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Which of Europe's footballing elite could be the biggest WINNERS and LOSERS from the coronavirus chaos?

Which of Europe's footballing elite could be the biggest WINNERS and LOSERS from the coronavirus chaos?
Football across Europe is edging ever closer to a return from its coronavirus-enforced hiatus, but which teams could benefit most from the break? We look at what the Covid-19 chaos could mean for the European big boys.

PREMIER LEAGUE 

Under the Premier League's 'Project Restart' plans, English football bosses are aiming for a potential resumption of top-level football from the second week of June.

READ MORE: 'Project Restart': Premier League set for JUNE RETURN if UK government approves ambitious plans 

Liverpool already have the title sewn up with a mammoth 25-point lead at the top of the table, and need just two more wins from their remaining nine matches to seal the deal.

However, Jurgen Klopp's men and Reds fans stand to miss out on the joy of celebrating their first league title in 30 years together given the restrictions on mass gatherings likely to remain in place for the long haul.

In that respect, Liverpool will very much emerge from the crisis with a diminished sense of joy at their title win, and have also seen their reputation take a hit from the scandal over their furloughing of staff - which they later reversed in an embarrassing U-turn.

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Elsewhere, Manchester City will relinquish their crown as reigning Premier League champions, but unlike Liverpool still have Europe to focus on.

City are 2-1 ahead from their Champions League last 16 first leg against Real Madrid at the start of March and produced an assured display at the Bernabeu.

That signaled they very had the momentum in the tie and were heavily tipped to progress to the last eight, but the wind may have been taken from their sails by the enforced break.

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The coronavirus chaos has however forced a delay into City's appeal over their two-year European ban by UEFA for Financial Fair Play breaches, which may mean the bonus of being cleared to play in Europe's premier club competition next season as the legal wranglings drag on.

LA LIGA  

Spanish teams are cautiously returning to training this week as La Liga - like their English Premier League counterparts - plan for a potential June resumption in play.

League leaders Barcelona were pictured in training on Friday as Lionel Messi and Co went through their paces while observing strict social distancing measures.

However, the Covid-19 break has done little to quell the sense of growing crisis at the club on the pitch and in the boardroom.

During the break there have been yet more unseemly rows in the upper echelons of the Nou Camp, while the decision for players to take a pay cut to ease the financial burden also generated resentment from the likes of Messi over how the issue was handled.

READ MORE: Messi hits out at Barca board as players AGREE to 70% wage reduction so club staff won't face pay cut

There is the feeling that Barca's bloated wage bill desperately needs trimming and the squad also requiring an overhaul, with flops such as Philippe Coutinho being offloaded as a matter of urgency.

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The break will at least have given new manager Quique Setien the chance to step back and reassess the direction the club is heading. They are still in the Champions League mix as the competition aims for an August completion date, but their form was erratic before the coronavirus stopped play - including a Clasico defeat against Real Madrid. 

As for Real - two points behind in the La Liga table - they have the major boost of the break giving wing wizard Eden Hazard more time to recover from surgery on his fibula. The Belgian has reported for training duty this week and is said to be looking lean and raring to go.

His potential availability is not something manager Zinedine Zidane would have been counting on without the Covid-19 disruption, and means Madrid emerge from the break with the squad strengthened.

Zidane and the players also have the backdrop of a more stable boardroom behind them and less of the financial turmoil that has exacerbated issues at rivals Barca.  

SERIE A

Clubs in Italy's top tier are also tentatively returning to training as the country emerges from the destruction and tragedy wrought by the pandemic.

But despite the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo jetting back into Italy and players undertaking individual training, they will not be allowed to resume team training until May 18 - and there is still uncertainty over when or even if the league will restart at all as the government still hasn't given permission for it to do so.

The Italian football federation's medical protocol has been described as "insufficient" by Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora, leading to tensions with the league. 

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Any lingering lack of clarity will affect Italian teams equally in domestic terms - where Juventus lead a tight title race by one point from Lazio - but could hurt their European chances if they return to competitive action later than teams in other countries. 

Juve could suffer most in that respect, being the team with Italy's biggest chance of Champions League glory and finding themselves 1-0 down to Lyon from their last 16 first leg.

In contrast, Atalanta have booked their spot in the last eight already after a thumping win against Valencia in a fixture which was widely criticized for going ahead in the first place. 

BUNDESLIGA  

Germany is ahead of the curve in the restart stakes, having already confirmed that the country's top two tiers will return on May 16 with games at empty stadiums.

Teams have also had a training headstart on their peers in Europe, which may hand them the advantage of being fully back to match fitness once Champions League and Europe League competition resumes, potentially in August. 

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Bayern Munich - who lead the title race by four points from Borussia Dortmund, with Leipzig a further point behind - could stand to benefit the most as they finish off Chelsea in their last 16 second leg (the Germans lead the tie 3-0) and then target the last eight. 

Some could argue that the apparent efficiency with which the German return has been handled - coupled with a distinct absence of rancor, unlike elsewhere such as in England and Italy - could help Bundesliga teams in the European mix, given the added certainty it provides in terms of planning.

LIGUE 1

Paris Saint-Germain could be deemed winners from the crisis by the grim marker that it has caused the cancelation of the French league and expedited the club's crowning as champions.

However, beyond that PSG and their fellow French teams still in European competition could suffer more than any of Europe's elite, given that they will have no domestic football to accompany any return to Champions League action.

Considering that no football can be played in France until at least September, that will also mean teams having to play any 'home' matches outside of the country. 

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Lyon hold a surprise 1-0 lead over Juventus heading into their second leg in Turin, while PSG have already booked their spot in the quarter-finals after seeing off Borussia Dortmund behind closed doors in Paris just before the lockdown kicked in.      

Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Co were being widely tipped as finally fulfilling their star-studded potential in Europe this year, although the lack of any home comforts or domestic action could bite them badly.   

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