Predicting the Champions, Runners-Up & Relegated Teams from Europe's Top Leagues
With Europe’s top leagues bubbling into action, Bleacher Report takes a look at Europe’s five major leagues and predicts the key figures likely to be operating at the top and the bottom of each table.
Read on to discover our picks for Champions, runners-up and relegation in England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
Comment down below and let us know what we've got right and what we've got horribly wrong.
England: The Premier League
Champions: Manchester City. Each of the top three teams can make a great case for why they will finish top of the tree come the season’s finale, however, I am plumping for Manchester City. The calm composure of Manuel Pellegrini, allied to the astute (if expensive) additions to the squad, should see City take the title.
Such a victory would put Roberto Mancini’s failings last term into stark perspective.
Runners-Up: Chelsea. The squad may have its weak points, but Jose Mourinho is the only one of the truly top managers in the division to have experience of winning the league. Expect an acquisition or two before the window closes—it should be enough to overcome David Moyes and Manchester United.
Relegated Teams: It may be that Hull City have made it to the Premier League a little too soon in their development under Steve Bruce. He has experience at this level, but hasn’t always convinced, enduring barren swathes of time with Sunderland and Birmingham. Another slump this term would end in relegation.
I fear that Sunderland and Stoke are trying to change things too quickly. Paolo Di Canio reenergised the Black Cats last term, but will need considerable fortune if his anonymous batch of transfers are to pull the side free of danger this year.
The unfortunately-named Tony Pulis lost his job as soon as Stoke lost the determination and ferocity that made them EPL mainstays. Rediscovering these qualities, with a group of players that aren’t the most talented in the league, will be Hughes’ key task.
France: Ligue 1
Champions: P.S.G. Title-holders Paris Saint-Germain spent over £50 million to add Edison Cavani to their ranks. They now have the experience of winning the league and the depth of talent to prosper once again.
Runners-Up: Monaco. Expect Marseille’s squad to be stretched by the Champions League, and with other would-be contenders still in transition periods, the door is opened for moneyed Monaco to sneak in.
In almost all of Europe’s major leagues it would be unthinkable for a newly-promoted team to rise to the top of the rankings. However, Monaco’s potential ascendancy is more a comment on their enormous resources and expansive development than the paucity of the French top flight.
With genuine world class players such as Falcao, Joao Moutinho and James Rodriguez alongside experienced campaigners such as Jeremy Toulalan, Ricardo Carvalho and Eric Abidal, Monaco have a squad that will not be content with mid-table.
Relegated Teams: En Avant Guingamp are lacking high-quality personnel and face a struggle. So too Sochaux, forever a producer of talented young players, it will take a massive effort for them to avoid the mire of relegation.
I am a great lover of all things Corsica and having watched football firsthand on the islands, I am loathe to forecast dark times for Bastia and Fabrizio Ravanelli’s Ajaccio. Either one could face a tough year.
Champions: Bayern Munich. Take the German and European champions, add the most coveted manager in the world game and throw in the outstanding Mario Goetze, signed from their closest rivals Borussia Dortmund, and you have a juggernaut. The Bavarian squad should retain their top billing and will remain hungry under Pep.
Runners-Up: Dortmund. Even despite the loss of Goetze, the retention of Juergen Klopp and, for the moment, Robert Lewandowski should keep Dortmund near the top of the tree. Don’t be surprised to see Gabonese front-man Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang make a big impact in his first season in Germany.
Relegated Teams: I fear for minnows Eintracht Braunschweig, who might struggle to match the big boys over the course of the season.
To join them? Augsburg and Mainz are two clubs who are due a spell of misfortune and if either one lose the confidence and momentum that they have enjoyed recently, they might flounder.
Hoffenheim endured a disastrous campaign last term and ended the year in the relegation play-off spot. The likes of Eren Derdiyok and Tarik Elyounoussi should have enough quality to pull them clear of danger this term.
Italy: Serie A
Champions: Juventus. The additions of Fernando Llorente, Carlos Tevez and Angelo Ogbonna will add an extra dimension to a side that have won the title so impressively in recent seasons. The distraction of the Champions League may be the only hope the chasing pack have of La Vecchia Signora slipping on her heels.
Runners-Up: Napoli. Of that chasing pack, I am most excited about Napoli and their rejuvenation under Rafael Benitez.
The Partenopei have retained the core of their side—will doubtless preserve their style—and I believe that Gonzalo Higuain could emerge as one of the signings of the summer. Un-loved at Real Madrid, the 25-year-old has a point to prove and time on his side.
Relegated Teams: Genoa and Torino struggled last term, but I expect them to pull clear of danger over the coming season—even if the aforementioned Ogbonna and the disgraced Jean Francois Gillet will be missed.
Promoted Sassulo and Livorno face a long, hard slog while Cagliari might be doomed if they agree to sell Davide Astori.
Spain: La Liga
The Top Two: With the departures of Falcao, Alvaro Negredo and Roberto Soldado weakening Atletico Madrid, Sevilla and Valencia respectively, expect Real Madrid and Barcelona to tear away in their usual fashion.
As for who comes out on top…it’s anyone’s game. Lionel Messi and Neymar have the potential to be a dazzling and explosive combination but some of the game’s elite minds—including former Barcelona boss Johan Cruyff—suspect that you can have too much of a good thing.
The new manager, Gerardo Martino is an unknown quantity, and has thus far failed to address the team’s primary inadequacy—defensive frailties. Can Carles Puyol roll back the years? Will Javier Mascherano, Sergio Busquets and Adriano continue to be square pegs in round holes? Will Marc Bartra finally step up to assume first-team responsibilities?
Barca’s defence is an issue that new Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti will be looking to exploit. The Italian enters the world’s most intense footballing rivalry as an experienced and respected boss who knows how to get results and win championships.
Rayo Vallecano remain popular among the neutrals, but will do well to retain their top flight status. The Madrid minnows have thrived amidst the big boys in recent years, but will do well to repeat the feat once again.
Joining them for the drop might be Almeria, emerging as the perennial yo-yo club. Celta Vigo will need to start well after a testing campaign last term, while Levante have declined drastically over the last few years and are not the side they once were.