Europe's Biggest Underachieving Clubs
Some spent big during the summer; others spent little.
Some came into the season with a new manager; others kept the faith in an old one.
An icon retired.
And yet, at many of Europe’s biggest clubs, expectations didn’t change.
Most of them entered the campaign with a title challenge in mind, and all of them had designs on Champions League football. Some even felt they could win the European Cup.
Well, things have not gone according to plan at a handful of these giants. Over the next few slides, we’ll examine several big, big clubs that have underachieved through the 2013 portion of the schedule.
It might be a bit rich to suggest the third-place team in the Bundesliga is underachieving, but then again, the Bundesliga side have set a high standard for themselves in recent seasons.
Title winners in 2011 and double winners in 2012, Dortmund went to the Champions League final last spring and also finished second in the league to an imposing Bayern Munich side.
This year, with their schedule about to hit its halfway point, they are a whopping 12 points back of Bayern and five adrift of Bayer Leverkusen. In fact, going into the weekend’s match against Hertha Berlin, they have won only once in their last five outings in the German top flight.
Despite poaching manager Walter Mazzarri from Napoli and having their attention fixed on their domestic football given their absence from European competition, Inter Milan have struggled to make an impression in Serie A so far this season.
After 16 rounds, they are fifth in the division—seven points back of the final Champions League berth and 15 behind league leaders Juventus.
They are also conceding far too many goals, and although Rodrigo Palacio has had a decent campaign thus far, the Nerazzurri lack a supporting punch in the attack.
Sunday’s 4-2 loss to Napoli marked the fourth Serie A match on the bounce that Inter had failed to post a win, and going into the weekend’s Derby della Madonnina, they’re under almost as much pressure as their city rivals.
And that’s saying something.
The other club that calls the San Siro home—seven-time European champions AC Milan—are a disappointing 10th in Serie A through 16 matches and have won just a single match from their past eight.
Genoa and Lazio are the only sides in the top half of the table to have scored fewer goals than the misfiring Rossoneri, and only four teams in the division have a poorer defensive record than Milan.
Manager Massimiliano Allegri is under increasing pressure to deliver results, and while the club have already announced the January acquisition of Keisuke Honda, they require a near total makeover in order to return to competitiveness.
There was a time, and not all that long ago, when Valencia were among the most feared teams in Europe.
Champions of Spain in both 2002 and 2004, Los Che also finished runners-up in the Champions League in 2000 and 2001. In fact, until recently, they were regular participants in the continent’s most prestigious club competition.
However, times have changed at the Mestalla.
A financial crisis at the club has forced the sales of David Villa, David Silva and Juan Mata in recent years, and as the current Primera Division season nears its halfway point, the six-time Spanish champions sit ninth in the standings.
An embarrassing 3-0 defeat by Atletico Madrid ended up costing manager Miroslav Dukic his job, and ahead of Sunday’s showdown with Real Madrid, Valencia have picked up only two victories since September.
The retirement of club icon Sir Alex Ferguson was always going to require some getting used to at Manchester United, but given that the English record champions are only seven months removed from winning the title, it’s rather astonishing that they sit eighth in the Premier League after 16 rounds.
Their fans are not accustomed to that.
Incoming boss David Moyes fumbled his way through the summer transfer window and only managed to sign Marouane Fellaini after missing out on a handful of high-profile targets, and in recent weeks, both Everton and Newcastle have ended decades-long winless spells at Old Trafford by recording historic victories.
That said, a commanding 3-0 win away over Aston Villa on Sunday will have come as some encouragement to the club and its supporters—so, too, will the straightforward Champions League round of 16 assignment against Olympiacos.
However, any hopes United have of playing Champions League football next season likely rest with their performance over the Christmas period. Between now and the New Year, they’ll face West Ham, Hull, Norwich and Tottenham Hotspur.