The challenges of both the UEFA Champions League and Europa League are differing and many, most having to do with schedule congestion.
Congestion hurts everyone, but it’s not an equal offender. It definitely gives teams outside of European competition a better chance at scoring an upset, but it’s interesting how acutely it can affect the big boys against each other.
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The quality of opponent, difference in rest, and miles covered can make it hard to say there’s any edge at all, but we’ll give it a go.
The people who draw the groups and fixtures did no favors for Manchester United, while Arsenal will be enjoying its slate.
— Of Manchester United‘s six UEL group stage fixtures, three butt up against Top Six fixtures. The good news is that all of the PL challenges come before European dates. United can hope that it will not need the final match of group play and that Man City will need theirs, with both coming after the Manchester Derby. Looking at the groups, it seems more likely that both clubs will have sealed their fates in the knockout rounds.
— Speaking of Man City, the PL champions have four Premier League matches in close proximity to UCL bouts. Some of this is good, though, as the Oct. 5 visit from Wolves comes with a day’s more rest than their opponents, who will be coming back from Turkey and a huge match with Besiktas.
— Wolves will also get the short end of the stick on Dec. 12, when they host Spurs three days after hosting Besiktas. Tottenham will have one more day’s rest, but will be returning from Bayern Munich.
— Liverpool‘s a funny one. The European champions visit Chelsea five days after going to Napoli. The Blues will have been home to Valencia. The Reds also have their third UCL match day, at Genk, shoehorned between a trip to Manchester United and visit from Spurs. Adding insult to injury, the second Genk date comes four days before City visits Anfield.
— Arsenal is counting its blessings. Only one of its conflicts is with a UEL opponent, meaning the Gunners will face the same depth challenges on the same rest as Wolves and Manchester United. The difference is Matchday 6 of the UEL, which will come on one less day’s rest than UCL competitor Man City. But it’s at home, and City will have been in Croatia at midweek.
— Spurs host Liverpool on Oct. 27, five days after a visit from Red Star. Liverpool will have been in Belgium at midweek, so slight advantage to Spurs. Tottenham’s final group stage match at Bayern may matter big time; Fortunately their weekend match will have an added day’s rest compared to hosts Wolves.
— Finally, Chelsea. It’s not pretty at the start. Matchday 1 of the UCL, a visit from Valencia, comes sandwiched between Wolves away and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea will also visit Man City and Valencia in a four-day span (11/23-27).