As it’s nearing what’s known as ‘the business end’ of the season I thought I’d take a look at the run in across Europe, both in the leagues and the major knockout tournaments and see who’s in with a realistic shout of achieving something this campaign.
Out of the top five leagues there are only really two where the title is still up for grabs; the Premier League in England and La Liga in Spain.
The Bundesliga has been taken by storm with Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich side a staggering 23 points clear of second placed Dortmund. PSG lead the way in Ligue 1 by 13 points and Juventus in Serie A by 11, so it’s safe to say those leagues are done and dusted.
With their inability to compete with the top teams, coupled with Wenger’s frugality in the transfer market, Arsenal look one world class striker away from being able to compete with the big boys and for me are out the title race.
This makes it a three horse race between Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City.
With the reds currently top of the league and still having the luxury of playing both their main title rivals at home, Liverpool are certainly in a strong position.
However they rely heavily on their strike force, the S.A.S (Suarez and Sturridge) and have a weak defence in comparison to the other two.
For me they don’t have enough quality in defence or experience in chasing a Premier League trophy in their squad to win it. Having said that it is football and anything’s possible. Stranger things have happened.
Chelsea have debatably the strongest squad in the league and the tactical genius that is Jose Mourinho at the helm.
On the other hand they have the complete opposite problem to Liverpool in that they are defensively sound but like Arsenal, lack a world class forward.
Consequently they tend to turn to two young players in Hazard and Oscar when it comes to creating ‘that something special’ to win a tight match. However they are both inexperienced when dealing with this sort of pressure at this point in a season.
So, as you’ve probably guessed, I believe Manchester City will win the Premier League this campaign. Just.
Pellegrini’s men have had a few purple patches this season but don’t yet seem the finished article. That being said they not only have a world-class striker in Sergio Aguero, they also have a solid defence and a tough tackling and creative midfield.
Adding to this is the fact that nearly all of their squad chased down the league title two years ago and having the psychological advantage of having two games in hand, that is why, in my humble opinion, they will win it.
For me this is so hard to call, on the face of it Atletico look the front-runners but you’d have to be mad to rule out Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Firstly, regardless of what happens from now, Diego Simeone and his team should be proud of what they have managed to accomplish in keeping pace with the big two in Spain.
You have to go back to 1996 to see the last time Los Rojiblancos managed to lift this prestigious trophy and incredibly no one other than Barca or Real have won it in the past decade (Valencia in 2004 being the last.)
Unfortunately I see history repeating itself. Although any team fronted by the magnificent Diego Costa has a chance, I still think it’s a slim one, however I’d love to see them do it.
Madrid have unbelievable wealth and in my opinion, the world’s best in Cristiano Ronaldo (contentious I know). The acquisitions of experienced manager Carlo Ancelotti and Welsh speedster Gareth Bale have also no doubt helped enhance their already staggering quality.
But being three points off the top spot and having an inferior goal difference to bitter rivals Barcelona may cost them.
They may also feel that having drawn Dortmund in the Champions League gives them a better chance of winning it than either of the other two, who play each other potentially distracting them from the title race.
The current Catalan champions look to be gaining momentum going into the final hurdle. Tata’s boys are playing some great stuff and have the small factor of Mr. Messi, nearly back to his best
Even though they may no longer have Pep I still feel they have enough experience and quality to overtake and hold off the others to claim their 23rd Spanish title.
Finally the big one where Europe’s elite will now battle it out to be crowned champion from the last eight onwards.
Barcelona vs Atletico – for me this is the tightest match in the quarters especially with the second leg coming at the Vicente Calderon. Despite drawing the first leg 1-1 with Atletico getting a crucial away goal, I think Barca’s experience will edge it in the end and they will progress.
Real vs Dortmund – although this a repeat of last year’s semi-final when Klopp’s Dortmund team were victorious, I don’t see this happening again and fully expect the Galactico’s to advance. As for first leg proved, Real are rampant in Europe this season.
PSG vs Chelsea – another very close encounter. There may only be ‘one Zlatan’ but with Chelsea’s European experience and Jose around I can see them slightly edging this one and turning around their 3-1 defeat in Paris with a win in London.
Man Utd vs Bayern – I believe this to be the easiest match to call. Pep’s men are the current holders and I believe, currently the best team in the world. Conversely United look a shadow of their former selves under Moyes and could be in for a hiding after drawing the first game 1-1 at Old Trafford. Decent result for the Red Devils, yes, but there’s a long way to go and going to Munich and winning is a tall order for the best of sides.
Moving onto the eventual winner, Bayern Munich of Germany are the bookies favourites and rightly so. Having walked their league, winning 25 and drawing three of the 28 played games so far they look unstoppable.
That being said the Champions League has never been retained and Madrid especially could offer a stern test to Bayern’s backline with their front three of Bale, Ronaldo and Benzema.
A tactic that Chelsea could employ is to ‘park the bus’ against them. It helped them defeat Barca and even Bayern themselves to claim the 2012 trophy and it could well work again.
Premier League – Manchester City
La Liga – Barcelona
Champions League – Bayern Munich
Remember, I am just an avid football fan like yourself and not a psychic, so don’t be shocked if in the end these are all wrong. Football can surprise even the best of us!
What do you think?
By Charlie Carmichael – @Carmichael93