Eight teams, eight faces of the Champions League finals

Lisbon, Real Madrid, Liverpool and Cristiano Ronaldo may not be present but the Champions League finals in Lisbon still offer plenty of stars. Lionel Messi, Neymar and Robert Lewandowski will be just three of the stars on show as the Champions League concludes in a mini-tournament format with eight teams in Lisbon.


Matches are being played behind closed doors because of coronavirus restrictions but the one-legged format has prompted Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge to say that “it will probably be the most exciting Champions League of all time for the viewers,” according to Deutsche press agency (dpa).


Here are key figures from the eight teams and the quarter-final match-ups:


Atalanta v Paris Saint-Germain (August 12, Estadio da Luz):


Papu Gomez: Top scorer Josip Ilicic may be badly missed but the Argentine Gomez is the key man at Atalanta. The captain led them to back-to-back third-place finishes in Serie A and the attacking midfielder has also shown his skills in their Champions League debut season, including a splendid goal in their November win against Dinamo Zagreb.


Neymar: The world’s most expensive player will hope to deliver in Lisbon and help PSG win the Champions League at last. He lifted the trophy in 2015 with Barcelona and also helped them eliminate PSG in the memorable last 16 tie where Barca overcame a 4-0 first-leg deficit. He joined PSG the same year on a contract until 2022 and has recently said: “I am in the best shape since I came to Paris.” That will be needed given attacking partner Kylian Mbappe is doubtful with an ankle injury.


RB Leipzig v Atletico Madrid (August 13, Estadio Jose Alvalade):


Emil Forsberg: RB Leipzig have lost their top star before the end of the season as Timo Werner, who scored 34 goals in all competitions, has already joined his new club Chelsea. The Germany forward will be missed but Forsberg could step up in Lisbon as a man for the big moments, after finally ending his toying with a move elsewhere. Now 28, the Swede scored in 2016 to send Leipzig into the Bundesliga and a year later he also scored their first-ever Champions League goal against Monaco.


Joao Felix: With no team of their own and Cristiano Ronaldo absent because of Juventus’ elimination last week, the biggest Portuguese interest is to focus on young compatriot Joao Felix. The 20-year-old is yet to really shine for Diego Simeone’s team in his first year as he has not yet made fans forget Antoine Griezmann. But he showed last year while still at Benfica what he is capable of in Europe, scoring a Europa League hat-trick against Eintracht Frankfurt.


Barcelona v Bayern Munich (August 14, Estadio da Luz):


Lionel Messi: Barcelona’s hopes of ending an otherwise barren season with a trophy appears to largely depend on their Argentine talisman. The team has not shone this season and was beaten by Real Madrid to the La Liga title. But Messi showed fine form in the last-16 win over Napoli last week, his goal for 2-0 in that game an extraordinary effort and his 115th Champions League goal.


Messi also scored twice in Spain when Barcelona ousted Bayern in the 2015 semis, and the Sport newspaper said after the Napoli win that “anything is possible with this Messi” – who could lift the trophy a fifth time.


Robert Lewandowski: The Polish marksman has never been better than this season where he aims for a title treble with his club and a top-scoring treble for himself. Lewandowski, who turns 32 two days before the August 23 final, has netted 53 times in 44 games in all competitions as Bayern won another domestic double. Lewandowski topped the Bundesliga scoring chart with 34 goals and the German Cup list as well with six goals. He is also topscorer in the Champions League with 13 strikes and even though he says “that is not an aim of mine,” he could attack Cristiano Ronaldo’s record of 17 in one campaign, despite playing two games less if Bayern make the final.


Manchester City v Olympique Lyon (August 15, Estadio Jose Alvalade):


Pep Guardiola: It could be now or never for the Spanish manager, who has not won the Champions League since lifting the trophy twice with Barcelona in 2009 and 2011. As Bayern coach he went out three times in the semi-finals and his previous three campaigns in charge at City also ended prematurely. Their Abu Dhabi owners crave Champions League success. But in order to do so, he must first beat Lyon and then Bayern or Barca.


Memphis Depay: The Dutch international spoilt Cristiano Ronaldo’s desire to play for the trophy in his home country, scoring the deciding away goal that saw Lyon oust Juventus. Team captain Depay returned to fitness in time after suffering a severe knee injury in December. The winger’s future is unclear as his contract expires in 2021.


Source: Bahrain News Agency