European Football: 10 Teams Who Will Crumble This Season
We have just a short time before the top football leagues get back up and running, and while this is usually a time for optimism and discussing what teams will be in the running for the top trophies, let's go in the opposite direction.
Which teams will fail miserably this season? Or at least take a step or two back.
Losing key playmakers hurts. Not making the right signings hurts. Not making any signings hurts. And there are plenty of teams that did little to help themselves this summer.
So let's take a quick look (in no particular order) at some teams whose immediate futures aren't looking so bright.
This is an easy one. Atletico Madrid have had a rough summer.
First they lost their young and impressive goalkeeper David de Gea to Manchester United. Then they lost star playmaker Sergio Aguero to Manchester City.
Diego Forlan is still an excellent footballer, but he's 32 and can't do it on his own.
Los Rojiblancos have a tough year ahead of them.
Lille won Ligue 1 last season with a lot of help from Gervinho and his 15 goals, both of which have now left for Arsenal.
Eden Hazard will have a much tougher time keeping Lille at the top on his own, if he's still around come September that is.
Harry Redknapp has been so busy trying to keep his star players this summer, he hasn't had any time to bring in anyone new.
The future of Luka Modric is still up in the air, and if he stays, Tottenham will be stuck with an unhappy player. If they lose him, they lose one of their best playmakers.
Aside from 40-year-old goalkeeper Brad Friedel, Tottenham haven't added any new blood to the ranks, and the extra Europa League matches could prove to more of a hindrance than a reward after the Champions League last year.
And the chance that Redknapp leaves to take the England job is never all that slim.
Schalke 04 had a great run to the Champions League semifinals last season, including a memorable 5-2 win over Inter Milan at the San Siro in the quarterfinals.
It cost them their league form however, as they finished the season in 14th place and will be competing in the Europa League this year.
That's a lot more indicative of what this season will be like. Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer has left for Bayern Munich, and Raúl can't do it all anymore.
Everton hasn't done anything in the transfer market in a long time, and this summer was no different.
The Toffees start every season very slowly, and this season will be no different, except they might not be able to pick themselves up in the end.
Maybe Everton's crumble will be a blessing in disguise though. The owners may crumble as well and sell the club to someone who actually wants to splash some cash and turn this club around.
Aston Villa sold winger Stewart Downing and Ashley Young this summer and replaced them with Charles N'Zogbia, who really doesn't do a whole lot of crossing.
Darren Bent will have to work very hard to keep Aston Villa competitive after a very disappointing season last year for the Villains, unless Alex McLeish has some tricks left up his sleeve that is.
Udinese lost three top players from last season when they finished fourth in the Serie A.
Forward Alexis Sanchez has moved to Barcelona, and Juan Cuadrado and Cristian Zapata have left as well. They also face a tough Champions League playoff tie against Arsenal right off the bat.
It leaves Antonio Di Natale with quite a lot of pressure on his shoulders.
Reports surrounding Wesley Sniejder's proposed move to Manchester United or City likely won't end until Sneijder signs somewhere or the Aug. 31 deadline passes.
Even with Sneijder, Inter Milan has a tough task to regain their Serie A title.
Leonardo, the manager who guided them from seventh place and 13 points back in December when he took over from Rafa Benitez all the way to second, left in the summer, so Inter has a new manager for the second season running.
Gian Piero Gasperini is in charge of Inter this time, and with rivals AC Milan on a high, he has a very difficult road ahead of him, with Sneijder or without.
Arsene Wenger named both Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas in his squad for the Champions League tie against Udinese next week, but that's just a strategic move by Wenger.
It's a sign to Manchester City and Barcelona to stay away just as much as it's a sign to the Gunner fans to remain calm. And I'm not buying either.
Wenger made a huge splash (for him) in the transfer window by bringing in striker Gervinho. He's a great striker, but he's not a center-back, so he doesn't really address Arsenal's biggest need.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is another curious signing, being that he is a winger.
Arsenal could very well hold on to both Nasri and Fabregas, but they still don't address the defensive needs.
And the friendly against Benfica was probably the lowest point for Arsenal this summer as Kieran Gibbs, Robin van Persie and Thomas Vermaelen all came home with knocks.
Arsenal is in for a rough ride this season, but there's still time for Wenger to turn things around.
Real Madrid aren't going to beat Barcelona to the La Liga title or the Champions League trophy, and for them, in their third season of the second Galacticos era, that's crumbling.
Cristiano Ronaldo can't do it all on his own because Lionel Messi can match him all the way.
Another second-place finish, even with the Copa del Rey, just won't cut it for Florentino Perez.
If Madrid ends May 2012 the way they did May 2011, expect Karim Benzema and Kaka to be the first out the door and for Neymar to be a Merengue just days later.