What if Europe's top five leagues ended as things stand in the middle of a pandemic enforced standstill?

UEFA, European football's governing body, has pressed on the leagues to finish their 2019-20 seasons despite an extended break due to the coronavirus pandemic. If the leagues don't finish, there could be ramifications towards qualification for Champions League – European club football's top level competition.

The timeline for completion of the leagues has been revised multiple times as Europe continues to battle the pandemic. Multiple avenues have been explored such as extending the season and shortening the pre-season window for 2020-21; declaring the season as null and void; taking the positions as they stand and announcing champions and relegated teams; playoffs based on current positions.

 What if Europes top five leagues ended as things stand in the middle of a pandemic enforced standstill?

Europe's top five football leagues with season halted by the coronavirus. Image: Firstpost

A joint letter by UEFA, European Club Association and European Leagues had suggested playing into July and August – usually the time by which clubs are well into pre-season or new seasons have started.

Another aspect to consider with all scenarios, for all clubs and leagues, is the financial blow they already suffered. A cancellation would only make things worse for the leagues which are already struggling and may have to file for bankruptcy if seasons are void. LaLiga is slated to lose "millions of euros" if the season doesn't finish. If it does finish behind closed doors, the loss will be 350 million euros and 150 million euros if played with fans. The top two divisions in Germany could lose a staggering 750 million euros if the league isn't completed. French clubs are reportedly losing 250 million a month due to lack of football.

UEFA have constituted a working group to iron out concerns in this unprecedented time. One of the workarounds is of finishing the domestic leagues and then the European club competitions – Champions League and Europa League. FIFA, the global body, are slated to leave it to the respective leagues to complete the seasons and adjust the transfer windows. A look at how the top five leagues stand as football came to a standstill.

English Premier League

All professional football in England has been halted and there is no set date for return. There have been suggestions to play, whenever that is, at empty stadiums to ensure season draws to a close. All teams have played 29 games except Manchester City, Sheffield United, Arsenal and Aston Villa who have played 28.

Position Team Played Won Drawn Lost GD Points Gap from top
1 Liverpool 29 27 1 1 45 82 -
2 Manchester City 28 18 3 7 37 57 -25
3 Leicester City 29 16 5 8 37 53 -29
4 Chelsea 29 14 6 9 12 48 -34
5 Manchester United 29 12 9 8 14 45 -37
6 Wolves 29 10 13 6 7 43 -39

Liverpool lead the table with 82 points and are two wins away from the title after a stupendous season saw them draw one and lose one. Manchester City are 25 points behind with nine/ten games left in the season. It is a massive ask for City to bridge that gap even if Liverpool were to stumble (historical reference is completely unintended) from here. No other leader from the top five leagues has a bigger gap over the second placed club than Liverpool.

An Opta simulation said Liverpool would go on to win the league and finish with a record 101 points – breaking City's record from 2017/18 season. City, Leicester and Chelsea would make the top four with United and Spurs rounding off the European places. At the foot of the table, Bournemouth, Villa and Norwich would drop to the Championship.

Liverpool will face Atletico Madrid in round of 16 of Champions League. AP

Liverpool are two wins away from ending a 30 year wait for the league title. AP

“There is no way Liverpool could end without the title. If the matches are played, then they will almost certainly win it – theoretically, they still haven’t earned the title but they almost certainly will,” UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin told Slovenian sports daily Ekipa. “In case the matches cannot be played, we will need to find a way... And, once again, I see no scenario according to which Liverpool would not be the winners. I realise fans might be disappointed if the match is played in an empty stadium or even if it is resolved around a table, but I believe that one way or another they will win the title.”

At the bottom end of the league table, fact that Villa have played one game less makes things tricky. Bournemouth and Norwich City are the other two teams in the drop zone. A win for Villa from their game in hand would take them out of the bottom three and send Watford in.

Position Team Played Won Drawn Lost GD Points
15 Brighton 29 6 11 12 -8 29
16 West Ham United 29 7 6 16 -15 27
17 Watford 29 6 9 14 -17 27
18 Bournemouth 29 7 6 16 -18 27
19 Aston Villa 28 7 4 17 -22 25
20 Norwich City 29 5 6 18 -27 21

Qualification for the European competitions is another big concern for the clubs and City's ban doesn't make things simple. If City finish in the top four, which looks likely, and the ban from European football stands, their berth will go to the next best team, it has been reported. This could mean an entry for Liverpool, Leicester City, Chelsea and Manchester United in the Champions League while Wolves and Sheffield United go into Europa League. However, Sheffield, who have 43 points from 28 games, can leapfrog Manchester United into the Champions League spot with a win from their pending game.

