We’re approaching the final stages of the season across the continent and its all to play for in Europe’s major leagues, the run-in set to determine the title winners, European places and which clubs fall victim to the dreaded drop.
Recent seasons have seen some rather underwhelming and one-sided title races, but the conclusion to the current campaign promises to be filled with twists, turns and drama as we head towards the final fixtures.
We’ve decided to assess each of the title races across Europe’s top five leagues and rank the division’s race for success by excitement level:
Much of the early season talk centred around the prospect of the most competitive Premier League title race in recent memory, following a number of shock results during the opening weeks of the campaign and favourites Liverpool and Manchester City enduring indifferent form.
Whilst the former have struggled badly during a difficult title defence ravaged by injuries, the latter have reached a new level of consistency and have opened up a huge advantage at the summit.
Pep Guardiola’s side embarked on a run of 15 consecutive league victories between mid-December and early March, a run that was only halted by defeat in the Manchester derby last weekend.
Even with that defeat, the gap remains a huge 11 points to the second-placed Red Devils, with Leicester a further point back following another impressive season under Brendan Rodgers.
The title is City’s to lose as they head towards a third Premier League crown in just four seasons, with Guardiola’s side set to re-establish themselves as England’s dominant force once again.
The excitement in the Premier League looks set to be the race for the top four with just seven points separating Chelsea in fourth and Liverpool in eighth, whilst there is still much to play for in the battle to beat the drop.
As far as a title race is concerned, however, the Premier League looks done and dusted.
Spanish football’s big two have dominated the landscape in recent seasons, with just one other champion – Atletico Madrid in 2013/14 – in the past 16 La Liga seasons.
The fortunes of Barcelona and Real Madrid have dropped of late, however, and it has allowed Atletico to mount their strongest challenge for the title since being crowned champions seven years ago.
Diego Simeone’s side, bolstered by the signing of Luis Suarez from Barcelona last summer, enjoyed a brilliant start to the season to lose just once in their opening 24 fixtures and open up a healthy advantage at the summit.
With a miserly defence and Suarez scoring prolifically leading the line, Atletico look well placed to be crowned champions despite a recent wobble, possessing a three point lead over Barcelona with a game in hand on their nearest challengers.
Real are a further two points further back, and the defending champions kept their hopes alive by snatching a late draw in the Madrid derby last weekend, Karim Benzema’s goal keeping Los Blancos in touch with their capital rivals at the summit.
Barcelona meet Real Madrid in El Clásico next month, whilst the Catalans also host Atletico in May in what could prove decisive fixtures given the tight nature of the title race at present.
It’s an unenviable task for any German side to compete with the sporting behemoth that is Bayern Munich, who headed into the 2020/21 campaign as treble winners following Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Champions League glory last season.
Hansi Flick’s side are once again the team to beat but they have close competition in the form of RB Leipzig, the club’s nearest challengers gaining belief that they can win a first ever Bundesliga title under the management of Julian Nagelsmann this season.
Leipzig are the form side in the division and have won each of their past six league fixtures, closing the gap on Bayern to just two points with 10 games of the season remaining.
Bayern have the resources, depth and experience to ensure they remain firm favourites to secure a ninth consecutive German top-flight title, though Leipzig’s form at least offers the promise of a title race with perhaps Borussia Dortmund’s 2018/19 challenge the only time in the past eight seasons the Bavarians have had genuine competition at the summit.
Leipzig also face the prospect of a Champions League elimination this week with the Germans needing to overturn a 2-0 deficit ahead of an away second leg at Liverpool, though an exit could potentially boost their chances of catching Bayern in the Bundesliga.
The champions, however, are a formidable force with talisman Robert Lewandowski having scored an astonishing 31 goals in just 23 league fixtures, Gerd Muller’s all-time record of 40 in a single season well within his reach.
Italian football has been dominated by the powerhouse that is Juventus over the past decade, the Bianconeri having endured an unprecedented period of success to win nine successive league titles.
Juventus, however, have fallen adrift this season and are 10 points behind league leaders Inter, whose closest challengers are city rivals AC Milan with the title looking likely to head to the San Siro for the first time in a decade.
Inter came close to winning the Scudetto last season after finishing just a point short of Juventus, though have bounced back this term with summer signings Arturo Vidal and Achraf Hakimi having bolstered Antonio Conte’s side.
It was AC Milan – inspired by an evergreen Zlatan Ibrahimovic – who raced out of the traps to open up a lead at the top, the Rossoneri unbeaten until January before wobbling with four defeats since the turn of the new year.
Those inconsistent performances have allowed Inter to move ahead and Conte’s side are currently in the midst of a seven-game winning run, including a 3-0 thrashing of their nearest challengers last month with the prolific partnership of Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku starring.
Inter are the form side in the division and with no European commitments look well placed to become champions for the first time since 2009/10, a six-point advantage making the title appear the Nerazzurri’s to lose.
Paris Saint-Germain’s extraordinary wealth and resources has made French football a foregone conclusion for much of the past decade, an exciting Monaco side – swiftly plucked apart by Europe’s elite – the only anomaly when it comes to Ligue 1 champions since 2013.
This season, however, has seen arguably the most exciting title race in European football so far, with PSG currently in the midst of a fascinating three-way tussle to be crowned as champions of France.
Lille currently set the pace on 62 points, two clear of the champions with fellow challengers Lyon just one further back.
One of the continent’s best recruiters in recent years, Lille have rebuilt following the sales of key figures in Gabriel and Victor Osimhen, with summer arrivals Burat Yilmaz and Jonathan David leading the way for league goals with nine apiece.
Yusuf Yazici – signed in a €17.5m deal from Trabzonspor a year earlier – has come good following a difficult debut season, whilst Sven Botman has already drawn admiring glances from the Premier League following his arrival from Ajax’s youth side.
Lille have lost just twice all season but their advantage remains narrow, PSG moving into contention following an indifferent start, with Mauricio Pochettino replacing Thomas Tuchel as manager in January.
The star power is with the Parisians with Kylian Mbappe once again the league’s leading scorer, though no side is yet giving an inch with Lyon in close pursuit just a point behind.
Rudi Garcia’s side won once in their opening six fixtures but have since responded in style, winning eight of nine – including away at PSG – between early November and January.
Karl Toko Ekambi and Memphis Depay have enjoyed excellent seasons in front of goal and could prove the difference for Lyon as they seek a first title since 2008, the final triumph of a run of seven consecutive successes.
After the mundanity of PSG’s title processions in recent seasons, this three-horse race could yet go right down to the wire.
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