We are now about two third’s into each of the ‘Top Five’s’ in Europe’s seasons, and it’s time we have a look at who the leaders are.
The campaigns are far from over, there are still many games ahead, and points can and will be dropped. There will be surprises and upsets.
To start things off we’ll head to England and the Premier League.
The top spots are filled by both Manchester clubs who are doing very well for themselves, with Leicester only just behind United on goal differential.
Manchester City are on fire and will not be put out, Pep Guardiola has masterminded the team into a power house this year, even without starting striker Sergio Aguero, who was injured for large periods of this campaign.
The team has won their last 13 games, and have been undefeated in the last 17 league games! Add in the teams 2-0 Champions League win today, and they have not lost a match in the last 26 played from all competitions
It would be unwise to bet on City taking their foot off the gas from now until the end of the year. Surely anything can happen, but it’s unlikely they fall off, especially with the chemistry this team has together – they tear opponents to pieces controlling the possession and essentially the whole 90 minutes.
Midfielder Ilkay Gundogan has been a gem for EPL Fantasy Players this year, with 8 goals in his last 8 games, occupying a new space in the slot consistently while Aguero was out.
Pep deciding to pair John Stones and Diaz / rotating Laporte into the mix has paid off superbly as they have allowed a league low 15 goals against. Kevin De Bruyne continues to prove he is world class with 3 goals and 10 assists, while youngster Phil Foden continues to have a breakout season scoring 6 and setting up 3 league goals.
If they were to somehow slip up and lose the next 3 Premier league games, then I would say the next 2 teams down the table do have a chance, however I don’t see it happening at this point and Manchester City will likely win the title this year!
Manchester United are back!
To where they should be: a top 3 team.
They have found form this year, even though they have been nothing compared to their City rivals, they find themselves in a very comfortable 2nd place tied with Leicester on points.
Bruno Fernandes is the name to remember!
The CAM has 15 goals and 10 assists from 25 league games. He is their best player by far, and the most instrumental to their game. He takes free kicks, penalties, dominates the midfield and opponents box, and he sets up a ton of goals. The Portuguese CAM has scored 34 goals and 21 assists from 59 games since joining United just over 1 year ago. He does it all!
Marcus Rashford and his 9 goals and 6 assists are 2nd best, while Paul Pogba was on a hot streak across December breaking up the midfield and getting the ball up for quick attacks. Unfortunately for Pogba his injury plagued season continues, however he helped the team move up the ranks to the safe spot they are currently in. He should be back to action in the next month.
Are United title contenders? If something were to horribly go wrong at City, YES, then United would be the next in line in my opinion. However I just don’t see Pep’s squad running out of gas.
The team will have a busy summer as they clearly need to address their defense. The Lindelöf and Maguire pairing is just not cutting it; the team is in 2nd place, but have allowed 32 goals against – the most from anyone in the top 5.
Rumors have it that they want Sergio Ramos to replace Lindelöf in the starting 11, the Real Madrid CB has yet to sign a new contract and could very well leave the Bernabéu in the summer.
Leicester City are still in the mix
Manager Brendan Rodgers has implemented a 4-1-4-1 possession type system, since taking over- and it has paid off!
The Foxes of ‘the past’ were known for their quick counter attacks, while often allowing their opponents to have more possession. They would wait for the right times to force a mistake and pounce upon it. This didn’t always work against stronger teams, this new almost tiki-taka build up forward style they have implemented into their game has been allowing them beat the likes of Liverpool 3-1 and Chelsea 2-0 in the last 2 months.
Jamie Vardy has 12, Harvey Barnes scored 9 and James Maddison has scored 8 league goals, combining for 29 of the teams 44 goals.
Leicester are facing 11th placed Arsenal next up and will want to keep the momentum going, and that means they need to claim all 3 points from this one,. Ever since this team has won the 15/16 league title – I have learned to never write them off!
Currently in the 3rd spot only because of the goal difference, as they are level with United on 49 points. Though I don’t see The Foxes wining at all, I do see them in the Champions League next year, meaning the lowest I can imagine them falling is to 4th.
Clutching at their heels is West Ham in 4th, who could be in next year’s Champions League for the first time in club history – if David Moyes and his lads can keep their game up.
If they drop to 5th, they will feature in the Europa league for the first time since the 16/17 season.
The recent loan signing of Jesse Lingard showed the club was all business this year, and the player has produced 3 goals from his first 4 games in his new side. FPL players – he is paying off for me.
For the first time in years, even decades, the team’s defense is very sturdy, and they will hope the return of Angelo Ogbonna will give them a boost at the back.
Fighting for a place in Europe we have Chelsea in 5th, Liverpool in 6th and, Everton in 7th place – these are all big names and it would be strange to not see the former 2 in the Champions League next year.
Chelsea have recently brought in new coach Thomas Tuchel, who has steered the club up from 9th.
Terry Tam’s favorite Liverpool has seen a horrid drop of from since December and find themselves in 6th, all while poor Jurgen Klopp has been dealing with the loss of his mother. Both teams will be looking to bounce back from poor form during periods this year. Chelsea have been going strong since the recent change, while speculation over departing players and a lack of healthy center backs have damaged Liverpool’s of defending their title.
On the bright side Van Dijk was lightly training today, but is nowhere close to being ready for action.
Everton, Dukes team of choice – has been a strong team Ancelotti, but they may not get a taste of Europe next year, as it it depends on whether or not Calvert-Lewin can regain his lethal goal scoring form. The Englishman scored 10 league goals from September to the New Year, and has just seen the net 3 times since. Luckily Brazilian winger Richarlison has seemed to have found his lost touch and has 4 goals in his last 4 games and Everton have been missing his usual 13 goal contributions like the past 2 years. The team are in need of both of their forwards to take the wheel and steer them forward!
The Italian coach has won it all at club level management, and the team has done well in recent transfer windows in building the tactician; a squad. James Rodriguez‘s summer addition is an example, he has 5 goals and 4 assists and can play as a winger, and an attacking midfielder. The Colombian is a natural playmaker who has just been misunderstood over the years, spending time with Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.
I can see the year possibly ending in a way that could be upsetting to many fans, especially West Ham! But, I could be wrong.
Spain’s La Liga
This year’s Spanish campaign is nowhere as competitive as it is in England, and is much more straight forward.
Atletico Madrid are leading the league with 55 points and hold a game in hand against both Barcelona and Real Madrid
Diego Simeon’s men at Atletico play a very strategic and disciplined defensive game and have only been defeated twice. Up front they are benefiting from the ‘’One man’s trash is another man’s treasure’’ proverb – literally.
Barcelona had the nerve to tell Luis Suarez that he could NO LONGER PLAY AT THE TOP LEVEL. He was sold to rivals Atletico for a discount 5.5M and is now just behind best friend Messi in the league goal scoring race with 16.
That mistake there, letting a player like Suarez join a direct rival has possibly literally handed Atletico what could possible become the league title, but anything can happen in the last 15 games.
The team has been benefitting from strong defense as usual, and a dynamic controlling midfield with Koke, Lemar, Oblak, Savic and Jiminez going strong. The recent addition of Moussa Dembele gives them options up front after terminating Diego Costa‘s useless contract.
Real Madrid find themselves in 2nd just 2 points ahead of 3rdplaced Barcelona, who won 3-0 today and leap frogged Sevilla – now in 4th.
The Los Blancos could find themselves losing their number 2 spot in the coming weeks as they deal with an injury crisis : a full defensive line in Marcelo, Ramos, Odriozola and Dany Carvejal are all out injured until late March. Main attackers Karim Benzema, Rodrygo, and Eden Hazard have both picked up injuries and are listed as out for a few weeks.
Zinedine Zidane had to play Isco as the main forward in a 1-0 win over Atalanta today in the Champions League! A player who normally is on the bench or out of the team, and unfavored by the coach! Poor Madrid are really running out of options. The be honest, if Atalanta hadn’t been on the receiving end of a red card, I think they could have totally won today.
This is the time for Sevilla and new January signing Alejandro Gomez to leave their mark!
Gomez has 1 goals in 3 appearances for the club and will be a secret weapon for the Spanish side from now until the final match. The club has been heavily reliant on striker Youssef En-Nesyri’s 13 goals this year, and hope they keep on coming.
