2014-15 European Preview

Portugal Soccer Champions League Final

I take a look around what to expect in leagues around Europe this season, as well as complete my predictions for the 2014-15 season…

Spanish La Liga

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When does it start?

La Liga starts on Saturday (23rd August) when there are four matches, the first of which sees Malaga host Athletic Bilbao at 6pm British time.

Star Signings

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The signings that Real Madrid and Barcelona have made have attracted the most headlines, with the former spending 120 million Euros on just three players: James Rodriguez, Toni Kroos and Keylor Navas. At the Nou Camp, marquee signing Luis Suarez is one of six well known new boys, with the Uruguayan, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Ivan Rakitic, Claudio Bravo, Jeremy Mathieu and Thomas Vermaelen costing the Catalan club a total of 153 million Euros. There have been a lot of departures from Atletico Madrid this summer, but some notable arrivals are Mario Mandzukic and Antoine Griezmann who have arrived from Bayern Munich and Real Sociedad respectively.

Title Race

You’d like to think that the La Liga title will be a three horse race like last season, but because of Real Madrid and Barcelona’s mass spending and Atletico Madrid’s exodus of players, it may come down to just the El Clasico teams fighting for the trophy once again. The current champions may well still get a look in, but in the long-run, it will probably be either Real or Barca who come out victorious in May.

Prediction – Real Madrid to win the title

European Contenders

Sevilla's players pose with the trophy as they celebrate defeating Benfica in their Europa League final soccer match at the Juventus stadium in Turin

With the top three pretty much decided, there’s a lot of teams fighting for the fourth and final Champions League spot. Athletic Bilbao, who finished fourth last season have lost Ander Herrera to Manchester United and may be distracted by European commitments, meaning it could come down a battle between Real Sociedad, who have over achieved on a limited budget, Europa League holders Sevilla, well-funded Villareal and Valencia, who won’t be playing in Europe this season for only the second time this century.

Prediction – 2nd = Barcelona / 3rd = Atletico Madrid / 4th = Sevilla

Battle at the Bottom

Eibar, Cordoba and Real Deportivo are the three new promoted teams, but only the latter should find life in La Liga comfortable. Eibar’s 5,250-capacity stadium is the smallest to ever grace La Liga, whilst Cordoba haven’t played in the top division since 1972. Almeira and Elche, who survived by just a point last season could also fins life difficult, whilst Levante’s tricky summer mean they too could be in danger.

Prediction – 18th = Almeira / 19th = Cordoba / 20th = Eibar


German Bundesliga

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When does it start?

Champions Bayern Munich kick off proceedings tomorrow night (Friday 22nd August) when they host Wolfsburg at 7:30pm British time, with the other 16 teams taking to the pitch for the first time over the course of the weekend.

Star Signings

Robert Lewandowski, who won the Bundesliga golden boot in 2013-14, has of course joined Bayern Munich from rivals Borussia Dortmund on a free transfer after a year long wait, whilst Pep Guardiola has also signed defender Juan Bernat from Valencia. Dortmund have spent almost 30 million Euros on two players to replace Lewandowski, bringing in Ciro Immobile from Torino and Adrian Ramos from Hertha Berlin. The fact that Bayer Leverkusen 14.5 million Euros signing of Hakan Calhanoglu from Hamburg is the second most expensive arrival this summer tells you something about how Bundesliga teams do not splash the cash as much as their European counterparts.

Title Race

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The Bundesliga once prided itself on being one of the most competitive leagues in Europe, but Bayern Munich have dominated the last two campaigns and are expected to do so again. Borussia Dortmund will give them a run for their money though after investing wisely but losing Lewandowski could prove to be their downfall. Schalke are a season or two from being real contenders but make for nice dark horses.

My Prediction – Bayern Munich to win the title

European Contenders

The top three in Germany qualify automatically for the Champions League, and with those spots already accounted for with the aforementioned teams, Bayer Leverkusen, Wolfsburg and Borussia Monchengladbach will more than likely make up the top six, with the fourth placed team earning a Champions League play-off spot. Leverkusen have to be favourites after finishing in the top four for the last two seasons, but their challengers have gone about building strong teams quietly in the last 12 months and pose realistic threats.

My Prediction – 2nd = Borussia Dortmund / 3rd = Schalke / 4th = Bayer Leverkusen

Battle at the Bottom

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Two teams go down in the Bundesliga, and the battle to avoid these spots is bigger than ever. Mainz, Augsburg and Freiburg look the most in danger, whilst Hannover, Hertha Berlin, Hamburg and newly-promoted Paderborn complete the list of relegation candidates. Other new side Cologne have the potential to surprise a few people an survive comfortably.

