Europe’s top five leagues: The season so far

Europe's top five leagues: The season so far

With the opening phase of the campaign out of the way, we’re seeing what teams might achieve their goals this season. And if the reigning champions of each league have to work harder to retain the title.

We’ve seen a fascinating start to the year in France. PSG are locked in a battle with Nice at the top of Ligue 1. Nice handed Mbappe and co their only defeat of the season in September, and the South-Coast side currently sits unbeaten at the top of the league.

After losing Neymar and Lionel Messi in the summer, PSG are struggling to dominate the league in their usual way. When two players of that stature leave the club at once, there is bound to be a transition period. Their Champions League campaign has also gotten off to a slow start. They lost 4-0 to Newcastle on matchday one away from home.

Трубочисты Петербурга

PSG have had a slower start to the seasonScott Heppell/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved

It’s a similar story in Italy. Napoli’s form has dropped off massively after winning the Scudetto for the first time in 30 years last season. In the summer, manager Luciano Spalletti resigned to take charge of the Italian national team after leading them to glory. Of course, it is highly unusual for the champions of a country to lose their coach immediately. Club owner Aurelio De Laurentiis appointed someone quickly and did so with Rudi Garcia, former coach of Riyadh club Al-Nassr.

Host of The Italian Football Podcast, Nima Roodsari, explained why, so far, this hiring is backfiring for Napoli.

«He’s changed the way Napoli plays, which has been to their detriment,» explained Nima.

«I think this season, Serie A is going to be a two-horse race between Milan and Inter. I would say they are the favourites, and everybody would agree they are favourites to win the league.»

The Milan teams are set to face off for the ScudettoSpada/LaPresse/LaPresse

In Germany, Bayern Munich have won 11 games in a row in the Bundesliga. Still, this season, Xabi Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen have made a good start and look like they could be a strong challenge for their title.

Alonso became a manager in 2018 after an incredibly successful playing career. During his time with clubs such as Real Madrid, Liverpool, and Bayern, the former Spain international worked under fantastic managers.

His first managerial job at his hometown club, Real Sociedad, caught many people’s attention. He is now making a solid impression in Germany.

La Liga TV presenter Semra Hunter told Football Now why Alonso could one day return to any big club he played for.

«He always knew he wanted to be a coach. So, when you reach the end of your playing career, you start to mentally prepare yourself. You start to look at things in a different way and ask different questions to the managers you’re working with.»

«He has such a wonderful football brain, which has many believing that he is a Real Madrid manager in the making. The timing could be perfect as at the end of the season, Carlo Ancelotti’s contract will end, and he will go to manage Brazil. Although, there is also a lot of talk around Liverpool being interested in him as a replacement for Jurgen Klopp if he ever leaves.» Semra explained.

Alonso played under Jose Mourinho at Real MadridTom Hevezi/AP2011

In Spain, Barcelona have also suffered a dip in form after winning the league for the first time in four years last season. However, their local rivals, Girona, are the ones making headlines. Usually a mid-table outfit, they currently sit at the top of La Liga after 12 games, having only lost once.

«Girona have been working on a project for a very long time, and we’re seeing the results of excellent work done behind the scenes for several years.»

Semra Hunter Presenter, La Liga TV

«They are owned by the City Group, who also own Manchester City, which allows them to dip into the scouting pool of Manchester City and is something they do very well. This season is an excellent demonstration of that.»

Girona sit top of La Liga currentlyJoan Monfort/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved

However, in England, it’s business as usual for Manchester City. After winning the treble last season, Pep Guardiola’s side stumbled slightly at the beginning of this campaign. In October, they lost back-to-back league games for the first time since 2018. But they have pulled themselves together and are now back at the top of the league.

Several teams are waiting to pounce if they slip up. One of those is Tottenham Hotspur, who are surpassing all expectations under new manager Ange Postecoglu. When they lost star striker Harry Kane in the summer, some feared it would be a long season for Spurs. But the form of Heung-Min Son and the impact of new signing James Maddison has fans believing the team could achieve big things this season.

So things are proving difficult for PSG, Napoli, Barca and Bayern. It’s been a dramatic season so far, and there’s no doubt plenty to come. As we enter the busy winter period, games will start thick and fast, and the picture could change in the blink of an eye. Let’s see if those title challenges from Bayer Leverkusen and Tottenham Hotspur can maintain their form.


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