Barcelona not in first or 2nd is odd to see, but the campaign is far from over. The team began poorly under new coach Ronald Koeman, and even found themselves in 14th at one point. They managed to turn their fortune around in La Liga, but are having a tough time on the pitch with the intensity level of their game – especially seen in the 4 – 1 loss to PSG.
Lionel Messi is carrying the team on his shoulders as usual, with 18 goals and 3 assists. The next player to be even remotely close to Messi would be Griezmann’s 6 goals and 6 assists.
The problem with Barcelona is that the team revolves around Messi, if he has a bad game the whole team has a bad game.
Considering he has just about 3 x more goals than the ‘’2nd best’’ on his team, shows how much they miss Suarez. To add to their problems; Messi’s future is still up in the air, he is a free agent in the summer and is linked with both PSG and Manchester City. The team is also holding Presidential Elections next month, and not all of the candidates claim they would support and give Messi the $ he wants. (new contract demands)
Real Sociadad and Villareal will battle with Real Betis for the 2 Europa League spots, and that basically sums up the final top 6.
I can see Atletico Madrid holding on and winning their first league title since 2013 / 2014, especially with the difficulties Real Madrid are facing in the near future. Now is the time for Barcelona to try and jump to 2nd place, and then see if the can climb to the top.
Serie A might not be Juventus’s 10th in a row this year.
Juventus, the most famous and dominant team in Italy ploughed their way to the last 9 Serie A titles in a row and the objective was to win a 10th.
History could be made, to win 10 league Scudetto’s consecutively. But with the Milan teams in the run and Juve dropping points under a rookie coach, the dream might not come to fruition.
Antonio Conte and Inter Milan have gone all out in attempting to win the clubs first league title since 2009 – 2010. They are in first place with 53 points and have scored the most goals in the league.
Romelu Lukaku is 2nd in scoring with 17 goals and 5 assists and has formed a deadly duo with Lautaro Martinez, who has 13 goals and 4 assists. The two combine for 30 of the 57 scored.
Their midfield has been rejuvenated and Nicolo Barella has been outstanding, also putting up 3 goals and 5 assist. On the flank they have Hakimi with his pace he brings the ball up on the right from his end to the opponents, scoring and setting up goals from the cross.
If Inter Milan can keep their engines oiled, continue rotating the squad and taking full advantage of the talented depth they have, Sanches, Eriksson, Perisic, Vial, then there is no reason why they shouldn’t be able to continue to hold their stronghold over the league.
They just tore Ac Milan apart 3-0 in the derby last week, and the fact that they are out of Coppa Italia and European competitions mean they can solely focus on training and getting the 3 points ever game from here up until the final match.
They were high flying from the opening day, going undefeated in 14 games. They occupied the top of the table only up until city rivals Inter stole it from them.
Ac Milan against all odds, were able to maintain their hot start and form even while 39 year old star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic was out for an extended period of time.
Playmaker Hakan Calhanoglu is leading the league with 8 assists, and has been a driving point in helping Zlatan score some of his 14 league goals. Youngster Sandro Toneli has been doing well along side Ac veteran Franck Kessie, who’s scored 7 goals.
Manager Stefano Pioli has put together a great project, but they won’t win the Serie A this year. Or Next year, or the year after – because they will choke up just like they have been doing recently, and since they have last won it in 2010.
However I truly believe they will be in the Champions League next year, which they have won an outstanding 7 times! They hold the 2nd place for most UCL titles, behind Real Madrid’s unreachable 13 triumphs.
The 9 time in a row defending champions have truthfully been having a real ‘transitional season’ by their standards under new rookie coach and World Cup winner, Andrea Pirlo.
Serial winners by blood, they have 6 ties from 22 games this year, which is a record not to be proud of for a team of their stature – and it’s the most out of the top 4 teams.
They were the only side to change coaches this year, and have struggled to learn a new system and style of game, the team has dropped points and tied games against sides they normally should have easily walked past. Juve have definitely been better this year than under Sarri’s side showed in the final weeks of last season’s campaign before being replaced with Pirlo.
They have won the Supper Coppa vs Napoli last month, are in the Champions League, and will play the Coppa d’ Italia final vs Atalanta near the end of the season while still finding themselves 3rd in Serie A with 45 points. The defending 9 time champions are 8 points off of leaders Inter, but Juve hold 1 game in hand.
