Madrid heat had an impact and it showed in players’ leggy performances in Champions League final

Madrid heat had an impact and it showed in players' leggy performances in Champions League final

The sight of Tottenham and Liverpool playing themselves at times to a standstill was hardly the high-octane spectacular we were promised.

The Wanda Metropolitano was indeed a cauldron, but mainly because of the hot, dense and humid air. Instead of a repeat of the fast-paced and frenetic dramas of both semi-final second legs, the final often resembled a Community Shield or opening round of a World Cup, with players failing to connect with passes and giving the ball away unexpectedly before succumbing to cramp.

Take a look at the running statistics. Both teams collectively covered nearly 17km less in total distance than their previous averages on their path to the Champions League final. It raises the question of whether this was the result of the heat or the three-week mini-break after the Premier League season ended. 

Heat is widely recognised as having an impact on players’ physical performances. There seems to be a level of self-regulation, as the players slow down they manage their physiological markers, and average heart rate and blood lactate accumulation often remain unchanged in hot environments. The heat-mediated reductions in distances covered at a high intensity, and total distances within a game, also directly impact on match-play characteristics. There are more turnovers and technical skill execution is poorer. This played out too in the statistics, with only 72 per cent pass completion, the lowest in any Champions League game this season.

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