At the end of last week, UEFA revealed that the Champions League and Europa League would be postponed indefinitely, with European football’s governing body stating that the scheduling of fixtures “will be communicated in due course”. Today it has been reported that UEFA will discuss the possibility of concluding its most prestigious competition in Istanbul, where the final is due to be played, over three days. The model would mirror that of the Nations League ‘Final Four’ which occurred last summer, and the radical plan could work in Manchester City’s favour.
The Citizens are already facing the possibility of being banned from European football for the next two seasons, pending the outcome of their appeal in the Court of Arbitration for Sport. It means that this could be Pep Guardiola’s best opportunity of winning the competition for the third time and first with the Premier League champions. The four-day format could work heavily in the Manchester outfit’s favour as they have a squad brimming with talent, deeper than most others remaining in the competition.
Should they be forced to play three matches in almost as many days, given the semi-finals were to remain two-legged, Guardiola has a squad at his disposal best capable of dealing with that daunting situation. He has already made use of the vast of resources available to him in the Carabao Cup final, deciding to start Phil Foden, John Stones and Claudio Bravo, all of whom have struggled to hold down a starting spot this term. In spite of struggling to become the first names on the team sheet, the trio performed capably, Foden, in particular, shining to receive the man of the match award.
Just a couple of days later the Spanish tactician rung the changes against Sheffield Wednesday, and he was still able to ease past the Championship side with a dominant display. Obviously, should the Champions League occur in a condensed format the opposition will be significantly more threatening. Still, few teams who remain in the competition could rival Manchester City regarding their squad depth. Further boosts could even come in the form of returns to the injured Aymeric Laporte and Leroy Sane, depending on when the proposal is staged.
Though the situation is bleak, there is a glimmer of hope for Guardiola’s side. Should UEFA go ahead with the proposal they are discussing, the new quick-fire format would certainly favour Manchester City over rivals such as Atalanta and Lyon.