Arsenal stutter as European competitions get back in action

With the European qualification continuing this week, we are at the latter stages and that much closer to determining just who will advance to the Champions League and Europa League tournaments proper. Now, while players’ performances in these tournaments do not directly affect their points tallies in the Euro Fantasy League game, it will have an impact later on in the campaign for players who represent clubs who enjoy a continued run in the continental competitions. Fitness levels, fixture pileups, as well as a fair few potential air miles being clocked up can all have a say in how clubs perform domestically, so we will be taking a look at who is likely to continue and advance the hard way and just which players may struggle.

Of course, players are conditioned to spend as long as they can on the football pitches without compromising their health, and while managers do of course hold their stars’ interests at heart there will be an almost inevitable time in each season where players have to take it up a notch, digging out those extra degrees of performance in order to try and aid their clubs’ trophy hunt, and the fixture lists particularly during group stages and then at the business end of the season have been the source of many a manager’s ire.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has been vociferous in lamenting the demands placed on Europe’s most successful clubs in the past, and while his squad have made a solid start to the season, causing much optimism among the Emirates stands, they do still have some work to do in order to advance to the group stages. They drew 0-0 at Besiktas on Tuesday, but lost Welshman Aaron Ramsey to a red card following a second bookable offence. While the result does seem to put the north Londoners in the driving seat, with a home clash starting at essentially a dead heat, Arsenal must be wary of conceding a goal which will effectively be worth two to Besiktas owing to the away goals rule – the Gunners must look at the likes of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez to get the job done in front of the Turks’ goal, and ideally help Olivier Giroud put the ghosts of the first leg to rest as the Frenchman found himself frustrated at the front.

A good run of form for Arsenal in the league, despite the fixture pileup, has seemed to aid the Gunners at times in the past, with fine form being successfully translated from the continent to the English pitches, but Wenger will of course have to keep one eye on fitness levels as the match commitments go on the up if his side do eventually advance.

Bayer Leverkusen, Napoli and Lille are three other fairly big names in club football going through the qualifying stages, but of these the Germans were the only ones to record a win in their first leg, with Lille falling short and Napoli managing a draw. This means there will be some real potential fantasy points winners still in with a shout of advancing, with the likes of Stefan Kießling and Bernd Leno at Leverkusen looking good for a run in the cup. Players generally remain fresh enough to handle the extra fixtures and travel during the earlier group stages, but towards the knockout stages things start getting a little trickier so potential rests are something that our fantasy managers should take into account – as we have seen already this season, anything upwards of 50 points can be earned from a single great performance and so a missed game (for whatever reason) can prove costly to your EFL fantasy team. It’s definitely something to think about, hence why the inclusion of a solid points-scorer from a “smaller” club is always advisable.

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