It could be a sunny day in the city of Lagos or a snowy day in Manchester. The vile atmosphere of a virtual community of football fans or the frenzy of famous viewing centers across several African cities. Wherever football fans gather, there is always the urge to determine superiority.
It could be anything – the players, football clubs, football moments, or the managers . For all of the uniting spirit of the game, there must always be a winner. Afterall, the need to win is why football fans invest time and emotions into the game and support their teams with so much passion.
One of such arguments that keeps rearing its head is the level of difficulty between different leagues and tournaments. Football fans want their team to be seen as the ultimate team, competing in the toughest league.
Premier League and La Liga fans, are you batting an eyelid? Come on! I am not about to pit you against one another, again!
Continental titles like the UEFA Champions League, the CAF Champions League, and the Copa Libertadores have gained pedigree as the ultimate title for the best of the best. Despite the pedigree of these competitions, there are football fans that believe that these competitions are easier to win than domestic league titles.
When Liverpool won the UEFA Champions League two years ago. Mo Salah claimed that the competition is harder to win than the English Premier League. On the flip side, highly-rated managers such as Pep Guardiola and Zinedine Zidane have come out to say that it is more difficult to win the league title than the Champions League.
Before you decide, let’s take a look at the format for both competitions. I will refer more to the UEFA Champions League for continental titles.
Without a doubt, continental competitions like the UEFA Champions League are designed to pit the best teams across the continent against each other. Expectedly, the quality of games should be higher than what we see in the league.
After the qualification stage for unseeded teams, the competition kicks off with eight groups of four teams. The top two teams will make it from each group after playing against each of the other three teams home and away.
At the end of the group stage, the knock-out stage begins with the round of 16. Teams pitted against each other play home and away to determine who advances through an aggregate score format. There is the quarter-final, the semi-final, and the final which is a one-legged match in the case of the UEFA Champions League.
For competitions like the CAF Champions League and the Copa Libertadores, the final is also a two-legged tie.
Most leagues follow the European format of 20 teams in the league. In this format, the teams play each other twice in a home and away fixture. For every match won, three points are awarded, one point in case of a draw, and zero points for a loss.
Whichever team with the most number of points at the end of the season wins the league title. In cases where two teams are tied on points, there is the goal difference advantage or the head-to-head format in some leagues. The three teams with the fewest points relegate to the lower division, leaving room for three teams to gain promotion from the lower division.
Which one is tougher to win? – The ultimate question
Considering the different formats, this is not a direct comparison. While one side could argue the long-process involved in winning the competition. The other will point out the need to play the best teams with the best players on the continent.
If you ask most players, the continental title is more appealing as it holds more prestige. Even among fans, the continental title is seen as the ultimate title. We have seen teams like Manchester United, Juventus, PSG, Bayern Munich, and Celtic dominate their respective leagues for an extended period.
In the case of the Champions League, Real Madrid’s ‘three-peat’ is not a common occurrence. The best teams in respective domestic leagues struggle to win the UEFA champions league.
Arsenal’s great invincible side did not have a Champions League to their name. PSG got closer in the 2019/2020 season but they fell at the last hurdle. Juventus dominated the last decade in the Serie A but they could not win the UEFA Champions League during this period.
On the flip side, we have also seen teams perform woefully on the home front but go on to win the continental title. However, this is not a common occurrence.
Maybe if we consider the number of games that a team has to play, we could say the domestic league is more rigorous. Saying one competition is tougher is however relative.
Tougher in terms of the quality of opposition? Is it mental toughness?
I leave the answers to you!
In your opinion, which of the competitions is tougher to win?