The idea of a ‘continental hangover’ is not a new one in English football – managers and fans alike have often blamed midweek excursions for poor domestic form the following weekend.
The theory goes that the extra workload of playing and travelling on a Tuesday or Wednesday, combined with less time preparing on the training ground, means sides will be below-par when it comes to their regular Premier League duties the Saturday or Sunday after.
But does the ‘continental hangover’ exist – and if it does, which clubs suffer worse from it?
Well, looking at the seven English sides who have played in the Champions League over the past five seasons, it appears the hangover is indeed real, and Liverpool are the side who are in most need of paracetamol.
SmartBets research has found that the Reds’ win percentage of 30% in the matches immediately following Champions League games is comfortably the worst of the seven, having won just three of their 10 games.
Liverpool’s post-Europe headache compares very poorly to the rest on the list – they’re the only side with an under 50% win rate, which comes out as 22.50% worse than their usual ratio.
Interestingly, Arsenal sit on top for PL points/game won immediately after midweek CL games, picking up an average of 2.07 per match. Their win rate of 63.33% is also the highest, despite Arsene Wenger’s team failing to make any impact on either the Champions League, or Premier League, over the past five years.
Also surprisingly, Leicester sit second on the table. Champions League qualification was one of the bonuses of the Foxes’ shock Premier League title win in 2015/16, but they reverted to form the following season, finishing in 12th, and flirting with relegation for much of the campaign.
However, their run in Europe, where they were England’s only representatives in the quarter-finals, provided a real lift to their domestic form.
They won five of the nine games immediately following a Champions League match, compared to just seven victories in the other 29 matches – showing that instead of a hangover, they were given a continental second-wind. The 31.42% difference between their usual win percentage, and their post-Europe one, is by far the biggest upwards swing by any English team.
Sadly, for both Arsenal and Leicester, neither will get a Champions League boost this season – as neither qualified for this year’s competition.
Chelsea sit in third in the table for points/game, but actually suffer a mild hangover, coming out 3.96% worse after European travails. The same stands for Manchester City – though their 10.61% slump after continental matches could cause concern for Pep Guardiola, especially if they go far in this season’s Champions League knockout stages.
The worst of the lot, however, are Liverpool, who really struggle to perform to a good level after playing midweek.
The Reds have scored only 12 goals in the 10 games following Champions League matches at a rate of 1.2 per match (the lowest on the list), and also sit bottom for goals conceded per game, at 1.60.
With a crunch match against Chelsea at Anfield on Saturday, the omens aren’t good for Jurgen Klopp’s men, who must try and pick themselves up after throwing away a 3-0 lead in their 3-3 draw with Sevilla on Tuesday.
While many would expect the upheaval behind playing away in Europe would lead to disjointed and tired performances in the Premier League, SmartBets research has found, in reality, this is actually the complete opposite.
Teams actually perform better when returning from away Champions League matches the weekend after, compared to matches where they played at home.
Incredibly, teams average a win percentage of 58.33% after away midweek games, compared to a rate of just 50.68% after home ones.
While they may concede more goals (1.04 after away games, compared to 0.93 after home ones), they score a lot more too (2.00 to 1.67) – perhaps showing games are a lot more open with tired defences.
This trend is surprisingly continued in the Europa League too, where the relentless slog of playing on the Thursday and Sunday (often with a smaller squad) is felt more keenly.
While the difference isn’t quite as pronounced as in the Champions League (just 4.84% difference in win rate compared to 7.65% in the CL), the findings go against the perceived wisdom that teams struggle after long continental trips.
|PL Matches After Home EL Games||48||20||9||19||59||62||61||1.27||41.67%|
|PL Matches After Away EL Games||43||20||11||12||73||56||71||1.65||46.51%|
"Premier League matches after home and away Europa League games"
Over the same five-year period, sides have picked up 10 more points after away Europa League games – despite having playing five more home matches.
While English sides have disappointed in Europe over the last few years, this season has seen a resurgence, with all five Premier League entrants to the Champions League currently sitting top of their groups.
The idea of a continental hangover is nothing new, but with all five hoping to make the latter stages, the managers will need to handle their squads well to limit the damage. Especially Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp.