With less than a week to go until the first leg of the Champions League semi-finals both Arsenal and Chelsea were in domestic action in the past two days, with varying degrees of excitement as both picked up a solitary point from their respective matches. Whilst the Gunners were involved in one of the matches of the season in their thrilling 4-4 with Liverpool the Blues played out a fairly dull 0-0 draw with Everton. Having seen both games though it seemed that both sets of players had other things on their minds as they failed to perform to their sparkling best, with the Champions League semi-finals perhaps an obvious distraction.
From the outside it seemed their respective ties against Manchester United and Barcelona had drawn their minds away from the matter at hand. This got me to thinking whether the Champions League has become more important that the domestic game. Many would argue that today the Champions League has overtaken every other club tournament around the world in importance and difficulty. Any side who gets to lift the European Cup is in my eyes the best side in the world, without having to win FIFA’s ridiculous World Club Challenge.
Since the Champions League has become pretty much dominated by the English sides in recent years clubs from the Premier League have begun to realise that there chances of winning the tournament have increased dramatically. The other big leagues around Europe have become weaker since the European Cup was re-branded the Champions League. Now English sides who have yet to achieve Champions League glory have set lifting the big eared trophy as their top priority.
Using the Arsenal skipper Cesc Fabregas as an example of this he looked to be saving himself for the trip to Old Trafford next Wednesday despite his involvement in a game which, if the Gunners had of won, would have pretty much secured fourth spot and Champions League football next season. The Spanish midfielder strolled around the Anfield pitch for much of Tuesday night’s thriller, looking as disinterested as possible at times. Arsenal’s defence certainly didn’t have their mind on the game as they produced an awful display, going against the grain for the Gunners in recent times who have been solid at the back.
For the ‘big four’ in the Premier League qualifying for the Champions League has become second nature meaning unless they are facing one another league matches have taken a back seat. The Champions League is a glorious competition and one that I enjoy a lot, but when sides start prioritising it over their domestic league fixtures then the league begins to look like a bit of a joke.