Seeing as it’s the International break and there’s not much football on at all over the next fortnight or so, I thought now would be a good time to take a look at what’s going on around the main leagues in Europe recently and who looks set to be crowned champions in a couple of months time.
With the two familiar names at the top of the table, it is looking increasingly likely as if the winner will come from either Real Madrid or Barcelona this season. Sevilla’s impressive run under Sampaoli, who looks to have ruled himself out of the Barcelona job, has stuttered in recent weeks and their defeat to Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid looks as if it has ended their title challenge.
It is fair to say that Real Madrid have not put in performances worthy of league champions so far this season. Relying on late goals from captain Sergio Ramos to get them out of sticky situations since Christmas, the giants from Madrid have found themselves falling behind in games which they have been expected to win comfortably – their 3-3 draw at home to Las Palmas being one of the most notable results in recent months. With a 2 point gap and a game in hand over second-placed Barcelona with 10 matches to play, it is looking increasingly likely that Zidane’s men will win just their second league title in nine years.
At the other end of the table, Osasuna are all but relegated, having managed to accrue just eleven points from their 28 games. Granada and Sporting Gijon occupy the other two relegation spots, with Leganes 5 points clear of the drop zone in 17th position.
La Liga top goalscorers (as of 22/03/2017):
Lionel Messi – Barcelona – 25 goals
Luis Suarez – Barcelona – 21 goals
Cristiano Ronaldo – Real Madrid – 19 goals
Iago Aspas – Celta Vigo – 15 goals
There is a familiar name at the top of the table in Germany, with Bayern Munich looking as if they are going to secure a 6th straight league title. However, for large periods of the season so far, it has not been Borussia Dortmund who have provided the challenge, as many expected. That competition has come from Bundesliga newcomers RB Leipzig, who are backed by the multi-billion pound energy drinks company Red Bull. With their financial backing and young, energetic squad, they have surprised everyone in Germany and Europe this season with their fast flowing, attacking football. However, they have fallen off in recent weeks and with the experience and talent which Bayern boast, the Bavarian side have stepped up a gear and currently find themselves 13 points clear.
Many of the Bundesliga’s bigger sides have struggled this season so far, with Schalke, Leverkusen, Wolfsburg and Gladbach all struggling in mid table. This has allowed sides like Hoffenheim, Frankfurt and Hertha Berlin to challenge for European places – which has come as a big shock to many who follow the league this season. Hoffenheim in particular, who narrowly avoided relegation last season, have surprised many – with their young coach Julian Nagelsmann masterminding the minnows rise to the upper reaches of the league at just 29 years old.
Elsewhere, it has been a very disappointing season for Darmstadt and Ingolstadt, who, even at this stage, look doomed for relegation to the 2.Bundesliga.
Bundesliga Top Goalscorers (as of 22/03/2017)
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – Borussia Dortmund – 23 goals
Anthony Modeste – FC Koln – 22 goals
Robert Lewandowski – Bayern Munich – 21 goals
Timo Werner – RB Leipzig – 14 goals
Vedad Ibisevic – Hertha Berlin – 11 goals.
It is business as usual in Italy, with Turin giants Juventus looking favourites to secure a 6th straight Serie A title. Currently 8 points clear at the top of the table, Max Allegri’s men look unbeatable and with Gonzalo Higuain and wonderkid Paolo Dybala banging in the goals for fun, it is hard to see who will stop them as they march towards the title.
Juventus’ main competition this season has come from Roma, who currently sit in second place. Under Italian coach Luciano Spalletti, they have gone from Europa League hopefuls to Champions League certainties within the space of 18 months and, with players such as Nainggollan, Manolas and Dzeko, who has found his goalscoring touch again since leaving Manchester City, they look well placed to challenge the top 3 again next season. They are closely followed by Napoli in third place, who have had another solid campaign, despite selling superstar striker Higuain to rivals Juventus.
Elsewhere, the two Milan clubs have made huge strides to re-claim their places at the top of Italian football this season. With Inter in 5th and AC in 7th, both sides have shown that there is potential in each respective club to get back to winning ways at the right end of the table in the next few years.
At the other end of the table, the relegation fight looks to be over already, with Pescara, Crotone and Palermo all looking doomed – Palermo in 18th 7 points adrift of Empoli in 17th.
Serie A top goalscorers (as of 22/03/2017):
Andrea Belotti – Torino – 22 goals
Edin Dzeko – Roma – 21 goals
Mauro Icardi – Inter Milan – 20 goals
Dries Mertens – Napoli – 20 goals
Gonzalo Higuain – Juventus – 19 goals
Top of the league in France and into the quarter finals of the Champions League this season, Monaco are surprising football fans around the world with their faced paced, energetic, attractive style of play. With a wealth of young, french talent at their disposal, the side from the South of France have been scoring goals for fun and have blown teams away so far this year, with Portugese coach Leonardo Jardim masterminding the challenge. With 8 games to go, Monaco find themselves 3 points clear of perennial challengers PSG in second place and face Dortmund in the Champions League quarter finals, after blowing away Manchester City in the previous round.
Players such as Bakayoko, Mendy, Bernardo Silva and Fabinho have all impressed for Les Monégasques this year and are now on the radar of some of the biggest clubs in Europe. However, it has been the performances of 18 year old striker Kylian Mbappe which have really caught the eye. Dubbed the “new Thierry Henry” by many, the teenager has burst onto the scene this season with a string of phenomenal performances in Ligue 1 and the Champions League – with 13 goals in 33 appearances for Monaco’s senior squad to date. A move to one of Europe’s elite for a huge sum of money in the summer is inevitible.
Elsewhere, it is PSG who have made the headlines for all the wrong reasons this season. A string of underwhelming performances domestically and in Europe has piled the pressure on Spanish coach Unai Emery – with the 6-1 defeat to Barcelona in the Champions League last 16 to eliminate them despite leading 4-0 from the first leg being a particular low-point in a season of underachievement. Emery’s departure this summer would not come as a surprise to anyone who follows the Parisians.
At the other end, it is Lorient, Bastia and Nancy who find themselves in the bottom 3 currently, but with Dijon and Caen also sitting perilously close above the drop zone, the relegation battle looks set to go right to the wire.
Ligue 1 top goalscorers so far (as of 22/03/2017)
Edinson Cavani – Paris Saint Germain – 27 goals
Alexandre Lacazette – Lyon – 23 goals
Falcao – Monaco – 16 goals
Bafetimbi Gomis – Marseille – 16 goals
Steve Mounie – Montpellier – 16 goals
*League table pictures credit of BBC Football