2015-16 European Preview and Other Predictions

GETTY IMAGES/VI-IMAGES
GETTY IMAGES/VI-IMAGES

Rounding off my preview of the 2015-16 season, I look at some of the European leagues as I did last season, as well as giving some of my other predictions for things like the cup competitions.

Spanish La Liga

KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV AFP
GETTY IMAGES/KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV 

What happened last season?

After Atletico Madrid’s surprise league win in 2013-14, La Liga returned to a two horse race last season, as Barcelona and Real Madrid fought all the way for top spot. It was the Catalan side who won the title with 94 points, two ahead of the Galacticos – who then sacked coach Carlo Ancelotti. Atletico were third with Valencia fourth and also qualified for the Champions League along with fifth place Sevilla as they won the Europa League. Villarreal (6th) and Athletic Bilbao (7th) earned spots in that competition this season. At the bottom, Cordoba (20th) and Almeira (19th) were relegated, but not 18th placed Eibar. That was because Elche, who had finished 13th, went into administration and were sent down by the Spanish FA. Cristiano Ronaldo finished as top scorer with 48 goals – a tally which included eight hat-tricks.

When does it start this time around?

The first round of games is this coming weekend, with Malaga and Sevilla kicking things off on Friday night at 7:30pm BST. Barcelona and Real Madrid both start off with away trips on Sunday.

Summer Transfers

Despite a transfer ban, Barcelona have spent €52 million on two players – Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal, however both players cannot feature until January. The money that Atletico Madrid received for the former has been put to good use in the signings of Jackson Martinez from Porto (€35 million) and Luciano Vietto from Villarreal (€20 million) amongst others. Real Madrid have bought Kiko Casilla for €6 million to replace Porto-bound Iker Casillas in goal and are still in the hunt for David de Gea, whilst Casemiro, Danilo and Lucas Vasquez have also arrived at the Bernabeu at a total cost of €40 million. Valencia have spent big, signing Rodrigo Moreno (€30 million), Andre Gomes (€15 million) and Joao Cancelo (€15 million) from Benfica as well as Santi Mina from Celta Vigo for €10 million.

Title Favourites (odds courtesy of Paddy Power as of 17th August)

To win the League Title:

  • Barcelona – 4/6
  • Real Madrid – 6/4
  • Atletico Madrid – 14/1

European Contenders (odds courtesy of Paddy Power as of 17th August)

To finish in the top four:

  • Valencia – evens
  • Sevilla – 7/4
  • Villarreal – 15/2
  • Athletic Bilbao – 15/2

Relegation Battlers (odds courtesy of Paddy Power as of 17th August)

To get relegated:

  • Eibar – 8/15
  • Sporting Gijon – 8/13
  • Las Palmas – 8/11
  • Real Betis – 7/2
  • Levante – 7/2

My Prediction

I can’t look past another two way battle for the title with the quality that Barcelona and Real Madrid have in their squad. Even Atletico’s signing of Jackson Martinez is unlikely to put them back in contention. With a strikeforce of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez I have to say it will be the Catalan side who will finish top of the league, and perhaps even further ahead of Real Madrid, now with Rafa Benitez in charge, than last season. Behind those three, Valencia’s big spending should secure them a Champions League spot once again, but Sevilla will push them close again. I wouldn’t be surprised if was the exact same top seven as last season. At the bottom, Eibar won’t get as lucky again when it comes to relegation survival and look certain to go down with no strong reinforcements. Real Betis look the best equipped of the three promoted sides and could be the only new-comers to survive, as Sporting Gijon never looked stable when they previously in the top tier, whilst Las Palmas are back in La Liga after a 13 year absence and may struggle to cope.


German Bundesliga

GETTY IMAGES/L. BARON
GETTY IMAGES/L. BARON

What happened last season?

It was perhaps not a surprise that Bayern Munich won their third successive league title, but many people were shocked at the demise of Dortmund, of whom Jurgen Klopp was taking charge of for the final season. The Black and Yellows were in and around the relegation zone in the opening months of the campaign, and could only end up finishing 7th, just about qualifying for the Europa League along with Schalke (6th) and Augsburg (5th). Champions League places went to Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Monchengladbach and Wolfsburg, who were Bayern’s closest challengers to the title – 10 points behind them. Hamburg once again survived a relegation play-off at the bottom to retain their Bundesliga status, but Freiburg and Paderborn weren’t so lucky as they were relegated. Eintracht Frankfurt’s Alexander Meier finished as the top scorer with 19 goals.

When does it start this time around?

The Bundesliga has actually already started with one game already being played last weekend. Bayern started off with a 5-0 win over Hamburg, whilst Borussia Dortmund were also big winners as they beat Borussia Monchengladbach 4-0.

