Thursday evening saw one of the most anticipated summer sporting events take place. The Champions League draw can leave a supporter brimming with confidence or severely lacking in optimism. This season, certain group fixtures will see the whole footballing world transfixed upon them, as some truly mouth-watering clashes will take place. In Group A, at least one of AS Monaco, Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund will not make it into the last 16. Group B will see Spurs face European heavyweights, Barcelona and the return of sleeping giants, Inter Milan, in what some pundits are already labelling the group of death.
Liverpool fans will be the first to disagree, however, with the Anfield club being drawn against PSG, Napoli and Red Star Belgrade. Whoever your team is facing, there is one thing that all clubs’ supporters will be feeling. A sense of hope that their club can write their name in the history books as they look to conquer Europe in football’s ultimate test.
Champions League football always provides managers with the most difficult of tasks. That is trying to achieve success on both continental and domestic fronts. Champions League games, as you know, are played midweek and, therefore, have a crucial role in creating an impossibly packed schedule for managers and players alike to try and overcome. Managers must attempt to manufacture any little situation to their advantage. Whilst any cup run in Europe is exhilarating, as Liverpool fans will know better than most, consistency in domestic leagues is just as, if not more important, in guaranteeing sustainable success for clubs.
So, what does the impact of travelling to the farther reaches of the continent have on a team’s ability to perform in the league? Is there any correlation between midweek trips and coming up short in the league in the following game for the Merseyside club?
Astonishingly, last season, Liverpool’s pre-Champions League games saw the club perform at near title-winning form of 2.33 points per game. However, after 5 of Liverpool’s group games last season, Jürgen Klopp’s men failed to win in the following Premier League match, picking up a dire 1.36 points per game. That is a win percentage of just 17%. Liverpool failed to beat the likes of Burnley, Newcastle and bitter rivals Everton in games that followed a midweek venture to Europe. These are games that any top 4 club would normally consider as a guaranteed 3 points. So, there is all the proof needed to show the damaging effects Europe can have on a club’s domestic performance, even against the lesser teams of the division.
Well, unfortunately for Mr Klopp, Liverpool will this year go up against title rivals, Manchester City on the back of a taxing trip to Italy. 2 of Liverpool’s most heated games of the season also follow directly after games against PSG and Napoli, with the Merseyside derby and one of the biggest rivalries in the world against Manchester United both taking place. If last year’s results are anything to go by, these are fixtures that could really hamper Liverpool’s potential title bid. Although Klopp has got a much larger squad this season, he is still going to have to plan methodically and carefully in order to successfully negotiate this crucial pre-Christmas gauntlet.