The 2019-20 season has come to a halt in Europe because of the deadly coronavirus epidemic. Leagues have been suspended and the Belgian league has already been called off. But the hierarchy of the other leagues hopes to finish off their season once the pandemic comes to a close. In such a situation, even though the business end of the season still awaits, this list takes a look at the five major incidents that shook European football for the time being.
Liverpool finally lose in the PL
At one point, it seemed like Arsenal's record of going a season undefeated was in danger. Jurgen Klopp's men had performed extra-ordinarily throughout the 2019-20 season, taking a huge lead at the top ahead of Manchester City. Even more prodigiously, they had not lost a single game in the league until the 28th round. It looked like not only will they top the Citizens' record 100-point campaign but also go the season unscathed. But then, they travelled to Watford and all hell broke loose.
Ismaila Sarr decided to wreak havoc as he scored a couple of goals and set another up for Troy Deeney. And Liverpool looked nothing like their unbeatable self as they succumbed to their first league defeat in a year. Their last defeat was to Manchester City which cost them the premiership in the previous season. But in this, that was highly unlikely as the Merseyside club were 25 points ahead at the top when the league was suspended.
Liverpool knocked out of the UCL
Liverpool's defeat to Watford was just the start of their disappointing run. They were knocked out by Chelsea in the FA Cup, diminishing their hopes for a treble. And their goal of defending their European crown was shattered when Atletico Madrid beat them 2-3 at home to knock them out of the Uefa Champions League (UCL).
The tie was mouthwatering from the start and Atletico coming to Anfield with a 1-0 lead meant that the Kop was ready to make the Rojiblancos go through hell. And boisterous comments from Klopp and players about coming to Anfield were considered to be a mere reflection of their confidence.
And when Georginio Wijnaldum brought them back in the tie with a goal, Liverpool were back. And Roberto Firmino's goal at the inception of extra time made everyone feel that it was another night of jubilation at Anfield. But soon, all the buzz in Anfield went berserk.
Liverpool goalkeeper Adrian played a pass into Joao Felix and the Portuguese found Marcos Llorente at the edge of the box. Llorente scored, and then he scored again in the 105th minute, almost ensuring Liverpool's demise. And Alvaro Morata put the cherry on the cake as he made it 2-3 for the visitors to ensure Liverpool did not retain their crown.
Ernesto Valverde gets the sack
Despite winning back to back league titles, Barcelona fans were never happy with Ernesto Valverde as their manager. He was often tagged as contradictory to Barcelona's trademark style. And getting knocked out of the UCL in two consecutive seasons by letting go of a three-goal lead did not help either. But despite all of this, the board and the players were always in support of the former Barcelona striker and it looked like he would complete his third season with the Blaugranas.
But the telling blow came in January when Barcelona were knocked out of the Spanish Super Cup by Atletico Madrid with two late goals. The board made a move and terminated their contract with the Spanish manager, replacing him with Quique Setien. Valverde getting the sack was not really a shock but it looks like one when you notice that Barcelona were still at the top of the league at his time of sacking.
Setien has done okay since he joined. Despite Barcelona losing the Classico to Real Madrid, they are still on top and many have praised the former Real Betis manager for his attempt to bring back Barcelona's trademark style of football.
Mourinho joins Tottenham as manager
The current Tottenham Hotspur side was in some sense made by Mauricio Pochettino. And it was under him that Spurs reached the UCL final for the first time in the previous season. But after only three wins in their first 12 league matches, Pochettino was handed the sack and Jose Mourinho took his place.
This was a surprise as the former Chelsea and Manchester United manager had said in 2015 that he would never manage Spurs. "I would not take the job (at Spurs) because I love Chelsea supporters too much," Mourinho said in 2015.
But a lot can change in five years and apparently that happened. Mourinho has brought Spurs back into the top half but it was under him that Spurs were knocked out of the UCL by RB Leipzig.
The rise of Atalanta
Nobody guessed Atalanta would go this far. UCL qualification was a big thing for the Italian club and when they had zero points from their first three group stage games, everybody guessed this was it for them.
But they gave birth to a miracle as they went on to collect seven points from the last three games to reach the knockouts. Not just that, once they were pitted against Valencia, they thrashed the Spanish side to reach the quarterfinals too. They won the first leg at home 4-1 and then won 3-4 away to go through scoring an astounding eight goals.
And they have no signs to stop as they look forward to entertaining the football world with their free-flowing style of football.
Keeping all these aside, the biggest shock to football is surely the pandemic. Fans around the world would hope that somehow this season is completed. Because if not, they will miss out on moments of elation. And nobody wants to miss out on that.