Summer Transfers

Pep Guardiola has made sure that nobody catches his Bayern side at the top of the table by bringing in Douglas Costa (€30 million) from Shakhtar Donetsk and Arturo Vidal (€36 million) from Juventus. Other than that there’s been no other major transfers, with with Schalke the second biggest spenders, bringing in Franco Di Santo (€6 million) and Matija Nastasic (€9.5 million) amongst others. Gonzalo Castro has moved from Bayer Leverkusen to Dortmund for €11 million, with his replacement being €13 million Charles Aranguiz from Brazilian club Internacional.

Title Favourites (odds courtesy of Paddy Power as of 17th August)

To win the League Title:

  • Bayern Munich – 1/16
  • Borussia Dortmund – 14/1
  • Wolfsburg – 25/1

European Contenders (odds courtesy of Paddy Power as of 17th August)

To finish in the top four:

  • Bayer Leverkusen – 8/11
  • Schalke – 5/4
  • Borussia Monchengladbach – 21/10

Relegation Battlers (odds courtesy of William Hill as of 17th August)

  • Darmstadt – 4/11
  • Ingolstadt – 11/8
  • Hannover – 7/2
  • Hamburg – 6/1
  • Hertha Berlin – 6/1

My Prediction

If Bayern weren’t already going to run away with the title again, then the signings of Costa and Vidal have surely made them definite for the title? Behind them, it looks set to be a very close race for the remaining Champions League spots. As long as Wolfsburg keep hold of Kevin De Bruyne, then I think that they will finish second once again. Dortmund will want to prove that last season was a one off, and they’ve still got a huge amount of quality in their squad with the likes of Marco Reus and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Borussia Monchengladbach made the top four last year, but are unlikely to do so again, which leaves Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke, the latter of whom are still recovering from Roberto di Matteo’s torrid time in charge. For that reason, I’m going for Schalke to complete the Champions League spots. At the bottom, the big question is whether Hamburg can survive again after two narrow survivals. I think they probably will, but purely because the two sides that have come up, Darmstadt and Ingolstadt, lack quality and experience at the top level. The former have experienced back to back promotions but their fairytale is now likely to come to an end.


French Ligue 1

GETTY IMAGES/XAVIER LAINE
GETTY IMAGES/XAVIER LAINE

What happened last season?

After a surprisingly close title race for the majority of the season, PSG pulled away in the closing weeks to win the league by eight points. Lyon (2nd) and AS Monaco (3rd) will also be playing Champions League football this season, whilst the Europa League spots went to Marseille (4th), St. Etienne (5th) and Bordeaux (6th). At the bottom, two of the newly promoted teams, Metz and Lens, went straight back down – with the latter knowing their fate in January as it was announced that their promotion had been ruled invalid. Evian ended a four year stay in Ligue 1 as they were also relegated. The top scorer was Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette with 27 goals.

When does it start this time around?

Like the Bundesliga, Ligue 1 has already started, with two games being played. The only teams remaining with 100% records are PSG, Reims and Caen. There’s already been one managerial departure as Marseille boss Marcelo Bielsa resigned after an opening game defeat to Caen.

Summer Transfers

Surprise surprise it has been PSG and AS Monaco who have spent the most. Angel di Maria has moved to the Champions for €63 million, more than four times any other Ligue 1 transfer fee this summer. Their other signings are Serge Aurier (€10 million), Benjamin Stambouli (€8.6 million) and Kevin Trapp (€9.5 million). Monaco’s big money transfers have seen Ivan Cavaleiro (€15 million), Adama Traore (€14 million) and Gabriel Boschilia (€10 million) arrive. Other transfers of note are Rafael and Abou Diaby moving from the Premier League to Lyon and Marseille respectively, whilst Mathieu Valbuena has returned from Russia to also join the former.

Title Favourites (odds courtesy of Paddy Power as of 17th August)

To win the league title:

  • PSG – 1/10
  • Monaco – 11/1
  • Lyon – 11/1

European Contenders (odds courtesy of Paddy Power as of 17th August)

To finish in the top three:

  • Marseille – 5/2
  • St Etienne – 6/1
  • Lille – 6/1
  • Bordeaux – 13/2

Relegation Battlers (odds courtesy of Paddy Power as of 17th August)

To get relegated:

  • Ajaccio – 4/9
  • Angers – evens
  • Troyes – 11/10
  • Guingamp – 11/4
  • Lorient – 7/2

