Newsy Shorts for April 2023
The European Soccer Season champions
The European Soccer Season will be coming to a close next month and only the Spanish and Italian league champions seem to have already been decided. In one of the more inconsistent seasons in continental domestic play, some unexpected teams have risen in the post-pandemic era to stake their claims.
Also still in the mix, most of the five domestic cup champions are up for grabs, and we have only reached the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League and the semifinals of the Europa League.
In La Liga (Spain), Barcelona enjoy a 12-point lead over second-placed Real Madrid who in turn have a five-point lead over Atletico Madrid in third place—plus ca change, non? Unfortunately for the Catalans the manner in which they seem to have won so many of their glory-days trophies is now coming to be understood and La Liga and the Spanish courts may yet determine if those past trophies should remain at Camp Nou.
In Copa del Rey action, it will be Real Madrid facing Osasuna in the final.
In Serie A (Italy), Napoli enjoy a 16-point lead over second-place Lazio while they in turn have a five-point lead over Milan in third place. Inter is 21 points behind Napoli, and Juventus is 27 points behind the league leaders. There is no question that the Neapolitans have been playing some of the best soccer in Europe this season, taking a page off of Roberto Mancini’s defining work with the Italian National Team that won Euro 2020.
In Coppa Italia action, Juve and Inter are currently tied 1-1 with the second leg to be played in Milan, while Fiorentina get to go home and defend their 2-0 advantage over Cremonese. We may well be looking at another all-Milan final.
In Ligue 1 (France), PSG, who have not been at their best, are yet in first place, six points ahead of Lens and Marseille both at 60 points. Though this league competition is still to be decided, PSG’s lead at a time when Neymar is out for the season, Lionel Messi is not playing well, and Kylian Mbappe is expected to carry the team, gives the Ligue 1 competition pause.
The Parisiens are notoriously able to reach the stratosphere once all of their stars are back in shape and in good playing form, but this year attaining that gear may simply be out of reach. One can assume that with the stable of stars at their disposal they will yet make a run at the title, but it will be those two games at either side of Easter that will tell the tale of PSG’s fortunes this season.
In Coupe de France play, it will be Nantes v Toulouse in the final match.
In the Bundesliga (Germany), Bayern, and their newest coach, Thomas Tuchel, are only two points ahead of Borussia Dortmund after defeating them 4-2 last week. The defending champs are just now beginning to find their lost form and that bodes ill for the rest of the Bundesliga and for the Bavarians’ rivals, Manchester City, in their upcoming Champions League quarterfinal match.
In the DFB-Pokal competition Eintracht Frankfurt, SC Freiburg, RB Leipzig, and VfB Stuttgart will be draw into semifinals matchups on Sunday.
In the Premier League (England), Arsenal leads the Premier League with an expected five-point cushion (once all teams have played the same number of games) over Manchester City and a nine-point cushion over Newcastle United and Manchester United. The way Arsenal has been playing—and the fact that once out of continental play they can afford to focus on domestic success—they seem to be in the driver’s seat despite Man City’s pressure.
In FA Cup play it will be Manchester United v surprising Brighton & Hove Albion in one semifinal and Manchester City v Sheffield United of the EFL in the other. It seems we will likely have another single-city cup final.
In Champions League play
The competition’s lopsided draw ensures that the winner of the Real Madrid-Chelsea match-up will be playing the winner of the Manchester City-Bayern Munich clash, while the winner of the Milan-Napoli game will play the winner of the Benfica-Inter match. Potentially, this will lead to a Madrid-Munich and Napoli-Inter semifinals and thereafter to an Italian underdog in the final in Istanbul.
In Europa League play
Juventus plays Sporting, Manchester United plays Sevilla, Feyenoord plays Roma, and Bayer Leverkusen plays Union Saint-Gilloise, with the odds favoring semifinal match-ups of Juventus v Manchester United, and Roma v Bayer Leverkusen. Thereafter another Italian team should be in the finals while either a German or an English team will challenge them for the trophy.
Saudi Professional League
Jose Mourinho has been rumored to be in talks with the Saudi Professional League—not a team but the league itself—with the latest sports washing machine reportedly offering the Portuguese coach $120M for a two-year coaching stint and perhaps a link-up with CR7.
On the player side, it is rumored that the Saudis, after convincing Cristiano Ronaldo to move to the SPL for $200M a year, are looking to convince Lionel Messi to come to the SPL for $304M a year. Adding Mou’s contract means the league would be spending well over half a-billion dollars on three new European acquisitions.
It would be interesting to see how the Saudis would handle the Lionel Messi move since it would put the diminutive Argentine in an interesting position since the Arabs and the Argentines are both vying for the same ultimate prize—the 2030 World Cup.
FIFA & UEFA
Aleksander Ceferin was acclaimed president of UEFA in an unopposed election on April 5th in Portugal, following Gianni Infantino’s same route to the FIFA Presidency via a March 16th unopposed re-election in Rwanda. The two elections ensure the continuity of the leadership which has brought about the fiascos of the Qatar World Cup and the European Super League, and potentially to further calamity in the manner of awarding the hosting rights to the 2030 World Cup. Then again, we all know who could afford to bribe the highest.
Photo: Gianni Infantino & Aleksander Ceferin, Shutterstock Stock Photo ID: 1872788920, by ph.FAB.