Following their slender victory against West Ham United at Upton Park on 6th April, Liverpool climbed back to the summit of the Premier League – the 22nd time this season that the top spot ha
Following their slender victory against West Ham United at Upton Park on 6th April, Liverpool climbed back to the summit of the Premier League – the 22nd time this season that the top spot has changed hand. Elsewhere across Europe, the likes of Bayern Munich, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain are cruising their way to victory.
So just how does the Premier League compare to the other top four leagues across the continent, France, Spain, Italy and Germany, and what effect is it having on teams in a wider context?
Ahead of the current campaign, not many would have backed Liverpool to break into the top four, let alone top the table heading into the final stretch of fixtures. The work Brendan Rodgers has done with essentially the same side which finished a lowly seventh last season – 28 points off winners Manchester United – is truly incredible, and shows just how exciting the top-flight in this country can be.
That excitement is set to reach fever pitch this weekend when the Reds meet Manchester City at Anfield in what many are billing as a title decider. Four points currently separate the two, while the Citizens have two games in hand on their rivals. Chelsea, meanwhile, are sandwiched between the two and will watch on anxiously in the knowledge that they too must visit Merseyside before the season’s end.
For much of the current campaign the table has been topped by Arsenal, who looked set to end nine trophy laden seasons in the ultimate way by winning the Premier League for a fourth time under Arsene Wenger. In rather comical and stereotypical fashion, the Gunners have slipped away in much the same way as they have done time and time again in the recent past come spring, and they now hold on delicately to fourth place.
A 3-0 reverse against Everton on the weekend has left Wenger’s charges in a perilous position, whereby a run of bad results will see them miss out on the Champions League, which for a club of Arsenal’s size is simply unheralded. It was a similar story 12 months ago, where only an impressive winning-streak in the closing weeks of the season seen them oust rivals Tottenham Hotspur for fourth place, with victory over Newcastle United on the final day signalling scenes similar to a side who had just lifted the league title.
It highlighted exactly how important that fourth spot can be, which is why with the two teams battling hard, combined with Manchester United and Spurs’ hot pursuit not-too-far behind, this is another race which will go down to the wire and prove as exciting as ever.
France and Italy
Across the English Channel, moneybags PSG are romping to the title, amassing a 13-point lead over second-placed Monaco. The Ligue 1 title race was expected to be as equally compelling as its English equivalent, with the Claudio Ranieri’s Monaco spending big to close the gap on the Parisians who also tasted title success last season.
It’s a similar story in Italy, where, yet again, Juventus are finding it all too easy in their pursuit of the league crown, building up a lead which now stands at eight points having been cut slightly by the country’s next best side in Roma. Napoli, who currently occupy third spot, are seemingly caught in middle-ground, with the Giallorossi 12 points ahead and Fiorentina nine points behind.
Yet the most one-sided league of all comes from the country which provided both of last season’s Champions League finalists – the Bundesliga. Bayern Munich have brushed aside all before them, racking up numerous records and honours along the way, yet the failure of Borussia Dortmund and Co. to sustain a title challenge long enough has had a negative effect on the Bavarians elsewhere.
Having been officially crowned as league champions two weeks ago – the earliest a German team has ever won the league – Munich dropped points in a 3-3 draw at home to Hoffenheim, before travelling to Augsburg looking to maintain an unbeaten run which stretched for 54 games. However, with a weakened side, and the Champions League in mind, Pep Guardiola’s men lost, succumbing 1-0 to their near-rivals to end their manager’s unbeaten start to live in the Bundesliga.
Against Man United in their quarter-final first-leg tie last week, Munich failed to reach the heights that they had when at their imperious best earlier this campaign. This is not to say they were particularly bad, but a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford surprised many – which admittedly says more about the direction of the Red Devils than Bayern, while they had to come from behind to secure victory in the second-leg.
By winning the title so early, it’s now hard for the club to maintain a level of form in the same way as in the opening weeks of the campaign, for example. Guardiola will claim that his side are professional and they will keep working their way through the games in order to set new records, but the bottom line is the league is over.
This arguably also worked against PSG when they met Chelsea earlier this week, though an impressive showing in the first-leg perhaps makes this theory redundant. Regardless, the Blues, who are still focused in the league on a regular basis, came out on top to progress through.
Three of the quarter-finalists this season, meanwhile, ply their trade in La Liga. Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, the latter two of which progressed to the semis, are exchanging blows week after week at the top of the table in Spain in a title race which matches – if not betters – the one back home.
Greece and Austria
Further afield, Olympiacos lead the way in Greece, 14 points ahead of the next best side in the league. In Austria, that gap stands at a staggering 23 points, with Red Bull Salzburg running away with the title ahead of Rapid Wien.
So what does this tell us? It’s certainly not uncommon for one side to dominate a league, but, despite still involving the same group of teams, this season’s Premier League title race is proving as exciting as ever. Only a brave man would stake their earnings on an outright winner, as Chelsea, Man City and Liverpool each continue to exchange blows at the top.
It may be a case of football becoming too predictable and boring, yet the Premier League is going against the grain of the majority of European Leagues. Something’s got to give at the top of the table—who will strike the knockout blow first?
What do you think? Who will stand out and dominate in the title races across Europe? Have your say in the comments section below.