My Prediction

Ligue 1 is very much like the Bundesliga in the fact that there is one team way out in front, but the chasing pack are hard to separate. The run-away winners are of course PSG, and I expect them to easily do it again. Huge investment hasn’t had quite the same effect on AS Monaco unfortunately for them, but they have made some good signings this summer, bringing in younger players with great potential so I’m going for them to finish as runners-up. Then Lyon behind them, who are working their way back to becoming the team that won seven league titles in a row only a few years ago, especially with Alexandre Lacazette upfront. I then expect Lille, St. Etienne and Marseille to complete the top six in that order. At the bottom, only two teams will be relegated from Ligue 1 this season. The most in danger are Ajaccio, who are in Ligue 1 for the first time in their history after they won promotion with Ligue 2’s second smallest annual budget – they could really struggle in the top tier. Fellow new-comers Angers and Troyes could also struggle but may have just enough to survive. Also for the drop I think are Reims, who aren’t actually included in the above odds (Paddy Power have them as 4/1 though). They had the league’s worst defence last season which they haven’t strengthened, and Benjamin Moukandjo, who scored eight league goals last season, has left to join Lorient.


Italian Serie A

GETTY IMAGES/LINTAO ZHANG
GETTY IMAGES/LINTAO ZHANG

What happened last season?

The biggest gap between first and second came in Serie A last season, as Juventus won the league by 17 points, with Roma their closest challengers in second. Lazio took the final Champions League spot in third, whilst Fiorientina (4th), Napoli (5th) and Sampdoria (7th) earned Europa League qualification with sixth placed Genoa not obtaining a UEFA license meaning they cannot compete in continental competitions. At the bottom, Cesena were the only one of the newly promoted teams to go straight back down, with Cagliari and Parma also relegated. The latter have since dissolved because of financial difficulties, and begin this season in Serie D as newly formed Parma Calcio 1913. In 2014-15, Serie A had the most goals on average than any of the five other top leagues in Europe. The biggest contributors were Mauro Icardi of Inter Milan and Luca Toni of Verona, who shared the golden boot with 22 goals each.

When does it start this time around?

Serie A kicks off this weekend, with two games on Friday night raising the curtain in Italy – Verona vs Roma and Lazio vs Bologna. Reigning champions Juventus begin their defence of the title with a home fixture against Udinese on Saturday.

Summer Transfers

It’s been both the Milan clubs who have been busy splashing the cash the most this summer in attempts to return to their glory days. Inter have spent a total €56.7 million on the likes of Miranda from Atletico Madrid and Geoffrey Kondogbia from Monaco amongst others. AC’s major arrivals are Alessio Romagnoli from Roma (€25 million) and Carlos Bacca from Sevilla (€30 million), with a total spend of €88 million by the Rossoneri. However the most expensive signing of the summer has been made by Juventus, who have signed Paulo Dybala from Palermo for €32 million. The Old Lady have also brought in Mario Mandzukic for €19 million.

Title Favourites (odds courtesy of Paddy Power as of 17th August)

To win the league title:

  • Juventus – 4/7
  • Roma – 6/1
  • Napoli – 17/2

European Contenders (odds courtesy of Paddy Power as of 17th August)

To finish in the top three:

  • Inter Milan – 13/8
  • AC Milan – 7/4
  • Lazio – 3/1
  • Fiorientina – 9/2

Relegation Battlers (odds courtesy of Paddy Power as of 17th August)

To get relegated:

  • Frosinone – 1/4
  • Carpi – 8/15
  • Chievo – 2/1
  • Sassuolo – 2/1
  • Empoli – 2/1

My Prediction

Juventus are the bookies favourites again, but have lost Tevez, Pirlo and Vidal this summer, which means that the title race will undoubtedly be a lot of closer than 2014-15. I think it will actually be Roma who lift the trophy, as they have been banging on the door for a few years now and could finally break in. Behind those two, I’m going for the two Milan clubs to complete the top four after their big spending, with Inter taking the Champions League spot in third, and AC getting into the Europa League in fourth. Joining them in that competition I think will be Napoli (5th) and Lazio (6th). Two teams, Frosinone and Carpi, are playing in Serie A for the first time in their history, and neither have a huge amount of top flight experience in their side, so I expect them both to really struggle. The other newly promoted side Bologna, look only slightly better equipped to survive, but I think we could see all three get relegated back to Serie B straight away.


Other Predictions

GETTY IMAGES/THE FA
GETTY IMAGES/THE FA

Premier League Top Scorer: Sergio Aguero

PFA Player of the Season: Sergio Aguero

PFA Young Player of the Season: Ross Barkley

FA Cup: Manchester United

Capital One Cup: Liverpool

Johnstone’s Paint Trophy: Sheffield United

Champions League: Barcelona

Europa League: Borussia Dortmund

Scottish Premier League: Celtic

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