The Story So Far: How Are Europe’s Top 5 Leagues Unfolding?
December 15, 2016
We are now approaching the half-way point of the football season, as Europe’s top five leagues begin to take shape and the battle for honours intensifies. With clear battle lines and rivalries clearly marked in England, Spain, Germany, France and Italy, the next six months will see no quarter given as teams compete to win their respective leagues, claim a Champions League place or simply survive.
So how exactly are Europe’s top five leagues shaping up? Here is a brief overview and a look ahead to the second half of the season…
In what has promised to be the most keenly contested title race in living memory, it is something of a surprise to see Chelsea open up a four point lead at the top. The Blues have been truly excellent during an eight game winning run, however, while the defensive frailties of main rivals Liverpool and Manchester City have enabled Antonio Conte’s men to steal a significant march. They will certainly enter 2017 as clear favourites for the title, with an increasingly resilient and impressive Arsenal side providing their most serious challenge.
Thanks to a trademark, bullet header by Sergio Ramos in the last minute of El Clasico, Real Madrid secured a draw against their nearest rivals while also maintaining their six point lead at the top of La Liga. Los Blancos have yet to lose this season, while they have also been beaten on only two occasions since Zinedine Zidane took over in January. With both Barcelona and Atletico Madrid struggling to achieve any sort of consistency behind them, Real are clear favourites to lift their first title in four years and since the departure of Jose Mourinho.
Leicester’s EPL title success and served as an inspiration to smaller clubs from across the globe, with the Bundesliga currently delivering its own, scarcely believable footballing narrative. RB Leipzig (which is a controversially owned Red Bull sports franchise that has achieved four promotions in seven years to reach the Bundesliga) currently sit on top of the table, unbeaten in 12 games and three points clear of defending champions Bayern Munich. With the two set to clash on 21st December at the Allianz Arena, Leipzig will be keen on opening a six point lead ahead of the winter break.
Interestingly, Ligue 1 is currently experiencing something that fans have not witnessed in three years; namely, a title race. The departure of PSG manager Laurent Blanc and Swedish talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic has weakened the defending champions this term, while both Nice and Monaco have improved to narrow what was a sizeable gap last season. Just two points currently separate Nice in first from PSG in third, with top scorers Monaco (who are reaping the rewards of playing a fully fit Radamel Falcao once again) the current favourites to lift the title in May.
While Juventus, who have won the last five Serie A titles, have assumed their customary place at the top of the table, their form has been a little less convincing than usual. They have already lost three out of their 15 games, for example, while they are only four points ahead of Roma and A.C. Milan in second and third place respectively. A recent, 3-1 drubbing at the hands of Genoa showcased an unusual weakness that exists at the heart of this years’ Juventus side, and while they are favourites to win a sixth consecutive title this term they may find it more challenging than in previous years.