Chelsea have learned the four new changes and alterations to this year’s Champions League as they prepare to kick off the defence of their title on Tuesday night against Zenit.
The Blues won their second title back at the end of May when Thomas Tuchel’s side came out on top of a 1-0 victory over Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in Porto courtesy of a Kai Havertz goal.
They now have the challenge of trying to defend the title – something which they failed to do in a terrible manner when they won the 2012 title, as they went out in the group stages the season later.
It is something captain Cesar Azpilicueta has promised will not happen again in the pre-match Zenit press conference: “I hope! It was a very bad experience, painful because I came from Marseille and we reached the quarter-final and last 16 of the competition so when I arrived at Chelsea, just after winning the Champions League, it was a tough moment to be out at the group stage after being the Champions.
“I am the only one in the squad still but I will try to help with this experience to make sure it doesn’t happen again. As I said before, we are the Champions so we start from zero. This is a new challenge, we have tough opponents and we have to be ready for it.
“We hope to get through, this is our objective, we want to fight for everything and this experience hopefully helps us to go forward.”
New rules and regulations have been introduced this year which could affect the west Londoners in a positive way as some of the outdated principles have now been altered to benefit all participating teams.
The first of the rules that have been changed is the away goals rule which has now been scrapped as they now do not count as double the value of home goals.
UEFA said in a statement via AS: “With the decision to remove this rule, ties in which the two teams score the same number of goals over the two legs would be not decided on the number of goals scored away, but two 15-minute periods of extra time are played at the end of the second leg and in case the teams score the same number of goals or no goals during this extra time, kicks from the penalty mark would determine the team which qualifies to the next stage of the competition”.
Secondly, the rule of increasing substitution numbers to five or six per match for each team will remain after it was introduced after project restart due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on footballers and their fitness levels.
UEFA explain: “Up to five of the substitutes listed on each team’s match sheet may take part in the match. Exceptionally, a sixth substitute listed on the match sheet may take part in knockout matches exclusively during extra time.
“Each team may use a maximum of three stoppages in play to make substitutions (one additional stoppage in extra-time can be used). Substitutions made before the start of the match, during half-time, between the end of normal playing time and extra time, and at half-time during extra time do not reduce the number of stoppages in play that can be used.
“A player who has been substituted may take no further part in the match”.
Next, despite not providing an update on this situation, it is understood that vaccine passports will be needed for fans to enter stadiums across Europe this year.
The Athletic have even gone as far as to say that these said passports will become mandatory at grounds in the event of a possible Covid-19 winter surge that has been forecasted.
The fluctuation of coronavirus rates across the continent means these will be obligatory if supporters wish to attend these types of games as a safety precaution.
On the topic of stadiums and attendances, the ties will still be played at reduced capacities due to complications for away fans who wish to travel abroad to follow their team during these uncertain times.
In October 2020, UEFA announced that fans would partially be allowed to return – but only fans from the home team and up to 30% of the stadium’s capacity. Those restrictions were also subject to changes if local authorities decided that the public’s health might be at risk.
So still expect reduced capacities but more on the behalf of the away cohort who will be more affected by the situation.