Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Champions League or Domestic League?

This is an interesting debate in my opinion, one which you can go back and forth on for hours depending on which club you support and what league that team is in. I'm very interested to hear how you all stand on this question, so if you wouldn't mind when you're done reading this, leave a comment identifying which team you follow and your reasoning for why you'd rather them win the Champions League or their domestic league. I'm sure everyone wants their team to win both, obviously, but go on the premise that they can only win one.

Sometimes circumstance and situation dictates which of the two a club will pursue the most. Take, for example, AC Milan. The Rossoneri are in 10th place right now in Serie A, 19 points behind their rivals and league leader, Inter. AC Milan aren't going to win the league this year and will probably have to make a deep run in the Champions League not only to save face with their fans but to save manager Carlo Ancelotti's job. When it's clear that a team doesn't realistically have a chance to win their domestic league, they don't have any other choice but to put all of their eggs in the Champions League basket. French club Olympique Marseille was forced to do that as well as they're in 13th place in Ligue 1, but their plans were thwarted yesterday by Liverpool and they'll have to settle for the parachute into the UEFA Cup.

Speaking of Liverpool, I asked my brother (a huge Liverpool supporter) what he'd rather see the Reds win, the Champions League or the Premier League. Curiously enough, he said the Champions League even though they just won it in 2004-2005 and were in the final last season. Liverpool hasn't won the Premiership since it came into its modern existence in 1992, and the last time they won the league was the '89-'90 season. Manager Rafa Benitez stated that his team's goal was to win the league this year, but it sure didn't seem that way when he subbed key players out and essentially conceded their match last weekend at Reading, a 3-1 loss.

Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson, on the other hand, probably want to win the Champions League this season as they just won the Premiership last year, and if they were forced to pick just one to win this year, it would be the CL. United are on such good form, however, that they could very well end up winning both, a double that has been done most recently by Barcelona in '05-'06 and Porto in '03-'04.

Another factor to consider is the prestige and money involved in a certain country's domestic league. It would be significantly better financially for a French team or a Portuguese team to go deep in the Champions League than it would be to finish in the top three or four in their respective domestic leagues or even win the league, and a team from either of those countries or from Scotland, Germany, Holland, etc. (the "second tier" leagues in Europe) would be viewed with more respect worldwide. Celtic can win the SPL all they want and Bayern Munich can win the Bundesliga every single year, but if they don't do anything in the Champions League, it's hard to take those clubs seriously.

For teams in Italy, England, and Spain, I would say that their domestic leagues are very nearly as prestigious as the Champions League. It's basically almost always the same teams from each of those countries who qualify for the CL year after year and those teams almost always progress to the Round of 16, so for me, it's a crapshoot from there on in with the literal luck of the draw. The league, though, is a test of endurance and will and it's harder to win than the CL, in my opinion. In those "second tier" leagues, there are only two or three teams who have a realistic chance of winning the league and there are some truly atrocious teams that make up the middle and bottom of the table, but in La Liga, the Premiership, and Serie A, the talent is spread more evenly and the competition is better.

So what do you think, do your want your team to win their domestic league or the Champions League? Obviously if you support a team that isn't in the Champions League, it means they probably won't win their domestic league either but if you had to pick one, which would it be?

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