Barcelona lost. Lyon lost. Both defeats were put down, in part, to arduous journeys across Europe by modes other than aeroplanes which sapped the energy of the players and left them struggling through the first legs of their UEFA Champions League semi finals.
There is an element of truth in it but it is largely an excuse. Leigh Centurions travelled to the south of France for a Challenge Cup fourth round tie at the weekend and won, and they do not have money to splash on expensive masseurs and luxury coaches.
Hearing tales of Liverpool’s journey to Madrid where they face Atlético tonight in the first leg of their Europa League semi final, you would think that they were playing the match in Vladivostok. Up-to-the-minute reports are available on the BBC website thanks to ’embedded’ commentator Ian Dennis. Thinking about it, we were only a slight transport mix-up from having David N’Gog bussed in to canvas the Tory vote in Rochford and Southend East.
Rather less fuss has been made about Fulham, probably as they have less far to travel, their journey taking them from London to north Germany. In reality, it should not compromise performance in tonight’s match. It is not as if they have had to cycle the length of the continent. Ryan Babel and Sotiris Kyrgiakos have not had to shovel coal into a locomotive engine to get them across France, all the while wiping sweat from their soot-stained brows. Fulham probably even pay a man to drive the bus for them; it is not dependent on their own motive effort, unless they have hired the Flintstone-mobile.
Damien Duff sitting on a coach listening to God-awful R’n’B and pretending he can play in the World Cup on his PSP is not greatly dissimilar to Damien Duff sitting on a plane listening to God-awful R’n’B and pretending he can play in the World Cup on his PSP. Only the time taken differs.
Barcelona lost because Inter played very well, stopped the supply of ball to Lionel Messi and counter-attacked well, and Carles Puyol can’t defend. Lyon lost because they seemed wholly unwilling to attack, even when Bayern were a man light following Franck Ribéry’s sending off. Perhaps the main effect of their journeys o’er land and sea was psychological; the two away teams had heard so many pundits talking about the toll the trip would take on them it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.