Kampala, Uganda | XINHUA | Each of the four clubs to qualify for the Champions League semi-finals enjoyed a break in the lead up to the finals in Lisbon.
Did the early culmination of the French league in the latter stages of April and the late finish of the German Bundesliga at the end of May, eventually turn out to be a big advantage for Paris St Germain, Olympique Lyon, Bayern Munich, and RB Leipzig?
Despite some supporting facts, it might still be a bold theory. Several pundits and players are sure the long break provided the teams an opportunity to recharge the batteries.
Former German international Lothar Matthaeus does not doubt that the break has played a significant role in the outcome of this season’s campaign.
“It seems obvious that teams having to play their national campaigns until close to the Lisbon tournament apparently got into trouble regarding their physical performance,” commented Matthaeus.
For the 59-year-old, the mental and physical freshness helped French and German teams to reach the semi-finals.
The new format being used in the 2019/2020 campaign has increased this advantage as the ties are only one match affairs due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Facing opponents in only one game requires an increased amount of determination and mental ability, Matthaeus claims.
PSG won its clash against surprise Italian package Atalanta Bergamo by scoring two goals in added time.
Leipzig knocked out the experienced Atletico Madrid with a late goal.
Struggling Barcelona couldn’t strike back after Bayern’s magical first half.
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City seemed mentally blocked having to deal with French underdog Lyon and lost 3-1 due to late goals on counter attacks.
Bayern Munich striker Thomas Mueller said the Bavarians were able to preserve their mental state and physical robustness over the break.
The 30-year-old team leader admitted the break helped the side to regain energy.
Leipzig’s Peter Gulacsi felt that his team benefited from being able to recover.
Three weeks helped significantly, the 30-year-old said. “The season has been very long due to the national league being suspended in March and then the restart in May,” the goalkeeper commented.
Therefore, the last nine season games after the restart took a lot of energy. “I am sure taking a three-week break plays a major role in the players’ freshness.”
The circumstances increased the underdogs’ chances to pull off a surprise, said 2014 world hampion and former Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker.
Atletico and Barcelona might have been hit by the structural disbalance within their teams, he said. “In situations like that, an assumedly weaker team can take advantage,” Mertesacker emphasized.
Despite the advantage provided by the break, Leipzig, Bayern, Paris, and Lyon all represent an attacking modern style. Chasing opponents and the ball all the time seems what today’s advanced football requires.