Among the top five European football leagues, one saw some new teams challenging for the top, as they took advantage of the Covid-19 laden season, but as we reach the two-thirds mark and begin to turn onto the home stretch, the old usual suspects are beginning to emerge and even surge ahead.
In Spain, La Liga is led by Atletico Madrid who, with a game in hand, are six points ahead of Real Madrid and nine ahead of Barcelona. What with the implosion at Barca and the continued decline at Real via the infamous duo—Perez-Zidane—don’t be surprised if Atleti takes home the trophy while also outplaying their betters in European play. Meanwhile, in the Copa del Rey, Barca have to overcome a 0-2 away deficit in the first leg of their semifinals against Sevilla.
In Italy, Inter Milan, who had been given up for dead just a few seasons ago, and AC Milan who have often been up-and-down the last several seasons, are both leading Juventus by eight and seven points, respectively, in Serie A. The Turin giants are struggling under rookie coach Andrea Pirlo and the biaconeri are in an unaccustomed tough spot—too far away from the Milan duo to effectively vie for the Scudetto, trailing lowly Porto 1-2 in the Champions League, and yet having a rendezvous with Atalanta in the Coppa Italia final in May. The Milan sides and Juve are perennial usual suspects.
In France’s Ligue 1, with 25 games played, Lille are a point ahead of PSG and three ahead of Lyon. Yet, PSG, playing without the oft-injured Neymar, are surging at home, having reeled off 8-2-1 stats since losing to Lyon December 13th and abroad, having just gone to the Camp Nou and trounced Barca 4-1 with a Kylian Mbappe hat trick. PSG has been the only routine usual suspect in France for several years now.
In Germany, the Bundesliga is also at the two-thirds mark and the mighty Bayern Munich is only five points ahead of Leipzig and ten ahead of Leverkusen and Dortmund. The Bavarians are coming back from a loss of form which had seen them run roughshod over all of their German and European opposition last year. Their next Champions League clash will be with Lazio. The perennial usual suspect, Bayern, has been rampant for several years now.
In England’s Premier League, Manchester City is threatening to run away with the league championship, leading Manchester United and Leicester City by ten points respectively at the 24th-game mark. Liverpool have imploded, dropping to sixth, 16 points off the pace while Chelsea are trying to hand onto their Champions League slot at fourth on the table with 42 points. The top teams have been Premiership fixtures, but their musical chairs approach to the championship has kept the usual suspects a minor guessing game.
At this stage, the La Liga seems to be Atleti’s to lose, the Premiership Man City’s to lose, the Bundesliga Bayern Munich’s to lose, the Ligue 1 trophy seems within PSG’s reach again and their recent surge augurs well for the Parisians down the home stretch, and in Italy, the two Milan sides seem in the driver’s seat given Juve’s up and down season.
Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski is continuing his torrid scoring rut and is leading all European scorers with 25 goals for the season as of this writing, leading Frankfurt’s Andre Silva with 18 in second place and Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah with 17, followed by four other players at 16 goals apiece. While in the Champions League, Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland leads all scorers with 8 goals followed by five other players with six apiece.