Predicting Who Will Win Each of Europe's Top 5 Leagues
The end of the season is in sight. The title run-in has begun.
Who will claim the championship in each of Europe's top five leagues? That's our focus here.
For clarity's sake, the "top five" leagues are, for our purposes, England's Premier League, Spain's La Liga, Germany's Bundesliga, Italy's Serie A and France's Ligue 1.
Whether you agree or disagree with our projections, be sure to leave your own thoughts in the comments section.
The current Premier League season is unlike any that has come before. Any team is genuinely capable of beating any other at any point, and unheralded Leicester City currently sit five points clear of the chasing pack.
That's right—the Foxes, who narrowly avoided relegation last season—stormed out of the gates with a six-match unbeaten run to start the season. Defying constant naysayers along the way, Claudio Ranieri's men just keep sticking around the top of the table.
As it stands, Tottenham Hotspur are currently second, five points behind (which is a surprise in itself). Arsenal are third on goal difference, while big-spending Manchester City are fourth, one point further behind Spurs and Arsenal.
Can the Foxes hold on and claim a first-ever top-flight title? Elsewhere at B/R, we've predicted Leicester to finish with 79 points this season, meaning Tottenham or Arsenal would need 31 points to equal Claudio Ranieri's men, while Man City would need 32.
Any of the three could do it, but we don't think they will. Nobody has really been consistent in the league this season, though Leicester have probably come closest with just two losses in 25 games.
With manager Manuel Pellegrini set to depart and Pep Guardiola waiting in the wings, continuity seems to be a problem with Man City this season. The Sky Blues probably have the best side in the division but haven't consistently produced the performances to prove it.
Arsenal, meanwhile, have struggled at times defensively, and questions remain over the Gunners' mentality for a title fight. Of the three challengers, then, Tottenham Hotspur might be the most intriguing. Mauricio Pochettino's men have lost just three times and have compiled the best defensive record in the league (19 goals conceded).
Fortunately for us, the top four all play each other this weekend, with Arsenal hosting Leicester and Tottenham playing at Man City. The winners—if there are any—of those games could have the inside track.
Prediction: Keep on dreaming, Foxes. Leicester in a race that goes down to the wire.
Barcelona took home the treble last year, winning La Liga along with the UEFA Champions League and Copa del Rey. Don't look now, but a double treble might be in the cards.
Due to their obligations in the FIFA Club World Cup, Barca have played one fewer game than Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid, their two chief rivals for the title in Spain. And yet the Catalans are three points clear of Atletico and four ahead of Real.
What's their secret? Well, it's no secret at all. The front three of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez are ridiculously good. Together, the three have notched an outrageous total of 48 goals in the league this season—more than 18 teams in the division.
The back line looks strong enough as well, having conceded 17 goals in 22 games. Put it this way: If Luis Enrique's men don't hold on, it would be a massive shock.
Prediction: Atletico and Real have their strengths, but Barca are a class apart. Barcelona, relatively comfortably in the end.
If you've come to this page not knowing which name will appear at the bottom, you might be in the wrong place. Bayern Munich, in Pep Guardiola's final season with the club, will win the Bundesliga easily. Again.
Bayern have cantered to the championship in each of the past three campaigns, finishing 25, 19 and 10 points ahead of the chasing pack in 2013, 2014 and 2015, respectively. Their current lead, over second-placed Borussia Dortmund, stands at eight points, but that almost feels too light.
A closer look at the table tells more of the story. Through 20 matches, Bayern have outscored opponents 50-9. They're won 10 out of 10 at home by a combined score of 34-3. And against Dortmund, their closest competitors, Bayern claimed a convincing 5-1 victory.
Prediction: An unprecedented fourth-straight Bundesliga title, by the customarily wide points margin. Bayern Munich.
The race in Italy is an intriguing one, even though it involves some of the same old faces we're accustomed to seeing. Juventus, the four-time defending champions, started the season in miserable form, winning just one of their first six matches.
However, starting on matchday 11, the Bianconeri started winning. And winning and winning and winning. The streak currently stands at 14 games, three short of Inter Milan's all-time record in Serie A.
If Juve are to equal or beat that record, they'll have to go through leaders Napoli to do so. The two teams meet on Saturday, with Napoli holding a precarious two-point advantage atop the table.
Obviously, the winner of this match will be favored to claim the Scudetto.
Prediction: Napoli have had a great season so far, but it's hard to ignore Juventus' amazing run. Allegri's men are playing their best football right now, but have they peaked too soon? No, probably not. Juventus.
Ligue 1 is even less of a race than the Bundesliga. Big-spending Paris Saint-Germain began lapping the field months ago, turning the French top flight into little more than an exhibition.
At the time of writing, PSG top the table by 24 points ahead of Monaco. Laurent Blanc's men haven't lost a league game all season and don't look likely to do so at any point in the near future.
The only drama left involves the final margin of their title win. In 2007, Lyon set the Ligue 1 record by finishing 17 points ahead of the field. That record seems certain to fall.
Prediction: Do we even have to say it? PSG.