Arsenal players will not have to quarantine after they travel to Spain next month to take part in the Women’s Champions League final eight mini-tournament to decide the winners.
Arsenal were in the quarter-finals of the Champions League when football was brought to a halt because of the worldwide pandemic.
The remainder of the Women’s Champions League 2019/20 tournament will now take place in Spain, in the Basque Country, from 21 August to 30 August. The final was originally set to be played in Vienna at the end of May.
Spain has seen a spike in cases prompting the UK government, which is still far from getting its own house in order, to issue an edict advising people not to travel to Spain. Those who do are advised to quarantine for 14 days in their own home upon their return, 10 if they test negative.
This will not, however, apply to elite footballers.
UEFA are, however, open to moving the grounds selected for the women’s mini-tournament should that be required.
Arsenal need to win the Champions League in order to compete in it next season after finishing third in the Super League. From next season, third place will also be a Champions League spot.
The Daily Telegraph write in their Tuesday sport section, “New quarantine restrictions with Spain will not apply to Real Madrid players arriving to face Manchester City in the men’s Champions League or the Arsenal team travelling to the women’s quarter-finals next month.
“The Government says no change is required to the current regulations around elite athletes, as they will continue competing within their bubbles when abroad. Quarantine rules for the general public were imposed from last Saturday.
“Hugh Elliott, the UK ambassador in Spain, said Real players would be “in a bubble to reduce risks” when they travelled to Manchester to take on City at the Etihad Stadium a week on Friday.
“Following a dramatic increase in the virus in Spain, Uefa is open to moving venues for next month’s women’s Champions League.”
Can this Arsenal squad win the tournament?
The answer is yes, but it will not be easy.
The two favourites, Lyon and Wolfsburg, have really strong squads and all the teams still in the competition have signed a good numbers of players prior to the final eight mini-tournament.
Should Arsenal beat PSG, they would likely meet Lyon and that is a really tough game, unless FC Bayern managed to upset the holders.
Then in the final it is likely to be Wolfsburg, Barcelona or Atletico Madrid, and our former keeper Pauline Peyraud-Magnin. Glasgow City are also still in the running but will play Wolfsburg in the quarter-final and it would be a giant upset if they beat the German champions.
There is a lot of strength in depth in Arsenal’s team. A lot more than last season and it is definitely needed as they could play three games to be played in nine days. With five subs allowed per game, the whole squad is likely to be involved should we go through to the final.
As there is not much time to integrate the new players, and we do not know yet how many friendlies will be played before the tournament next month, it is likely that the starting 11 against PSG will be very close to the one from last season.
I would expect this one: Zinsberger; Maier or Evans, Williamson, Beattie, Catley or McCabe; Wälti, Little, Nobbs; Van de Donk, Miedema, Mead or McCabe.
All remaining matches in UEFA Women’s Champions League will be played as an eight-team straight knock-out tournament at the San Mamés Stadium in Bilbao and the Anoeta Stadium in San Sebastián.
The quarter-finals will be played on 21 August and 22 August, and the semi-finals on 25 and 26 August at 8pm.
The final will take place in San Sebastián on 30 August at 8pm.
The draw took place at UEFA in Nyon on 26 June to determine the order of matches and the final match schedule is below.
Friday 21 August
Glasgow City vs Wolfsburg (Anoeta Stadium, San Sebastián)
Atlético Madrid vs Barcelona (San Mamés Stadium, Bilbao)
Saturday 22 August
Arsenal vs Paris Saint-Germain (Anoeta Stadium, San Sebastián)
Lyon vs Bayern München (San Mamés Stadium, Bilbao)
Semi-finals (25/26 August)
Tuesday 25 August
2: Glasgow City/Wolfsburg vs Atlético/Barcelona (Anoeta Stadium, San Sebastián)
Wednesday 26 August
1: Arsenal/PSG vs Lyon/Bayern (San Mamés Stadium, Bilbao)
Final (20:00 CET, 30 August: Anoeta Stadium, San Sebastián)
Winner semi-final 2 vs Winner semi-final 1
Special rules brought in
UEFA have introduced some special rules for this knock-out tournament: “Five substitutions will be allowed in all the remaining matches in season 2019/20, in accordance with the temporary change to the Laws of the Game.”
It makes sense as three games in nine days is a very short time for recovery.
They have also made a ruling forbidding teams using new players signed in the summer transfer window: “Teams will be allowed to register three new players on their List A for the remainder of the 2019/20 season, provided such players were already registered and eligible for the club since the last registration deadline (18 March 2020). List A will still only be able to contain a maximum of 25 players. It will not be possible for clubs to register newly-transferred players.”
On the disciplinary side, only Katie McCabe is in danger of missing the next game as she was the only Arsenal player booked in the previous rounds. The yellow card count resets at the semi-final stage.
Arsenal can only qualify for the 2020/21 tournament by winning this one as they finished outside the top two this season.
It is certainly a difficult task, but as mentioned earlier many opponents, including Lyon, will have the same weakened squad problem as the Gunners due to player turnover.
Regarding travelling fans, a decision has not been made yet. Obviously it will depend on the sanitary conditions in August in Spain and Europe overall.