A look into Europe’s Crystal Ball – Predicting the European Leagues winners

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April 25, 2012 by Matteo Roberts

Congratulations to the 2012 Bundesliga champions, Borussia Dortmund. Though the Germans may have crowned their champions, most European leagues are still tightly contested. With most leagues winding down to their final weeks of action, I take a look at each title race and offer my speculation.

English Premier League: Two Team Race

Pos

Team

P

W

D

L

F

A

GD

Pts

1

Manchester United

35

26

5

4

86

32

54

83

2

Manchester City

35

25

5

5

87

27

60

80

Just when it looked like United had wrapped up the title, a loss against Wigan and a 4-4 thriller with Everton have left the door open for Mancini and the boys. Scoring twelve goals in their last three games, Manchester City have hit their stride in time for the all-decisive derby at the Etihad. We all remember the 6-1 drubbing at Old Trafford, but its obvious that this time around things will be different. Nevertheless, there are two additional games remaining on each team’s schedule and in the Premier League anything can happen.

Manchester United remaining schedule:

(A) Manchester City, (H) Swansea, (A) Sunderland

Manchester City remaining schedule:

(H) Manchester United, (A) Newcastle, (H) QPR

At the beginning of the year I picked Manchester City to win the premier league. With three games remaining it becomes incredibly tough to stick with my gut. I do not think City will lose the derby, and I am leaning towards saying they will win it. Anyone who has been following this team all year will admit that most of City’s faults have occurred while traveling. They have only lost two games at home all year, but they have trouble scoring away from home. This is why I highlight the game against the Magpies, who have won their last six and haven’t lost a game at home since December. Swansea and Sunderland are both tricky games for Man. United, and while Swansea may be playing attractive football, the final day at the Stadium of Light could be a fatal one. What the game against Everton taught us is that teams who are not afraid of attacking United’s back four, can actually keep up! I love the football Swansea has been playing, but they are a possession based team and I don’t see them pushing as much as Everton did. Sunderland on the final day, in their home stadium, should be have nothing to lose and could press United into an upset. This is probably the toughest call in Europe, Mancini has looked destroyed on the sidelines and in the press conferences, but his team has been playing hard, this could come down to goal differential.

Prediction: I almost can’t believe I’m saying this, but I have to stick with my gut. One way or another, Man City will win the title.

Serie A: Two Team Race

Pos

Team

P

W

D

L

F

A

GD

Pts

1

Juventus

33

19

14

0

57

18

39

71

2

AC Milan

33

20

8

5

63

27

36

68

After Sunday’s 1-1 draw against Bologna, AC Milan have paved the path for Juventus to take home the Scudetto. Winners of their past six ties, Juventus absolutely dominated 6th place AS Roma, hammering in four goals while conceding none. This is a Juve team that have averaged three goals per game over their past six victories, hitting their stride at the perfect time. In a one month span, Juventus faced Fiorentina, Inter, Napoli, Palermo, and Lazio consecutively in the league, while also facing Milan in the Coppa Italia. What happened? Six up, six down; Juve won them all except for a draw in the Coppa Italia which advanced them to them to the final anyway. The problem is that this Juventus team has never had any trouble with high-class opponents, but rather its been the provincial sides which  have caused them trouble. Here is a look at the road ahead for both teams:

Juventus remaining schedule:

(A) Cesena, (A) Novara, (H) Lecce, (A) Cagliari*, (H) Atalanta

AC Milan remaining schedule:

(H) Genoa, (A) Siena, (H) Atalanta, (A) Inter**, (H) Novara

*Cagliari will likely be playing the at the Rocco Stadium in Trieste due to security reasons at the Sant’Elia

** Derby match

The schedule advantage goes to Juventus; Lecce, Novara, and Cesena represent the bottom three in the Serie A and should be a breeze for the Bianconeri. Nevertheless, I caution the game against Lecce because this is a team fighting for relegation that have won two of their last three while managing a draw against Lazio in Rome. I don’t think Juve will lose a game, but don’t be surprised if they have trouble finding the net in one of these games and only manage a draw, the game against Cagliari is another to look out for (1-1 in their previous encounter in Turin). Milan will be fired up and will face a completely demoralized Genoa team after the debacle on Sunday. The derby against Inter is obviously their toughest test, but ultimately I don’t think Milan will drop more points. Does this mean I think they win the Scudetto? No, and here’s why: The Serie A is decided on head to head results rather than goal differential, meaning that if the two teams finish level, Juve win the title.

Prediction: Juventus win the title. They may draw a game along the way, but ultimately this team will come out on top, they have worked to hard not to.

La Liga: What else did you expect?

Pos

Team

P

W

D

L

F

A

GD

Pts

1

Real Madrid

34

28

4

2

109

30

79

88

2

Barcelona

34

25

6

3

97

26

71

81

It almost feels too late to be speculating after the last Classico. In case you’ve been living in a hole for the last week, Madrid took home three points after a 2-1 victory over the Camp Nou, highlighted by a brilliant through-ball by Mesut Ozil, setting up Cristiano Ronaldo for the match winner. Nevertheless, we still do have four games remaining, giving Barcelona just a glimmer of hope.

