Soccer: Predicting the Winners of Each of Europe's Major Leagues Next Season
It is difficult to look almost a year into the world of football and predict outcomes with any great degree of accuracy.
Who would have thought 12 months ago that Chelsea would now be European champions, that unfashionable Montpellier would beat big-spending Paris Saint-Germain to the French title, or the Juventus would win Serie A without losing a game?
When predicting who will win a league, it is easy to simply go for the reigning champions, but more often than not they are the justifiable favourites.
Here are predictions for who will be top of the table in Europe's top five leagues—the Premier League, La Liga, the Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1—at the end of next season.
Feel free to share your thoughts below.
Premier League: Manchester City
It is true that City only won their first championship for 44 years in the very final moments of last season. Were it not for Sergio Aguero's late winner against Queens Park Rangers, Manchester United would have beaten them to the title.
However, if that had happened, the general consensus would most likely have been that City threw the title away. Proof of that is in the fact that no one is saying that about United now.
The Red Devils have strengthened their attack with the purchase of Shinji Kagawa, while Chelsea are in the middle of an overhaul of their squad.
City, meanwhile, are yet to act in the transfer market, and even without doing so still have the best squad in the country, with an added year's experience of playing together and with a fresh winning mentality. They remain the team to beat in England.
La Liga: Real Madrid
With Jose Mourinho at the helm, Real finally broke Barcelona's three-year dominance at the top of the Spanish league last term. They did so in real style, too, scoring a mammoth 121 goals and registering a record 100 points.
With Pep Guardiola stepping down from his role as Barca's head coach, everyone is waiting to see just how seamless the transition to power of his former assistant will be. Among other things, Tito Vilanova has to deal with key players Carles Puyol and Xavi Hernandez both moving further into their 30s and
Meanwhile, only Xabi Alonso and Iker Casillas among Real's first-team fixtures are in their 30s, and with the momentum carried over from last season's title victory, Mourinho's track record and the possible addition Luka Modric, Los Merengues are well placed to retain their title next season.
Bundesliga: Borussia Dortmund
In recent years the German league has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity, thanks in part to the thrilling new generation of players representing the national, but also because of the competitive nature of the Bundesliga.
Over the past six years four different teams—Stuttgart, Wolfsburg, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund—have all lifted the title in Germany. No wonder the president of the German federation, Wolfgang Niersbach, was quoted by Eurosport as saying earlier this week:
"In the Spanish championship, the suspense is reduced to the question: who will be champion – Real Madrid or Barcelona? Here, it is more open. It is true that Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich are the favourites, but who knows whether or not Borussia Moenchengladbach or Schalke will finish ahead of them?"
Juergen Klopp has led a remarkable revival at Dortmund which has seen them win back-to-back titles. They have offset the loss of Shinji Kagawa with the acquisition of Marco Reus, and if they can hold on to other stars like Mario Goetze, Mats Hummels and Robert Lewandowski then they could hold their rivals at bay for another season.
Serie A: Juventus
As mentioned in the intro, Antonio Conte exceeded all expectations during his first season in charge last term. It was supposed to be a transitional year as he picked up the pieces following the unsuccessful tenures of Ciro Ferrara and Luigi Delneri. He ended up winning Serie A without losing a single game.
The signings of several top players like Mirko Vucinic, Stefan Lichsteiner, Arturo Vidal and Andrea Pirlo certainly played a great part in that success, but so did the struggles of their biggest rivals, and that will play a part next season too.
With Inter Milan facing a long road back to the top under their young boss Andrea Stramaccioni and AC Milan, last season's runners-up, selling their two best players, it looks as though the new Juventus Stadium will play host to the champions of Italy again in its second year.
Ligue 1: Paris Saint-Germain
Any of the aforementioned predictions could quite easily be proved wrong, but in France the wind of change seems to only be blowing in one direction. Having narrowly lost out on the title last season, PSG have gone out and made a superstar signing for each of the three points they finished behind Montpellier.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva and Ezequiel Lavezzi have all arrived at the Parc des Princes with the brief of taking Ligue 1 by storm and turning the club's mega-rich Qatari owners' investment into trophies.
Montpellier have lost their top scorer, Olivier Giroud, to Arsenal. Lyon are in the process of clearing most of their biggest stars off the wage bill and Lille, champions in 2011, have sold their star player to Chelsea. As such, PSG are finally set to fulfil their long-held potential.