World Football: Predicting the Winners of Europe's Big Leagues Next Season
All around Europe, leagues are entering their final weeks and titles are up for grabs. Plenty has been written about these title fights, so perhaps turning our eyes towards next season wouldn't be such a bad idea.
Obviously, it's very hard to predict who will win league titles next season; it's hard enough to be sure who will win out in the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and the Bundesliga with just a few games left this season, especially considering that there are two transfer windows between us and the end of the 2012-13 season.
However, that doesn't mean we can't give it a go. Feel free to chime in with your own predictions in the comments section below.
Premier League: Manchester United
Manchester United currently sit five points clear at the top of the Premier League. They are undoubtedly in pole position to win the league this season.
They are in that position despite having one of their weakest teams in years. That is partially because the Premier League is not at its strongest, and partially because in Sir Alex Ferguson, United have a manager who can get every last drop of talent and performance out of his squad.
United's "noisy neighbours" have led the race for most of the season, and are likely to be even stronger next season; they will be better gelled as a team and there will, probably, be yet more additions to the squad.
So, why will United win the League next season? Because, win or lose the title this season, Fergie will not be pleased with how his side has played. Knocked out of the Champions League early, knocked out of the Europa League by a mid-table La Liga side and knocked out of the FA Cup in the fourth round by Liverpool does not amount to a satisfactory season.
Chelsea are in a transitional phase and need to rebuild before they can challenge for the league title once again. Arsenal need to hold on to the likes of Robin van Persie and bring in several new faces before they can be seen as real title contenders, whilst Tottenham need to hold on to Harry Redknapp, or find a top class replacement, and bring in some new players.
You can bet that United will bring in some new faces in defence and midfield as they look to strengthen their squad. Add in a David de Gea who will be fully acclimatised to the Premier League, and United should be far stronger than they have been this season.
Man City will provide stern competition, but United should have the players and the manager to see off their cross town rivals.
Bundesliga: Bayern Munich
There is a very real possibility that Bayern Munich will end this season without any silverware. That would make two seasons in a row without a trophy for the German giants.
They are currently three points behind Borussia Dortmund in the table and still have to face Dortmund away from home, must beat Real Madrid and either Barcelona or Chelsea in order to lift the Champions League and need to see off Dortmund in order to win the DFB-Pokal.
It's perfectly possible that Bayern will come out of the season with a trophy, but failure to win either the Champions League or the Bundesliga will still be seen as failure.
Win or lose the title this season, the Bavarians will be right up there next season once again and, with Mario Gomez recently signing a new contract and Arjen Robben stating he would like to remain in Munich, they are not about to get any weaker.
Dortmund will provide stiff competition next season, even if it is without Japanese superstar Shinji Kagawa. They have secured the continued services of Mario Gotze and will not find it too hard to replace Kagawa.
Bayern, however, seem to have gone some way to stop the goals that scuppered their efforts last year; they have conceded just 18 times all season.
With Schalke challenging near the top as well, one thing is for sure, the Bundesliga will be competitive at the business end of the table next season. Bayern should, however, have the players and the drive to overcome their fellow challengers.
La Liga: Barcelona
Real Madrid look set to end Barcelona's dominance of La Liga this season. They are currently six points ahead of the Catalan giants with just eight games to play.
Barcelona are beginning to catch up with Real Madrid; at one stage the gap was ten points. However, Madrid must still be confident of holding off their rivals, even with a game at the Nou Camp still to be played.
Next season, however, you can bet that Barcelona will hit back with a bang. It isn't like they have lost their mojo, even if they are behind in the league; they are in the Champions League semi-final and will be favourites going into the Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao.
So why should next season be any different? Barcelona have slipped up in the league, drawing six games compared to Real's three, so it is not like Barcelona are invincible.
It will be different because Madrid winning the league will act as a catalyst, forcing Barcelona to improve, to cut out the mistakes and play to an even higher standard than they currently are.
Add in the return of David Villa, who has been out of action since the Club World Cup, and Barcelona's attack looks even more fearsome than it already is.
Mourinho will not sit back and wait for the new season, even if Madrid do win the league. He will be looking to ensure he can lock Barcelona out of the trophy cabinet, much as they have been doing to Real for the last few seasons, a Copa del Rey aside.
However, Barcelona are widely regarded as the best side in the world for a reason. They have an attacking unit that can take any team apart, and if they learn their lessons from this season's La Liga campaign (there's no such thing as a guaranteed win), they will be even harder for Mourinho's Madrid to overcome.
Serie A: AC Milan
AC Milan and Juventus are currently battling it out for supremacy in Serie A, and things look set to go down to the wire, with AC Milan currently just two points ahead of Juventus after only managing a draw last weekend.
At this stage the race is too close to call, although Milan perhaps have the easier run-in and do have a two-point cushion.
Anything could happen with Inter Milan next season. They are in danger of missing out on a Champions League spot next year, and the managerial turmoil at the club cannot be helping them to attract players. At the same time, they are a prestigious club, and an increased focus on the league might help them prosper next season.
However, it seems doubtful that they will be challenging for the title; they have an aging squad and financial problems.
Napoli have had a good season, and with Udinese doing their best to join the top-level Serie A sides, next season's Serie A could be very competitive.
However, only a rejuvenated Juventus and AC Milan look, pre-transfer window, to have enough about them to sustain a title push. Juventus have yet to lose in the league, an impressive achievement which highlights their title-winning potential, while AC Milan's squad still looks very strong.
So, what gives AC Milan the edge next season? Well, Juventus haven't had European football to contend with this season, meaning their players will have been fresher and they will have picked up fewer injuries than AC Milan.
That means that they've had an easier time of it this season than they will next time around, and the way the have turned potential losses into draws might not be as easy.