Return of European club football
Champions League round of 16 preview, football

Return of European club football

With the World Cup over, many players have already returned to European club football ahead of the resumption of their domestic seasons.

We’ve analysed the impact of international exertions on each squad and who has the toughest reintroduction to their league schedule.

Premier League

Manchester City’s players spent over 86 hours on the pitch at the World Cup – over 1,000 minutes more than any other Premier League squad – and collectively ran almost 100km more.

We could therefore see even more rotation than usual from Pep Guardiola as he struggles to manage the fitness of his recovering players.

Tottenham will also have a challenging return to league action, with plenty of additional miles on their legs and a tough schedule to navigate.

Meanwhile, the likes of Newcastle, Crystal Palace and Southampton should be relatively fresh when the season resumes as their players did not see much action in Qatar.

The struggling Saints should also benefit from easier fixtures than their peers, which could see them move away from the danger zone under new manager Nathan Jones, who will have had ample time to work with the squad.

La Liga

As expected, the ‘big three’ of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid were all well-represented at the World Cup.

Barca actually sent more players than any other club in world football (17), although three didn’t feature at the tournament. Fortunately for the Catalans, they have some relatively gentle fixtures to ease themselves back into their league campaign.

Some of their challengers won’t have things so easy, with Real Sociedad and Athletic Club both sitting in the Champions League places when the league paused but facing some tough opponents over the next six rounds of games.

Serie A

Juventus were the best-represented Italian club at the tournament, with their players accumulating significantly more minutes than any of their title rivals and covering over 100km more ground.

However, Fiorentina’s Sofyan Amrabat ran the furthest of any player at the World Cup: over 80km in total during Morocco’s history-making run to the semi-finals.

While Juventus – along with Roma – have to contend with some tricky fixtures when the league resumes, the likes of Inter and Atalanta have some more straightforward opponents that could see them gain ground at the top of the table.


Bayern Munich’s players accumulated around twice as many minutes as any other Bundesliga club, although with the majority of these coming in the group stage, they should have had time to recover.

It was an impressive tournament for Croatia’s breakout star Josko Gvardiol, but as he ran over 16km more than any other Bundesliga player, he may need to rebuild his fitness when the league resumes.

At the bottom of the table, struggling Schalke and Hertha could have their misery prolonged by a tough fixture schedule.

Ligue 1

With PSG duo Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe facing off in the World Cup final, it’s not surprising to see that the reigning champions racked up over twice as many minutes as any other Ligue 1 club.

However, while four of the six players who covered the most ground at the tournament are on PSG’s books, the other two play for bottom side Angers.

Moroccan duo Azzedine Ounahi and Sofiane Boufal will surely not be short of suitors if their current employers lose their relegation battle.

Lyon have underperformed in recent seasons but a gentle run – in which five of their next six matches are against clubs in the current bottom six – gives them an excellent chance of climbing the table.

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