Europe's Biggest Underachieving Clubs Featuring Newcastle, Lyon and Inter Milan
It's time for another round of our new regular feature here on Bleacher Report, our weekly look at the under-performing clubs in Europe.
Our first couple of weeks into the new season have looked at clubs under-performing on a match-by-match basis, but as the leagues around Europe begin to take shape for the new campaign, our focus will be on those big sides who are failing to reach the levels expected of them over a more considerable period.
Those who progress over the coming weeks will find themselves off the list quickly—but beware fans of teams who linger toward the end of this list, for a season of struggle could be in the offing.
9. Inter Milan
Inter Milan suffered a wretched campaign in 2012-13, and the transfer window hasn't given an awful lot of encouragement that they are about to bounce back in style.
However, the Nerazzurri have started the new season in form, winning both of their Serie A matches to sit in second place, having not conceded a goal yet. True, their opponents Catania and Genoa won't be amongst the toughest games they'll face this season, but so far they are displaying signs that the team can improve early on this year.
More results like these over the coming weeks, and Inter won't have to worry about featuring on this list.
Over into Spain, and Valencia have had a difficult start to the new campaign. They are by no means in crisis mode, and should escape from the group of under-performing big clubs relatively quickly, but early defeats to Catalan-based duo Espanyol and Barcelona might have them re-evaluating their seasonal objectives.
Roberto Soldado's goals are going to be difficult to replace without heavy expenditure, despite Helder Postiga finding the goal trail early on, and the start of the season doesn't get any easier for Los Che.
Next up they face Real Betis away, before facing Sevilla at home.
Things might be looking a little grim if they don't pick up positive results quickly.
Feyenoord pushed hard for the Eredivisie title last season, eventually finishing in third place, so would have been expectant of mounting a similar charge this time around.
They may go on to do so, but the start of the year hasn't indicated as much as they suffered three defeats in a row from the season's beginning.
Recent wins over NAC Breda and Roda JC have pushed them at least into the middle-lower half for now, but the head start they have given the likes of PSV Eindhoven, already five points clear, mean they face an uphill battle to play catch-up already.
Into Ligue 1 now and another side so far failing to build on a third-place finish last season, Olympique Lyonnais.
Lyon didn't really manage to attract any stellar names during the transfer window and, after two wins to start the new season, have suffered back-to-back disappointing defeats against Reims and Evian.
They will expect to quickly resume their surge up the table, but Lyon are going to be hard-pushed to even manage a top-four finish this season, and have already suffered the disappointment of failing to qualify for the UEFA Champions League group stages too.
It hasn't been a happy start for Lyon.
Our Spanish La Liga representative now, and Malaga CF.
Like Valencia, they have struggled to match last season's results and expectation early on, though tough games against Valencia themselves and Barcelona have contributed to that. The Andalucian side will expect to improve in the coming weeks, but a lack of investment may well hamper them.
Isco was the big departure of the summer and he has not been replaced, certainly in terms of transfer value, with a host of low-cost arrivals the only signs of strengthening the first team.
Malaga face Rayo Vallecano next and need a result there before travelling to in-form Real Sociedad.
4. Newcastle United
Newcastle United are another team who enjoyed a less-than-successful transfer window, with loan signing Loic Remy their only addition to the first-team squad.
They have also struggled badly on-field, failing to improve much on last season's dire form which saw them end up only two places outside the relegation zone.
Newcastle have managed just one win from their three games so far, and one goal—a late winner from Hatem Ben Arfa over Fulham this weekend just passed. Had he not found the breakthrough late on, the Magpies would have been stuck in the relegation zone early on in the season, an uncomfortable position no matter what month shows on the calendar.
Big games against Aston Villa and Hull City lie in wait.
The early disappointment from the Bundesliga has been Schalke 04.
Without a win in their opening three games, they bounced back to record a surprising 2-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen in their most recent fixture, but they have struggled to replicate the form which saw them end last season in fourth place.
Schalke also struggled to make the group phase of the Champions League, only beating Greek side PAOK 4-3 on aggregate with a 90th minute goal in the second leg. Schalke face Mainz—who won their opening three games of the season—and Bayern Munich—who have won all four—in their next two league games.
The second representatives from the Premier League in England are Sunderland, Newcastle's northeast rivals.
A summer overhaul, with more than 25 transfers taking place, has given the manager plenty more options, but Paolo Di Canio has yet to find a winning formula this season.
Sunderland have drawn one and lost two of their opening three games, and have an extremely worrying run of fixtures ahead. Three of their next four league games are at home, but they face Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United in those matches.
The team has to quickly find a way to pick up points or else face a real challenge to stay in touch with the sides above them.
1. Anzhi Makhachkala
Undoubtedly, the most under-performing big side in Europe right now has to be Russian outfit Anzhi Makhachkala.
"Big club" is a bit of a strange tag for them, granted, considering they were a mid-table outfit just three years ago, but huge investment thrust them into the spotlight during the past couple of years.
That has all come to an end with a dozen senior players sold, including Samuel Eto'o, Chris Samba and Aleksandr Kokorin, while the manager has also been changed and no big investment in the side will be forthcoming.
The end result is a real mess for last season's third-place team, who currently lie in 15th place, one off the bottom and a relegation spot. From their opening seven matches they have failed to claim a single victory, with three draws their only accumulation of points to date.
Anzhi's next fixture is absolutely huge for their season ahead, as they face an away match against Tom' Tomsk, the only side below them in the table and who have suffered seven defeats from seven games thus far.