LISBON, Portugal (AP) — After an unprecedented suspension of the competition, pandemic-enforced changes to the format and a switch of location for the final, the Champions League will conclude on Sunday — 425 days after the first game was played.
Either Paris Saint-Germain will pick up the European Cup for the first time or Bayern Munich will become six-time winners of the continent’s premier competition.
And just a few hundred people, including the coronavirus-checked players and officials, will be allowed into the final, which is being played in Lisbon in late August rather than Istanbul in May as originally scheduled.
Never before has the European Cup been handed out in such empty surroundings. There’s none of the usual gathering of tens of thousands of supporters in the host city. Only the large trophy in Rossio — Lisbon’s main central square — gives away that the biggest match in world football is taking place in the Portuguese capital.
Around Benfica’s stadium, there is not a single sign indicating a game due to be watched on television by hundreds of millions of people on Sunday night will be played inside.
The lack of buzz and atmosphere at this 65th European Cup final will not detract from the magnitude of the occasion for the teams. For the first time since 1998, the final is a meeting of two teams who qualified as domestic champions.