The Champions League is widely regarded as the pinnacle of club competition, however, with the competition requiring teams to play midweek matches before league games, there is a viable argument that it is preventing many top sides from winning their domestic leagues.
In the Premier League, arguably the most competitive of the top five leagues, neither of the top two sides, Chelsea and Liverpool, are competing in Europe.
Both Antonio Conte and Jürgen Klopp have downplayed the argument that their lack of Champions League football plays a part in their recent success. Conte said, “You can give the chance to other players who work very hard every day in training,” and with Klopp arguing, “Sometimes it’s an advantage, but in the end, why does a team win the league with all these intense games in midweek? Maybe they find an answer.” Both managers, however, are likely trying to take the pressure off off their players.
Spurs, who qualified for the Champions League last season after an exceptional league campaign have dropped seven points from the five Premier League games they have played after a midweek game in Europe, which is 40% win percentage in comparison to a 50% win rate when they haven’t. Spurs were subsequently knocked out of the Champions League, with Mauricio Pochettino resting important players in vital matches in Europe due to their small squad size.
Leicester have taken a different approach after qualifying for the Champions League for the first time in the club’s history. The Foxes have seemingly focused solely on the Champions League, highlighted by the fact that they have more points in Europe than in the Premier League. Which comes across as extremely short-term approach, nonetheless seeing their pragmatic, counter-attacking style against possession-based sides is an interesting watch.
In the Bundesliga, the current leaders are RB Leipzig who after being promoted to the top flight last season, are benefiting from having more time to prepare than title rivals Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Münich and currently sit at the head of the table, unbeaten so far in the league.
Bayern have dropped into second place, which is an unfamiliar position for the Bavarians who have won the league for the past four seasons. Their manager, Carlo Ancelotti, has once again found it hard to balance the league and the Champions League – failing to win a domestic league and the Champions League in the same season throughout his career. If the Italian wants to win both competitions this year, he will have to work out how to manage his star-studded squad in the Bundesliga and Europe.
The same can be said for Dortmund who currently sit in seventh position. Thomas Tuchel’s side is undoubtedly one of the most exciting and young teams in Europe. However, their lack of proven quality on the bench seems to have cost them so far this season. Although giving young players a chance is admirable and can often work in your favour; it is not helping them in the short-term as Dortmund are struggling to perform as well in the Bundesliga as they are in Europe.
Overall, it is becoming a lot harder for teams to sustain great form in both their domestic leagues and in Europe, especially as smaller teams are learning how to exploit the larger teams’ weaknesses. The European powerhouses will continue to try and win both competitions, however, if it ever comes down to winning one or the other, it will certainly be interesting to see how they manage the situation.
By Oliver Walsh – Twitter – @_Oliver Walsh