Dropped points: the true price of a European place revealed

Lack of proper rest causes teams fighting on two fronts to suffer

It is difficult at this time of year as places are won in European competitions not to get distracted by the prestige of it all. Newcastle United, set for their first continental football for six years, must certainly be excited. But there is a note of caution this week: for all the glamour and class of midweek games, playing repeatedly without sufficient rest can seriously damage a team's health.

Click HERE to view graphic

That in itself might not be news, but a new and comprehensive study by Dutch coach Raymond Verheijen has shown just how profound the damage is. The study, published online this morning, looks at over 27,000 games and over 71,000 goals dating from the 2001-02 season, in the English, Dutch, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian divisions.

The main finding is incontrovertible: playing after just two days' rest drastically reduces your chances of success. A team with just two days' rest against one with three or more days is 39 per cent less likely to win at home and 42 per cent less likely away.

It is when playing away while tired that teams suffer most. In ties between two teams with two days' rest, the percentage of away wins drops from 26.8 per cent – its usual figure – to 19.8 per cent, while the visitors' average goals in the last 30 minutes drop by 48.9 per cent.

"Normally it takes 48 hours to recover from a game," Verheijen explained to The Independent. "So on the first and second days after a game you either have a light recovery session or a free day. And then after 48 hours the body has fully recovered. But if you play, for example, on Saturday and Tuesday, then you will train on Monday to prepare. So while the body is recovering on the second day after a game, it has to work again to prepare, so the body gets even more fatigued."

Naturally, this impact is felt the strongest in European football. Teams playing in the Champions League and Europa League both have their domestic league performances hit by the extra work. Playing on Saturday after a Wednesday night Champions League game knocks off an average 0.55 points per game, while the Europa League equivalent of Sunday after Thursday costs 0.41 points each time.

Verheijen, who has worked at Chelsea, Manchester City and Wales, and was yesterday announced as the new assistant manager of Armenia, pointed to the performances of English teams in this season's Champions League. City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United played 24 group games last autumn, winning 13, with 11 losses or draws. Of those 11, all but one were after two days' rest. "It doesn't have to do with playing in Europe in general," Verheijen said, "it has to do with two days' rest because of European football. As long as you have three days' rest, you can play European football every week."

This has been a complaint of the Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, before but for Verheijen the solution is clear. "The people who are responsible for solving this are Fifa and Uefa," he said. "They should implement an international rule that every team will always get a minimum of three days' rest between games."

Until, then, though, individual associations will have to take the lead to protect their clubs. "Portugal is the only league without this negative effect in Europe," Verheijen said. "When Benfica play on a Tuesday, they can play their league game on the Friday before. And if Sporting play Europa League on a Thursday, they are allowed to play in the league the next Monday. This is fighting a symptom, but in Portugal they felt two days rest was not enough.

"For the sake of English football it would be great if the English FA would change this, because you have a 100 per cent guarantee that English teams will do better in the Champions League next year."

The Premier League are unlikely to do so. They say the integrity of their competition is important, and there is not much sympathy for clubs benefiting from Champions League windfalls worrying about the schedule, as the vagaries of the fixture calendar can break either way. But managers next season might now have some more ammunition for their complaints.

Raymond Verheijen is co-founder of the 'World Football Academy'. To see a full summary of the study's findings please visit worldfootballacademy.com

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest in Sport
Sport
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'