How the COVID-caused break influenced team forms across Europe

9.8.2020.  
How the COVID-caused break influenced team forms across Europe

The world and football have been hit with an unprecedented crisis of a global pandemic, putting a huge dent in the season. Pausing the competitions or even stopping and nullifying them in some countries like France and the Netherlands.


Yet most places confronted the pandemic and soldiered on after a long break. For some teams, it provided the needed time for cohesion, for others it impeded their momentum. In a time when no one was spared, and as counterintuitive or in poor taste as it may sound, we take a look at the winners and losers of the COVID-caused break.


COVID-pause affect on football teams review


Winners


Milan


Quite possibly the team which had the most visible transformation between the first and last part of the hectic season. The initial first eight months of the season was concluded by a loss to Genoa that placed Milan ninth on the table.


Since the kickstart, Milan experienced no defeat and went on to draw only three matches, defeating the champions Juve in the process as well as Lazio. At the forefront of this charge was none other than Zlatan Ibrahimovic, a proof how one man can change an organization. A team that was deemed a collective of badly jointed losers showed grit and consistency, coming back from deficits and into the sixth, Europa League bearing spot.


Inter


For Inter, the last game of the pre-COVID Italy was the loss to Juventus that showed how the tales of title contention were premature. The Old Lady went six points ahead and it was clear that Lazio was the only team to rival the black and whites. Fast-forward five months and the photo finish puts Inter just a point from the champions Juve.


Mostly due to inconsistency of the Turin side but Nerazzurri did their fair share by losing just a single match since the restart. Inter is one of many "winning" teams that were in the forming phase and surely benefited from the added time to implement Antonio Conte's tactics and getting to know fellow teammates.


Real Madrid


Winning only the third league trophy in the decade and seventh in the century was not so much a success, as a sigh of relief for Real Madrid. Sure, the triumphs in the Champions League were historic but there was always a bad taste in the mouth as Barcelona was bossing the domestic competition. Almost with impunity.


Real was trailing behind Barca two points as the season was paused on March 8th and in July the squad celebrated the club's 34th title. The team rallied and won all the post-break games bar the last one when the champion was already known.


Atletico Madrid


Another team from the capital of Spain that can't consider themselves winners but can feel free of the burden that was on them. Atleti came into 2019/2020 with massive investments and against the weakest El Clasico rivals in recent history. Yet, at the time of the break, Diego Simeone's squad was sixth on the table behind Sevilla, Real Sociedad, and Getafe.


Finishing third isn't a major success but not competing in the CL would take Atleti back seven steps when they just about made two major ones forward as a club. Cholo obviously utilized the time at hand to gel in the squad and can now build on further without starting over.


Manchester United


At the close of football due to COVID, Manchester United was three and six points away from Leicester and Chelsea. Not a lot by any chance with nine games left to play but as the side was known for inconsistency, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer did surprise by managing to rally the troops and go undefeated in the league after the restart.


In the "second half" United faced mostly sides who weren’t competing for Europe with the exception of the last game when they faced direct rivals Leicester. Their return back to the Champions League hence couldn't have come better.


Paris Saint Germain


How can a team from a cancelled league be a winner? Because PSG's victory didn't come by securing the title - which everyone was already considering a given - but by securing the stay of their main star Neymar.


Not through any direct action or new contracts but by reaping the benefits of the financial strain the break and the quarantine has put on Barca. The president of the Spanish side Josep Maria Bartomeu confessed that what was thought of as inevitable last summer is now impossible - Neymar's return to Nou Camp.


Losers


Lazio


Yes, the team that qualified for the Champions League after 13 years and has the Capocannoniere is one of the biggest losers of the COVID break. As the virus hit Italy the hardest it's completely understandable how it might be forgotten that Lazio was Juventus' biggest and closest rival. There was just a point of difference coming in the 27th matchday!


But Lazio managed to get only five wins in the 12 games after the break and one draw. They've lost six games when in the pre-COVID season they only lost twice. Lazio finished the season fourth with the same number of points as Atalanta at 78, and 15 fewer than the champions.


Barcelona


Take what was written for Real and reverse it. Barca had the match point and was closer to their third consecutive title. Yet, poor pre-season planning regarding the squad capacity, with just three (injury susceptible) centre-backs was one of the key reasons for the downfall.


There were plenty of indicators that Barca isn't ticking per usual - the rare mid-season managerial switch for such a major club, and the panic, immoral purchase of Martin Braithwaite outside the transfer window. Barca drew three times and lost one match in the summer which was enough against the in-form Real. Seeing how Barca scored more than two goals in just three matches, it's clear that it wasn't the club we're used to.


Getafe


Coming into the break, Getafe was outside the Champions League league spots on goal difference only and it seemed like the club would repeat the scenes from the last season when they fought for the CL until the end.


But come restart, Getafe was perhaps the second-worst team on the list, recording just one win in 11 games. Missing out on continental football will hurt even more when looking up the table as it finds Granada in the Europa League. All while Valencia and Athletic Bilbao both had disappointing seasons they are unlikely to repeat.


Borussia Dortmund


With just four points fewer than rivals Bayern Munich, there was still hope for BVB come the restart. But the squad endured three defeats until the end of the season and allowed Bayern Munich to go to +13 in the title race. Erasing the memory of any kind of a rivalry in the 2019/2020 season.


Even the red-hot Erling Haaland was more silent, having missed two games and scoring "just" four times since football was back on our TV sets.


Schalke 04


If quarantine didn't sit well with someone it's Schalke 04 players. The squad managed just two draws in the nine games played behind closed stadium doors. They lost all the other seven matches! The Miners dug themselves in a hole right from the get-go by losing four in a row with a goal difference 10:1.


Before the pandemic, they were already on the decline but still held the respectable sixth position leading them into continental football. As the season came to a close in June, Schalke was only 12th and closer to the relegation zone than Europe.


Leicester


Brendan Rodger's team was the only thing keeping the upper part of the Premier League table interesting in fall and winter. But the squad faced injury worries and recorded only two league wins since football came back into our lives.


Of the five defeats suffered in June and July, the last one stung the most as the Foxes had the chance to keep themselves in the CL spot by beating the direct rival Manchester United. Yet they lost the decisive match and will have to settle for Europa League instead.


How will you remember the 2019/2020 season?



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