LaLiga

LaLiga president Javier Tebas gave an idea of the possible return dates in Spain. He said the season could resume on one of three dates: 28 May, 6 June or 28 June with a cancellation not being considered. "We are considering returning to play in Spain and in other countries on 28 May or alternatively, 6 June or else 28 June," he said. "If we start LaLiga on 28 May, the Champions League will go on in July. If we start on 6 June, they will play all of the competitions until 31 July. And if we start on 28 June, July, will be for the league and August will be for Champions League," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Position Team Played Won Drawn Lost GD Points Gap from top
1 Barcelona 27 18 4 5 32 58 -
2 Real Madrid 27 16 8 3 30 56 -2
3 Sevilla 27 13 8 6 10 47 -11
4 Real Sociedad 27 14 4 9 12 46 -12
5 Getafe 27 13 7 7 12 46 -12
6 Atletico Madrid 27 11 12 4 10 45 -13

Unlike England, all teams are on even footing as far as games played is concerned: 27 each. Barcelona lead Real Madrid by two points with Sevilla and Real Sociedad occupying the other two Champions League places. Getafe and Atletico Madrid hold the Europa League places with just one point between them. Real Sociedad and Getafe both have 46 points and if the tie breaker rules are applied, head-to-head in Spain's case, then both home and away games haven't been played. Getafe won 2-1 away at Anoeta in October.

At the bottom, Real Mallorca, Leganes and Espanyol are in the drop zone with Eibar and Celta Vigo just safe by two and one point(s) respectively.

Position Team Played Won Drawn Lost GD Points
15 Real Valladolid 27 6 11 10 -10 29
16 Eibar 27 7 6 14 -14 27
17 Celta Vigo 27 5 11 11 -12 26
18 Mallorca 27 7 4 16 -16 25
19 Leganes 27 5 8 14 -18 23
20 Espanyol 27 4 8 15 -23 20

Former Real Madrid goalkeeper and a candidate for the presidency of the Spanish FA (RFEF), Iker Casillas has recommended shifting the leagues to a calendar year format which would also help align easier with the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. "How would you solve the European football dates? Would you void the season? Would you make the season run based on the calendar year? In other words, if everything is fine in three or four months, play the rest of the matches and the Champions League and Europa League finals in December. The next World Cup is in November 2022. Adjustments," he wrote on Twitter.

Tebas was quick to rule this option out. "The new dates which would allow us to end the season have already been pointed out. Delaying the end and running it based on the calendar year means we would lose a season. What would happen to the television contracts, the contracts of players, signed for various seasons which mean billions of euros?" Tebas replied.

Serie A

Position Team Played Won Drawn Lost GD Points Gap from top
1 Juventus 26 20 3 3 26 63 -
2 Lazio 26 19 5 2 37 62 -1
3 Inter Milan 25 16 6 3 25 54 -9
4 Atalanta 25 14 6 5 36 48 -15
5 Roma 26 13 6 7 16 45 -18
6 Napoli 26 11 6 9 5 39 -24

Italy's top division had been evenly placed until Juventus beat Inter Milan 2-0 in an empty stadium in the first week of March. This took eight time straight champions Juventus top on 63 points from 26 games with Lazio a point behind. Inter now trail Juve by nine points but have a game in hand. Atalanta round off the Champions League qualification places. AS Roma and Napoli make the Europa League places.

Relegation poses a real predicament for the league organisers if the season is stopped in tracks as it stands. Brescia, SPAL and Lecce are in the bottom three with 16, 18 and 25 points respectively. But Genoa also have 25 points and a superior goal difference sees them out of the drop zone.

Position Team Played Won Drawn Lost GD Points
14 Udinese 26 7 7 12 -16 28
15 Torino 25 8 3 14 -17 27
16 Sampdoria 25 7 5 13 -16 26
17 Genoa 26 6 7 13 -16 25
18 Lecce 26 6 7 13 -22 25
19 SPAL 26 5 3 18 -24 18
20 Brescia 26 4 4 18 -27 16

"With regards to the possible completion of the remaining Serie A and Coppa Italia matches, Lega Serie A will only consider the resumption of sporting activity when health conditions allow it, adhering, as it has always done, to government decrees and taking into primary consideration the protection of the health of the players and all those involved," said Lega Serie A after a meeting between the league and Italian Players' Association (AIC).

