Europe's Biggest Underachieving Clubs: Porto, United Crash out of Europe
Welcome back to the most inauspicious list in the business: the biggest underachieving clubs in European football.
Porto are back with us this week (a resounding Europa League defeat will do that to you), and Manchester United move up the rankings after losing to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
So, without further adieu, let’s have a look at the six clubs that have most underperformed so far this season.
6. AC Milan
It seemed improbable only a few weeks ago, but all of a sudden AC Milan are within a whisper of the Europa League places in Serie A.
A four-match winning streak has vaulted the Rossoneri from 11th to eighth in the standings, and if they can beat Livorno on Saturday they could rise into a share of sixth—provided results go their way elsewhere.
That said, Europa League football is hardly an aspiration for the seven-time European champions, but that it’s a possibility shows just how far the team has come.
5. Bayer Leverkusen
Bayer Leverkusen arrested a three-match winless skid by beating Hertha Berlin 2-1 on Sunday, but with four matches to play they’re still likely to face a battle for fourth spot in the Bundesliga from Wolfsburg, who are just a point behind.
Before beating Hertha, Leverkusen had won just one of their last nine matches, and they’ve still won only four times since the winter break.
Once a contender for second place in the German top flight, they’re now struggling to nail down a place in Europe’s premiere club competition.
Porto took a 1-0 aggregate advantage into the second leg of their Europa League quarter-final tie with Sevilla, and going in to the return fixture they remained among the favourites to win the competition.
Then they played one of their worst matches of the season, falling 4-1 to the Primera Division outfit and crashing out of the tournament in embarrassing fashion.
They responded by beating Braga 3-1 on Sunday, but with three matches to play they’re locked into third spot in the Primeira Liga—a total failure for a side that had won the previous three titles.
Stuttgart fell back to earth with a 1-1 draw away to Borussia Monchengladbach on Saturday—just a week after posting an important 2-0 win at home to Freiburg.
A DfB Pokal finalist last season, Die Roten are relegation fodder this time around and are presently just two points above the automatic drop.
They’ve won only twice since Christmas and have already sacked two managers this season.
2. Inter Milan
Inter Milan have been so poor in 2014 that their 4-0 trouncing of Sampdoria, Sunday, can be categorized as an aberration.
The victory did, however, end a four-match winless streak, but ahead of Saturday’s visit to Parma the Nerazzurri have still won only four matches this calendar year.
Manager Walter Mazzarri is facing immense pressure to keep his side among the Europa League places, but given that Inter didn’t have European responsibilities this season they’d have surely expected to qualify for the Champions League at the very least.
1. Manchester United
Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea has told reporters, as per ESPN FC, that his side are keen to play Europa League football next season.
That’s how bad things have become at the home of the current Premier League champions, who sit an appalling seventh in the standings with five matches remaining.
Idle last weekend, they were eliminated from the Champions League at the hands of Bayern Munich the last time out—a defeat that ended whatever chance they had to extend an 18-year run in the Champions League.