Cristiano Ronaldo has been outstanding for most parts of the season, going on a little cold streak after his 36th birthday – however he ended it by scoring a brace against Crotone on Tuesday. Cr7 is leading the league with 18 goals and 3 assist from 19 Serie A games. It’s safe to say Juventus rely on Ronaldo too much, but unlike Barcelona, they can still win when number 7 has an off game. The number 7 is hoping to win his first ‘Capocannoniere’ since joining Serie A, and he will win it, if he keeps up his ‘almost’ a goal per game ratio until the finale.
American youngster Weston McKennie has been a standout player for La Bianconeri, not only working his way into the first team, but staying there too! He is a very useful box to box midfielder, who presses and tackles hard, and can create and finish goal scoring chances.
Check out this goal against Barca in the Champions League:
The team is hoping that Paulo Dybala can shake his injury problems, as he has barely featured this team and is needed, considering the team totally lack a creative midfield player, and have looked completely out of ideas at time this season.
The team will fight till the end, as their motto goes ‘Fino Alla Fine’.
I see them surprising everyone as usual, it’s rare to find them top of the table in January, and February, but come March is when they usually March on.
The Capital city is hoping to see their team in a European competition next year, and they have two possible ways of getting there.
- Would be to finish in the 4th place. I don’t see them overtaking Juventus or either Milan club this year, but as I say: anything is possible in football.
- If they can manage to win this year’s Europa League tournament, they would automatically qualify for next year’s Champions’ League group stage.
They might be able to pull it off, but let’s not forget Manchester United and Tottenham are still there, tomorrow Roma face Braga from the Portuguese league, and the Romans command a 2-0 going into the 2nd leg match.
Armenian international Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been the engine behind the ‘Lupi’s’ run of games leaving them in 4th place in the standings. The attacking midfielder is also sometimes placed on the wing, has 9 goals and 8 assists in Serie A and has been covering for striker Eden Dzeko’s lack of production, only 7 goals from 18 games.
Can they keep up the tempo?
The final 4th place and Champions’ League group stage qualification position will be an all-out battle against Roma, Lazio, Napoli and Atalanta.
Napoli and manager Gennero Gattuso have just 1 win in their last 6 games from all competitions, they desperately need to bounce back. They will have cb Manolas, starting Gk Ospina and Mexican forward Hirving Lozano return from injury in the next few weeks, which will help the team push forward. The team are currently held up in 7th place looking OUT of a European place. Insigne has 10 goals and 3 assists from the wing and will want to build on that form entering the summers Euro Cup tournament with national side Italy.
Fifth placed Lazio have lost just 2 of their last 10 games, and Ciro Immobile is leading the team with 14 goals and 3 assists. The Italian center forward has been much quieter than recent years, defenders have found a way to mute him and he will not recapture his last years record tying 36 league goals. Milinkovic-Savic has been exceptional again this campaign netting 5 goals and setting up another 7, I wonder if this is the year he realizes he is destined to play at a bigger club. Pepe Reina continues to deliver superb goaltending at 38 years old, and gaffer Simone Inzaghi will hope to finish in the top 6 at least, with the goal bieng set on the top 4.
High flying Atalanta are on a low today, losing 1 – 0 to Real Madrid in the Champions League, but on the bright side they have Serie A to concentrate on if they are to lose the 2nd leg and exit in the round of 16. The team is kicking strong even after allowing star Gomez to depart to Sevilla after a fall out with manager Gasperini. They have so much talent in the attacking division with substitute Luis Muriel scoring 14 and setting up 8 in 21 games and only 8 starts! Zapata has 9 goals and 5 assists and is being courted by some of the biggest clubs.
The team has a strong line of defenders and control games in the middle. They have one of the most exciting projects in Serie A and continue to prove they are a top team.
My predictions :
1st Juventus – though unlikely, one can only hope their 10 year’s in a row desire comes true.
2nd Inter Milan
4th Ac Milan
5th Roma and 6th place Napoli just squeezing in at the last minute.
I will be back with a break down of both the German Bundesliga, and the French Ligue 1 next week.
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Be sure to check out Terry Tam and Alex the Intern’s newest edition of Weekly Sauce where they discuss the Montreal Canadians and Skill size!