"In facing the different scenarios, which are still uncertain, Lega Serie A - with the participation of club representatives - will continue to analyse the impact and consequences of COVID-19 on medical, economic, regulatory, sporting and risk-assessment levels for the clubs and Lega Serie A itself in the coming days."

Relegation threatened Brescia president Massimo Cellino's threat of forfeiting matches, if league resumes, could also make things tricky in Serie A. “This season doesn’t make sense any more. If they force us to play, I’d be willing to not field the team and lose the matches 3-0 out of respect for the citizens of Brescia and their loved ones who are no longer there," he told Gazzetta dello Sport.

Bundesliga

Position Team Played Won Drawn Lost GD Points Gap from top
1 Bayern Munich 25 17 4 4 47 55 -
2 Borussia Dortmund 25 15 6 4 35 51 -4
3 Leipzig 25 14 8 3 36 50 -5
4 Borussia Moenchengladbach 25 15 4 6 19 49 -6
5 Bayer Leverkusen 25 14 5 6 15 47 -8
6 Schalke 25 9 10 6 -3 37 -18

Unlike rest of the top leagues, Bundesliga have begun training in batches. Bayern Munich, 29-time and seven straight time champions, were one of the teams to get back to the football pitch but without any contact or tackles. Situation in Germany is precariously placed with Bayern top having collected 55 points from 25 games (11 to be played) and Borussia Dortmund (51), Leipzig (50) and Borussia Moenchengladbach (49) well on their heels to make the top four. Bayer Leverkusen, in fifth, are close with 47 points but Schalke, on 37 points, are some distance away.

At the bottom, Fortuna Dusseldorf, Werder Bremen and Paderborn occupy the relegation threatened places. Unlike the rest of the top leagues, in Germany the bottom two teams automatically go down while the third worst team goes into a playoff with the team looking to climb from the second division. As things stand, Fortuna Dusseldorf would play Hamburg for a place in the top division.

Position Team Played Won Drawn Lost GD Points
15 Mainz 05 25 8 2 15 -19 26
16 Fortuna Dusseldorf 25 5 7 13 -23 22
17 Werder Bremen 24 4 6 14 -28 18
18 Paderborn 25 4 4 17 -24 16

"There is no one plan yet, there are quite a few different approaches," said German Football League (DFL) chief Christian Seifert. "But it's about ending the season … I haven't dealt with a plan for abandoning the season."

Ligue 1

Position Team Played Won Drawn Lost GD Points Gap from top
1 PSG 27 22 2 3 51 68 -
2 Marseille 28 16 8 4 12 56 -12
3 Rennes 28 15 5 8 14 50 -18
4 Lille 28 15 4 9 8 49 -19

Except PSG and Strasbourg, all teams in the French top division have played 28 matches. Despite one game less, PSG are the league leaders by 12 points with 10/11 games left. Marseille and Rennes occupy the Champions League spots while Lille hold the Europa League place.

Nimes, Amiens and Tolouse are bottom of the championship and like Germany, a two-legged playoff is played between the 18th placed team and promotional hopeful from the second division: Ajaccio, Troyes and Clermont are the three hopefuls.

Position Team Played Won Drawn Lost GD Points
18 Nimes 28 7 6 15 -15 27
19 Amiens 28 4 11 13 -19 23
20 Toulouse 28 3 4 21 -36 13

"It is necessary to finish the championship at all costs, even if it means ending it in July-August and resuming in stride," Ligue 1 president Bernard Caiazzo told France Bleu. "I am very, very, very worried about all the clubs. Without state aid, within six months half of the pro clubs will file for bankruptcy," he said.

Spanner in the works

Belgium have recommended scrapping the remainder of the season. If the recommendation is approved by the general assembly on 15 April, Club Brugge would be announced as champions. They are 15 points ahead of second placed Gent with one game to go before the playoffs. The league has said playing in empty stadiums would put stress on public health and security services. It had also expressed inability to play games before 30 June.

Updated Date: Apr 29, 2020 17:12:54 IST



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