Sport

7 issues resolved in next 7 days as intense period for Utd, City and more begins

The Premier League’s Project Restart might have had its naysayers from the beginning, but by the end it all passed off pretty comfortably, with the season coming to a conclusion in much the same way it usually does.

But now for something completely different.

The next week sees the domestic campaign completely conclude and the European one begin again, with condensed continental competition coming to a close in both Germany and Portugal over the next couple of weeks.

We’re about to enter an even more intense period of football that we had before, and it all begins with a pretty important local scrap on Tuesday.

Here are some of the burning issues to resolve this week.

1. Which west London club will complete the Premier League picture?

TUESDAY: Championship playoff final: Brentford vs Fulham – Sky Sports Main Event – 7.45pm

Brentford fans celebrate their playoff semi-final win outside the now departed Griffin Park

Brentford, Fulham. Only one rival can be in the Premier League next season, and you’d better believe that the other one will be hearing about it for a whole year.

Whether the last time you were in the top-flight was all the way back in 1947 or just last year, the raw emotion of the Championship playoff final is something that is to be savoured, even if there is a tinge of sadness to this one because of just what it could have been like if the fans were there.

They’ll be there in spirit though, and willing on their teams from in front of TV screens across the capital and beyond.

No-one sleeps in west London on Tuesday night.

2. Can Man Utd’s youngsters take their chance?

WEDNESDAY: Europa League last-16: Man Utd (5) vs LASK (0) – BT Sport 1 – 8pm

Teden Mengi (centre) could make his United debut

In a world where we’re still being told to avoid doing things if they really don’t need to be done, then this game is… well yeah.

United’s 5-0 win in Austria in their Europa League last-16 tie back in March took place behind closed doors and served as a taster for what was to come, but procedure dictates that they still need to finish the job at Old Trafford.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has given plenty of his senior stars some time off after they secured third place in the Premier League, but this could be a chance for some of his younger talents to emerge, including the exciting 18-year-old defender Teden Mengi who will be hoping for a senior debut.

3. Are focused Wolves ready to pounce?

THURSDAY: Europa League last-16: Wolves (1) vs Olympiakos (1) – BT Sport 1 – 8pm

Nuno’s words ring true in Wolverhampton

We’re now into the 14th month of Wolves’ season, and much of the conversation around it has been on the same theme.

Ever since their July 25, 2019 meeting with Crusaders of Northern Ireland there has been a concern over how fixture congestion would affect Nuno Espirito Santo’s side, and the answer was: well, not a lot really.

Now though? There is only one goal, and a clear focus on a competition which has enjoyed having them as much as they’ve enjoyed having it, with this potentially the first of four games between now and August 21 if they are to go all the way to the final.

And after the season they’ve had, what’s two more weeks?

4. Can Lyon keep out Cristiano Ronaldo?

FRIDAY: Champions League last-16: Juventus (0) vs Lyon (1) – BT Sport 2 – 8pm

Ronaldo picked up his second Serie A title at the weekend

After being guaranteed a spot in the final in his latter years at Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo was not a happy man when Juventus exited the Champions League at the hands of Ajax at the last eight stage last season.

He, perhaps more than any footballer there has ever been, must detest the idea of playing matches in empty stadiums when the eyes of the crowd aren’t on him, but the prospect of lifting what would be his sixth Champions League in Lisbon must surely now be a motivating factor as a fairly rusty – and still pretty angry – Lyon come to Turin.

Is that slender first leg lead going to be enough?

5. Is it all set up for Manchester City?

FRIDAY: Champions League last-16: Man City (2) vs Real Madrid (1) – BT Sport 1 – 8pm

City go into their second leg 2-1 up from the first

Will BT Sport play some fake booing over the top of the Champions League anthem?

You can only imagine what the atmosphere would be like if there were any home supporters in attendance as City take on one of the symbols of UEFA’s established order, who they managed to beat 2-1 on their own ground in the first leg of this tie many moons ago in late February.

City’s relationship with the Champions League has always been a strange one, and so there’s a sense that if they’re ever going to win one this might just be the perfect time.

Few look capable of stopping them, on or off the pitch.

6. Can the rot be removed at Barcelona?

SATURDAY: Champions League last-16: Barcelona (1) vs Napoli (1) – BT Sport 2 – 8pm

Messi has been critical of his teammates in recent weeks

If Lionel Messi is standing in front of a board adorned with sponsors and giving a heartfelt interview after this then things probably haven’t gone well. And Quique Setien won’t last the night in gainful employment.

That seems to be how much will be on the line at the Nou Camp, where Barca are still feeling the after-effects of coming up short to Real Madrid in La Liga’s title race, and aftershocks still accompany the names ‘Roma’ and ‘ Liverpool ‘ whenever the Champions League is mentioned.

Those defeats seem to have done something to this group, and if they come up short again here then big changes could be on the way.

7. Are Chelsea on a hiding to nothing?

SATURDAY: Champions League last-16: Bayern Munich (3) vs Chelsea (0) – BT Sport 1 – 8pm

Frank Lampard saw his side lose the FA Cup final to Arsenal

There will have been moments over these last couple of months where Frank Lampard would have completely forgotten about this game, such is the lack of connection between the world on February 25, when Bayern won 3-0 at Stamford Bridge, to now.

But now he’ll be genuinely fearing it.

The German giants might have wrapped up the quickly restarted Bundesliga long ago, but they’ll be craving a game like this to get them back into some rhythm ahead of an assault on the Lisbon week-and-a-half that could be their destiny.

Chelsea, chastened and wounded from their weekend at Wembley, just do not need this.



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