Europe's Biggest Underachieving Clubs: United Could Drop Even Lower This Month
Abysmal as they have been, Stuttgart depart this inauspicious list to make way for a bigger club from La Liga that has also underachieved so far this season.
Granted, it’s not threatened by the prospect of relegation, as is the case with Thomas Schneider's side. However, it’s a world away from the Champions League places, which is where it would have surely expected to be with 12 rounds remaining.
That’s what we’re after in this ranking: big, big clubs with European pedigree that have failed to meet expectations in big, big ways.
Following are five of them.
That Valencia haven’t been awful only hints at the quality above Juan Antonio Pizzi and his men in La Liga.
Ultimately, there are still eight teams above them, though. Los Che would have hoped to be in a much better position this late in the season.
Sunday’s 1-0 loss away to Rayo Vallecano left them ninth in the standings, and their next three matches (against Athletic Bilbao, Real Sociedad and Villarreal) are against sides they’re trying to catch.
They have also got both Madrid sides to face before the end of May, and at this point, even Europa League football looks unattainable for them.
4. Inter Milan
Inter Milan are struggling mightily to find the back of the net.
In nine matches since the Christmas break, the Nerazzurri have scored just five times. Not surprisingly, they have won only twice.
Manager Walter Mazzarri simply doesn’t have the supplementary scoring to support Rodrigo Palacio, who has himself been cooling off in recent weeks.
The best thing that could happen for this club would be a sudden purple patch from Diego Milito, but as that looks unlikely to happen, it will no doubt be involved in a lot of low-scoring contests between now and the end of the season.
Going into Sunday’s encounter with Torino, the Nerazzurri are winless in two and fifth in Serie A through 26 rounds.
Mirko Slomka’s Hamburg revolution lasted barely over a week.
Just days after replacing Bert van Marwijk as manager, Slomka guided the struggling Bundesliga outfit to a stunning 3-0 win against Borussia Dortmund.
The victory took Hamburg out of the automatic relegation places.
On Sunday, the team returned to its old ways in a 1-0 loss away to Werder Bremen, another side that has been woeful this season.
Thankfully for the seven-time German champions, Stuttgart’s appalling form means only goal difference separates them from 15th place in the table.
2. AC Milan
AC Milan rebounded from a disappointing loss to Atletico Madrid in the Champions League by winning 2-0 away to Sampdoria.
The following week, they were back in the loss column, losing 2-0 to Juventus at the San Siro.
They’ve won only three of their last eight matches in all competitions, sit 10th in Serie A and have five points to make up if they hope to qualify for the Europa League.
Like his Inter counterpart, manager Clarence Seedorf has struggled to coax goals out of anyone but his first-choice centre-forward, which in this case is the enigmatic Mario Balotelli.
What the Rossoneri do have going for them, however, is about as good a schedule as they could have hoped to see for the stretch run.
Now they just have to go out and win some matches.
1. Manchester United
Manchester United haven’t played since the last instalment of this list, which only means they were able to go more than a week without suffering yet another embarrassment.
Last we saw them, the Red Devils were putting in one of their most pitiful displays of the season in a 2-0 Champions League loss to Olympiakos. Unless they can suddenly turn the corner between now and the return leg later this month, there’s little reason to expect they’ll be progressing into the quarter-final round of the competition.
Domestically, United sit seventh in the table, are three points back of the Europa League places and 12 adrift of the Champions League spots.
They’ll face Liverpool and Manchester City in two of their next four Premier League matches, so their prospects could look even dimmer a month from now.