With most of the European football leagues having just started their seasons, it is still way too early to anoint a champion in each league. However, with the squads having competed during the summer against other top-notch clubs, some trends have emerged that might be indicators of whether or not these teams will retain the top spots in their respective leagues this season.
Chelsea/English Premier League
The end of their 2014-2015 campaign saw the Blues end the season at the top of the table. After 38 matches, they finished eight points clear of second-place Manchester City. Manager Jose Mourinho emerged as “The Special One”, as his club held the top spot for virtually the entire season. Fast forward to the current campaign, and there are signs that the Blues might not possess the top spot when the 2015-2016 season ends.
Their starting eleven seems solid, but they lack much-needed depth behind those players. Up front, Diego Costa had a stellar season last year, but is also injury-prone. His replacements, Loic Remy and Radamel Falcao, are adequate as forwards but will not produce the number of goals that Costa is capable of. The team is also heavily dependent on midfielder Eden Hazard, last year’s PFA Player of the Year, but have no quality substitute for him.
Make no mistake: Chelsea is still a top-tier team in the English Premier League this season. But they were exposed first against Swansea City at Stamford Bridge and against Manchester City at the Etihad on Sunday in a 3-0 defeat, and will not be the top team come May.
While there are 20 teams vying for the top spot in La Liga, recent history has Barcelona and Real Madrid taking the top two positions at the end of each season. The last campaign ended with Barcelona hoisting the trophy, with Los Galacticos two points behind them after 38 games. Add to that a treble for Barca (also winning the Champion’s League and the Spanish Cup), and it would seem that Barcelona is headed for another stellar season. But a closer look shows that their depth is not up to the grueling season that awaits them.
Their newly promoted academy players, Rafinha and Sergi Roberto, are not ready to perform at a higher level. Their star substitute forward, Pedro, might leave in the currently open transfer window, leaving Barca in a precarious position up front. Given the fact that due to prior transfer infractions they are banned from acquiring any players until January 2016, any injury would prove damaging to their chances of repeating as La Liga champions this season. Perhaps last Friday’s 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Athletic Bilbao in the first leg of the Supercopa de Espana is a harbinger of the upcoming season for Barcelona, who will finish the current campaign looking up at their rivals Real Madrid.
Last season the Bundesliga saw Bayern Munich finish the season ten points clear of second-place Wolfsburg, and this season should see the Bavarians repeat their success in the table. While losing Bastian Schweinsteiger to Manchester United, they have added Arturo Vidal and Douglas Costa to the squad, while seeing Javi Martinez and David Alaba return to full fitness. With a team that is seemingly two-deep at every position, expect Pep Guardiola and Bayern Munich to retain the Bundesliga title in 2016.
The season hasn’t yet begun, but after a solid 2014-2015 season that saw Juventus take the top spot in the Serie A by a whopping 17 points over second-place AS Roma, there is no reason to believe that the upcoming season will see them falter in the table.
With a mix of wily veterans like Gianluigi Buffon and Patrice Evra and young stars like Paul Pogba and Paulo Dybala, manager Massimiliano Allegri has made it clear he is looking for success today and building for success five years from now. With a team mindset where losing is not considered an option, expect Juventus to capture Il Scudetto next May.
Paris Saint-Germain/Ligue 1
PSG has returned to action to defend their Ligue 1 championship status, having won the Trophee des Champions by eight points over Lyon earlier this year for the fifth time in the club’s history.
With a solid starting eleven returning from the prior campaign, they have added Angel di Maria onto an already strong roster. While this might be the final year at PSG for star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, one might question how many goals Ibra has left at the age of 33 while playing top-flight football in Europe. But even if PSG does not replace him via the transfer window, they have been grooming Hervin Ongenda as a potential replacement when that time arrives. With a squad as strong as the one fielded by PSG, expect them to be at the top of the Ligue 1 table at the end of the 2015-2016 season.
And to do that, they’ll need plenty of beautiful strikes such as this one.
— PSG en Vine (@PSG_en_Vine) July 21, 2015