s showpiece tournament has been on hold since March, creating a heavy backlog before West Asia group games resume in Qatar on Sept. 14.
Two of the East Asia groups will be played from Oct. 16 in Malaysia, but no host has been announced for the two remaining pools or the knockout stages for the Eastern clubs.
Only two rounds of games were possible before the shutdown, and teams from China have played no matches at all. But Asian Football Confederation general secretary Windsor John said everything will be completed before the year’s end.
“We remain committed and confident of completing the competition within the 2020 calendar year,” he said.
John said more details on East Zone matches would be announced after an AFC executive meeting next week. The competition’s single-leg final is scheduled for Dec. 5.
The pandemic continues to spread worldwide and several countries in Asia are battling serious outbreaks. But John said he believes the Champions League can restart safely.
“We have engaged with our medical experts to establish several guidelines taking reference the industry’s best practices to minimize the risks,” he said.

BACKGROUND

The region’s showpiece tournament has been on hold since March, creating a heavy backlog before West Asia group games resume in Qatar on Sept. 14.

When asked separately about a Japanese report claiming the AFC had asked for a further postponement, an official reiterated that the governing body was “confident” of finishing the tournament this year.
A bio-secure “bubble” has been put in place for the resumption of matches in Qatar, similar to one implemented for the UEFA Champions League.
Under the arrangement in Lisbon, players and officials were subject to strict rules. These included having to undergo virus tests, and only being allowed to leave their hotels with prior agreement.
Asked if Asian football will continue to be disrupted even into next year, John said the AFC was working on the 2021 calendar, but that safety was paramount.
“The safety of our teams, players, officials, broadcast partners and stakeholders will always remain the highest priority, and we will not hesitate to make difficult decisions if necessary,” he said.
“Our commitment remains focused on completing our competitions as much as possible and the safe resumption of Asian football.”
John also played down concerns over the introduction of VAR, which is due to be used from the quarterfinals of this year’s Champions League for the first time.


Real Madrid aim to put crisis behind them

Updated 31 October 2020

Real Madrid aim to put crisis behind them

MADRID:  Real Madrid will be hoping to leave their sticky patch behind them when they play Huesca in La Liga on Saturday, with an early six-point lead to preserve over Barcelona.

The resignation of Barca’s club president Josep Maria Bartomeu has overshadowed what has been a dramatic week for Madrid, who barely salvaged a 2-2 draw against Borussia Monchengladbach in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Trailing 2-0 with three minutes left, Madrid were facing a defeat that would have squandered the momentum gained from last weekend’s Clasico win at Camp Nou.

A late double from Karim Benzema and Casemiro ensured Zinedine Zidane’s side snatched a draw that felt like a win but to consolidate that positivity, they cannot afford another slip this weekend.

“The team is what it has shown, it’s about a reaction,” said Zidane. “The first half was very good, we played well. The pity is we conceded the first goal, but we continued to think it was possible, even at 2-0.

“That showed the character of the team and I’m very proud of them. We are not happy because we want to win, but we must be happy with the performance.”

Madrid play a Huesca side that is yet to win this season, as they followed four consecutive draws with a 4-1 loss away at league leaders Real Sociedad on Sunday.

Zidane could also hand Eden Hazard his first start since August, after the Belgian came off the bench in midweek.

That was Hazard’s first appearance of the season as he tries to overcome his latest injury setback, which the club have only described as a muscle injury.

“It’s good. I’m here to play football,” said Hazard on Wednesday. “After two or three months off the pitch, I’m so happy. I just want to play football, that’s why I’m here.”

On the last-gasp draw in Germany, Hazard said: “We showed great character, to be 2-0 down with five minutes to play, I think we could have scored one more, I could have scored one more, but I missed. It’s not three points but it feels like a victory.”

Zidane was determined to give Hazard time to recover fully and he believes the club will have to be cautious.

“He’s just started playing. It is his first game after a long time away,” said Zidane. “The plan was for him to try to play but little by little is what we have to do.”

A Madrid victory against Huesca could send them back to the top of the table, above Real Sociedad who are the only team to have retained top spot in consecutive rounds so far this term.

Real Sociedad play away at Celta Vigo on Sunday, just before third-placed Granada host Levante and struggling Valencia play at home to Getafe.

If Atletico Madrid win their two games in hand they will go top, with Diego Simeone’s side away at Osasuna on Saturday.

Barcelona, who beat Juventus on Wednesday, also have two games in hand but are seven points off the lead. Their new era without Bartomeu begins in La Liga away at Alaves on Saturday night.