Real Madrid remaining schedule:

(H) Sevilla, (A) Bilbao (A) Granada, (H) Mallorca

Barcelona remaining schedule:

(H) Malaga, (H) Espanyol, (A) Betis, (A) Bilbao

Assuming Barcelona win out, for them to win La Liga, Madrid would have to lose two games and draw one to (leaving them on level points with Barcelona having a 4-3 head to head advantage). Bilbao away is the first game that stands out, so just for kicks lets assume Madrid will lose that one (which they likely won’t). The next tough one is against Sevilla… Anyone remembers that 6-2 in December? I’m not buying it, thats where I draw the line, even for kicks.

Prediction: Even though it’s not much of a prediction at this point, Real Madrid will win La Liga, barring an implosion so massive that all Merengues fans would hop on the Getafe bandwagon.

Ligue 1: Three Team Race

Pos

Team

P

W

D

L

F

A

GD

Pts

1

Montpellier

33

21

6

6

60

31

29

69

2

Paris Saint-Germain

33

19

10

4

63

35

28

67

3

Lille

33

17

11

5

62

36

26

62

Montpellier are the Cinderella story of the year in France. This is a team that finished in 12th place last year and was playing in second division just three years ago. Lead by Olivier Giroud (bound to bag himself a big contract this summer), they have rifled their way up the ranks while big-spenders PSG continue to look up in disbelief. Many of you may be wondering at this point why a Lille team seven points from the top is still in conversation. A look at their remaining schedule will tell you why.

Montpellier remaining schedule:

(A) Toulouse, (H) Evian, (A) Rennes, (H) Lille, (A) Auxerre

Paris Saint-Germain remaining schedule:

(A) Lille, (H) St. Etienne, (A) Valenciennes, (H) Rennes, (A) Lorient

Lille remaining schedule:

(H) PSG, (A) Nice, (H) Caen, (A) Montpellier, (H) Nancy

This race is tighter than meets the eye. To arrive to my final prediction, I will need to speculate on each week’s results. There is a glaring trend when it comes to Toulouse, the combination of a 3-0 win over Lyon at home and a 2-1 loss away at Evian tell the story, this team is good in front of their own fans. I don’t think Montpellier will lose, but they will draw. They will beat Evian, but another draw will come away to a Rennes team that have hit their stride and have Ajaccio up next. The match against Lille will be a title decider, I say Montpellier takes it, Lille will be hungry, but HSC has had to great of a year to let it all fizzle that late. Auxerre will be an easy three points. PSG looked great last weekend against Sochaux and something tells me they will ‘upset’ Lille at home. St. Etienne could spell trouble, but I think they will run through them and Valenciennes the week after. The home game at Rennes will ultimately come down to Rennes’ form during the next few weeks, but I’ll say this one ends in a draw. Lorient is no match for PSG. Sorry to the Lille fans, I am a big fan of Edin Hazard, but PSG have huge expectations to live up to and how can you pick against Cinderella. On the other hand, Lille will cruise by Nice, Caen, and likely Nancy on the final day.

Prediction: So assuming the soccer Gods honor my farfetched speculation, Montpellier will finish with 80 points, PSG will also finish with 80 points, and Lille will fall behind at 71. Ligue 1 is decided by goal differential, meaning that if all goes as predicted, this will be the tightest race in Europe. Right now Montpellier is ahead by a single goal. Despite Giroud’s spectacular year, I think PSG has more firepower and will probably finish ahead thanks to a final day trouncing of Lorient. I always love rooting for the smaller clubs, but Paris Saint-Germain takes the Ligue 1 title.

Liga Sagres: Two Team Race

Pos

Team

P

W

D

L

F

A

GD

Pts

1

Porto

27

20

6

1

60

17

43

66

2

Benfica

27

19

5

3

60

24

36

62

Benfica has been determined to stick close to Porto after lass seasons massacre, but the Dragões have only lost one match all year. The 3-2 Porto O Classico victory on March 2nd will likely prove the decisive factor this race, but with three games remaining, including a matchup of 3rd place Sporting Lisbon at the Estadio Dragao, the race is still open.

Porto remaining schedule:

(A) Maritimo, (H) Sporting Lisbon, (A) Rio Ave

Benfica remaining schedule:

(A) Rio Ave, (H) Uniao Leiria, (A) Vitoria Setubal

Assuming Benfica win out, which seems very possible considering the form of Rio and Setubal. Leiria could prove to be a tricky one, but in front of a ruckus Estadio da Luz, the Águias should have no trouble. Again, just for kicks, lets assume Porto drops 3 points against Lisbon. They would need to drop another 3 points (or draw two) to let Benfica win the title, as Liga Sagres is decided head-to-head. I don’t see it happening, Porto will cruise by Rio Ave and while Maritimo could cause a slip up, I still think Porto will crush their next three.

Prediction: Porto will win the Liga Sagres


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