After a season marred by controversies, bad decisions and below par performances, Antonio Conte seems to have turned the fortunes of Chelsea around drastically as the Blues now find themselves at the top of the Premier League table. The other team who have really stepped up this season are Liverpool.
The Reds have been in fine form with their attack looking extremely dangerous and coordinated. Chelsea and Liverpool at the moment are the 1st and 2nd placed team of the Premier League with 28 and 27 points respectively. Teams like Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham are also mounting a serious challenge for the top spot but the two teams at the top this season do have an advantage which is already helping them. That is the lack of European football.
While Man City, Arsenal and Tottenham have to play their Champions League fixtures, Chelsea and Liverpool are enjoying a nice recuperation period in between the weeks. For the teams with European commitments, it really is about playing 3 games in a week or sometimes eight days where they really struggle to keep up their fitness and stamina levels. This season, the trio of the above teams who have played in the Champions League have all dropped points in the next game of the Premiership at least once which has resulted in them playing catch up with their opponents and that is where the basic problem lies.
The Premier League possesses something that other European leagues do not – quality from top to bottom. The Premier League is the most competitive league in the world where there is no guarantee for the top teams against even the minnows. Just as Pep Guardiola is finding out at the moment, English teams simply have bigger challenges ahead on the weekend than they will have in midweek European ties, meaning that English sides will put in weakened sides during their mid-week matches.
The teams feel there is more to gain domestically than there is from Europe, which is why those matches tend to have lower priority, even from Champions League sides.
The other important thing which comes to mind is the Winter Break. Managers might have given up calling for the winter break but many remain bemused by the insistence on English clubs playing through Christmas and New Year and then observing the national flagellation when those same teams begin to stutter towards the back end of the campaign.
With the level of intensity and the high tempo at which the matches of England’s top flight are played it is almost impossible to keep on playing through the over-congested fixtures which see teams fading precisely at the point when their European rivals reap the benefits of the resting period, they are provided in their own domestic leagues.
Thus it is something which can’t be ever denied or avoided and with the absence of any European fixtures this season, both Liverpool and Chelsea will have the upper hand in the Premier League and due to the increased competition, the English teams will suffer again in Europe.
Arka Tarun Mukherjee
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