My Prediction – 17th = Freiburg / 18th = Paderborn


French Ligue 1

Zlatan-Ibrahimovic

When does it start?

The French campaign began on Friday 8th August, and all 20 teams have now played two games each, with only Bordeaux and St Etienne claiming six points. Surprisingly, AS Monaco have lost both of their games.

Star Signings

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David Luiz’s 49.5 million Euros move to PSG is the biggest transfer by far, with no other team spending more than 13 million Euros on a single player. Serge Aurier on loan is the only other PSG arrival, whilst fellow money bags AS Monaco’s biggest signing is defender Aymen Abdennour for 13 million Euros. Other clubs haven’t spent big, so there are no other big signings to talk about in a country which has attracted such players in the last few transfer windows.

Title Race

Despite losing James Rodriguez and possibly Radamel Falcao, AS Monaco should provide a sterner challenge for the title this time around after promising so much in 2013-14 before finishing nine points behind champions PSG. Zlatan Ibrahimovic & Co. are again the favourites, and they have now got a fantastic defence to match their dangerous attack. It is hard to see anybody else except the two money loaded clubs winning the trophy.

My Prediction – PSG to win the title

European Contenders

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The chasing pack is lead by Marseille, the most supported club in France, and they will compete for the third and final Champions League spot with Lille, who got the spot last season, St Etienne, who have bought well this summer and started the season on top form, and outsiders Lyon, who were once the top team from across the channel.

My Prediction – 2nd = AS Monaco / 3rd = Marseille / 4th = St Etienne

Battle at the Bottom

Last season’s newly promoted trio (AS Monaco, Nantes and Guingamp) all performed incredibly well, but this year’s new arrivals may not find it so easy. Lens have financial troubles, whilst Metz and Caen have top-level experience but don’t have strong and deep enough squads. Of the teams already in the division, Evian, Lorient and Reims are amongst many people’s favourites to go down, whilst Guingamp’s European commitments may mean that they get sucked in.

My Prediction – 18th = Metz / 19th = Evian / 20th = Lens


Italian Serie A

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When does it start?

The latest of all the main European leagues to start, Serie A does not kick-off until Saturday 30th August, when Chievo and Juventus begin proceedings at 5pm British time.

Star Signings

As in previous summers, it’s been more about players going out than coming in to Serie A. 2013-14 top scorer Ciro Immobile has already left and Mario Balotelli seems soon to follow. Juan Irtube is the most expensive transfer in Serie, swapping Verona for Roma, earning his former side 22 million Euros. Alvaro Morata has joined Juventus from Real Madrid with his chances at the Bernabeu limited, whilst former Premier League players Nemanja Vidic, Ashley Cole and Patrice Evra have moved to Italy as their careers draw to a close.

Title Race

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Juventus, who won their third league title on the bounce by 17 points last season remain the favourites, but after losing manager Antonio Conte, they may find life a little more difficult, something which Roma may capitalise on. Rudi Garcia’s side flew out of the blocks last season before dropping off rapidly and will be joined in their pursuit of the title by Napoli, who finished third behind them and Juventus in 2013-14.

My Prediction – Juventus to win the title

European Contenders

If a title challenge fails to arrive, Napoli will find themselves in a battle for the Champions League play-off spot, which third in Serie A gets. Fiorentina want this place as well, whilst the two Milan teams are on the up after a difficult few seasons and could challenge. Of the outsiders, Lazio and Parma are the most fancied.

My Prediction – 2nd = Roma / 3rd = Inter Milan / 4th = Napoli

Battle at the Bottom

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It could all be about a good start if you want to survive in Serie A and there are questions over whether newly promoted Empoli and Cesena are up to the task. Fellow new boys Palermo look most well-equipped to survive relegation, whilst last season’s strugglers Sassuolo and Chievo are likely to find themselves in a fight to beat the drop once more.

My Prediction – 18th = Empoli / 19th = Cesena / 20th = Sassuolo


Other 2014-15 Predictions

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Premier League PFA Player of the Year: Wayne Rooney

Premier League PFA Young Player of the Year: Raheem Sterling

Premier League Top Scorer: Diego Costa

FA Cup winners: Liverpool

League Cup winners: Arsenal

Johnstone’s Paint Trophy: Preston North End

Champions League: Real Madrid

Europa League: Tottenham Hotspur

Scottish Premier League: Celtic

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