The UEFA Champion’s League is the absolute pinnacle of club football. An annual tournament that pits the best sides from all across Europe in the pursuit of the most recognizable trophies in the entire game of football (with the exception of the World Cup).The midweek matches provide some of the best examples of top-class footy for supporters the world over, but can the extra exertion players experience have a negative consequence on the performance of these club sides when they need to return focus to their domestic duties?

It would take far too many hours, and probably the remainder of this years’ column space to attempt to analyze that question with 100 per cent accuracy, so for now I’m going to keep focus on the four English representatives in the 2014/15 edition; Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal.

At the time of writing, each of these sides had played their first match, and are poised to take the field for their second, with City and Arsenal losing to the German champions and runners up (Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund respectively), Chelsea drawing Schalke 04, also of Germany.Liverpool was the only victorious English side in the initial round, but it was a rather unconvincing performance against Hungarian newcomers Ludogrets Razgrad.

On the weekend following these matches, it was a return to England and a focus on domestic duties, and the first test of how well these clubs could perform after a hard fought midweek battle.

It seemed business as usual for three of the clubs, as Arsenal swept Aston Villa aside 3-0 and Manchester City and Chelsea ground out a 1-1 draw at the pinnacle of the table. So no hangover there but Liverpool on the other hand, looked like an exhausted shell of the team they are, and were comprehensively beaten by a usually unconvincing West Ham United.

When comparing the four sides, they can be divided into two pretty distinct categories, as Chelsea and City are both owned by multi-billionaires and have squads among the deepest and most expensively assembled in the history of world football, whereas Arsenal and Liverpool’s owners have money, but not nearly as much.

Liverpool’s massive outlay on players this past summer was primarily down to the windfall they received by selling Luis Suarez, and Arsenal has only spent big on one or two players over the last few seasons.

So it’s no surprise that both of the very rich clubs are not struggling, but why is there such a difference between the more “moderately- funded” pair?

The most obvious answer is that Arsenal is used to the Champion’s League. The team is a perpetual qualifier and the players and manager know exactly what it means to prepare for this tournament.

On the other hand, Liverpool, despite being a five-time champion, is making its return from a five-season absence, and only three or four players are at the club that have any experience.

The young manager has never been anywhere near the heights that he has reached now.

A second possibility is that Liverpool has yet to gel. It brought in a number of new players and the team overall has looked less cohesive than it usually does, both in Europe and domestically.

There is plenty of Champion’s League left to play, plenty of time for Liverpool to step up and Chelsea to slip, for City to finally progress or for Arsenal to finally win it. Such is the glory of this competition, and I for one, am glad it’s back again.
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