We are well into April now and leagues around Europe are entering the final stretch of the title races. This week, languagecaster takes a look at the five big leagues and which teams look best placed to be crowned champions.
With all teams having played 29 games Lille sit atop League 1 with 58 points, four ahead of Marseilles, most people’s favourites for the title at the start of the season. Behind these two are Rennes and Olympic Lyon on 51 and 50 points respectively. Lille have been winning a lot of admirers with their exciting attacking style led by the three-pronged attack of Sow, Gervinho and Hazard, butthey’ll have to be aware of the experience of Marseille who have also hit form at the right time with three wins on the bounce. This looks like a two-horse race.
This title race will go down to the wire and Lille’s second to last match away at PSG on the 21st of May could be crucial.
There are only two contenders, as there seem to be every year in Spain – Real Madrid and Barcelona, the two giants of Spanish football. 16 of the last twenty titles have been shared by these two teams, and it’s been over six years since another team, Valencia, had a look in. This season it looks like it will be three in a row for the Catalan side as, with eight games remaining, they lead their rivals from Madrid by eight points. Barcelona have 81 points to Real’s 73. To illustrate their dominance, the third place team is a massive 24 points behind the leaders.
You can’t see beyond Barcelona. Real Madrid’s loss to Sporting Gijon last week ended their slim chance of overhauling their rivals.
It won’t be a crunch match with any bearing on where the title goes, but it will be a grudge match. Next week Barcelona travel to real Madrid and Los Blancos will be hoping for revenge for the 5-0 humiliation they suffered earlier in the season.
Dortmund lead the pack after 28 games with 65 points. Behind them it’s Bayer Leverkusen on 58 and Bayern Munich in the last Champions League spot on 51. That 14 point gap pretty much rules out last year’s Champions Bayern, but there is a chance for Leverkusen to catch Dortmund if the team from the west of Germany bottle it like their big rivals Shalke did famously in 2001 and again in 2005. Jurgen Klopp’s youthful Dortmund side have been destroying other teams with their energy and pressing game and have beaten their closest rivals convincingly.
This is Dortmund’s to lose and I can’t see them throwing the opportunity away to win.
This match is really to see if Leverkusen can hold on to second place. On the 17th of April they travel to Bayern Munich and a victory will almost surely secure second place and leave Munich struggling for a Champions League spot.
What about Serie A in Italy?
The two Milan sides, AC and Inter plus the team from the south, Napoli. Currently AC Milan top the league after beating their Inter in the derby last week. that victory was a convincing one and Inter’s up and down season looks to have hit another rocky patch. AC Milan have 65 points after 32 games, five more than Inter who lie in third place. Napoli have taken advantage of both Milan sides’ unconvincing recent form, a win, a draw and a loss for both in the last three games, to pick up nine points from their last three games. This surge has put them into second place on 62 within striking distance of the leaders.
This one really is too close to call at the moment. However, it looks like AC Milan have the easier run in, while Napoli have the toughest. The team from Naples have to play Inter, Juventus and Udinese – all tough potential fixtures. So, my tip is AC Milan to hang on to top spot.
Manchester United, Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea. It’s pretty much the same faces every year at this stage, but this season has a new face, Manchester City, who are looking to break into the Big Four at the expense of Liverpool. It hasn’t been a vintage season this year in terms of the quality of the leaders, but for fans it has certainly been an exciting one. All the big teams have had their surprise defeats and bad runs of form, and only 11 points separates Manchester United in first place from fourth place Chelsea, who have a game in hand. All of these four have a chance to win it, but they would have to rely on Manchester United taking their eye off the ball, something they never seem to do. Traditionally the Red Devils always finish strongly, while every year it seems that Arsenal find ways to throw title and trophy chances away. A few weeks ago we were talking about Arsenal still being in with a chance of a ‘quadruple’ – The league title, the Champions League, the FA Cup and the League Cup. They only have one left – the league title.
Manchester United will become the most successful English club by winning their 19th title, and Fergie will have completed his quest to knock Liverpool off their perch.
May Day sees Arsenal host Manchester United. If they are still withing range a victory here for the Gunners would make the last few games very interesting
So, will we see Marseille, Barcelona, Dortmund, AC Milan and Manchester United crowned champions in May, or have I got it completely wrong? We shall see over the coming weeks. Enjoy the football!
hit form: start to play well, begin to win matches
on the bounce: one after the other, in a row, in succession
can’t see beyond: the subject of the sentence is the only choice, the only answer
the pack: the other teams in the league (from a pack of wolves)
hit a rocky patch: have a difficult time, have a poor run of form
striking distance: within reach, close enough to catch
run in: fixture list, remaining games in a competition
buckle: collapse, lose games because of pressure
the Big Four: for the last decade (10 years) in England, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal
(take your) eye off the ball: lose concentration, become complacent