Over the last few weeks, league winners have emerged across Europe, with Man City and PSV the latest ones in England and the Netherlands respectively. Earlier in the month, Bayern Munich wrapped up yet another title and we are only just waiting for the coronation of Barcelona, Celtic, and PSG (It’s only a matter of time for those ones).
April is always a good time to be done with a league campaign because it allows clubs to easily rotate squads and try out fringe players that may be useful the next season. It also takes pressure off clubs as they know that all that they are looking to gain is a good finish to the season, and momentum for the next one. For clubs still in other competitions, a league win allows them to focus on the other competitions as they look to record a double/treble/quadruple/whatever truckload trophy-winning season that they are chasing (for example, Bayern who still have the UCL in sight). Finally, for a year like 2018, an early league win means players can have an early rest as we head towards the World Cup.
For the most part, the league campaigns in most European countries have been straightforward; with the league winners being predicted long before they collected their trophies. Few can deny Man City, Juventus and PSV were hot favourites to be league champions while the likes of Juventus, Benfica/FC Porto, Barcelona, PSG and Celtic were always in the conversation for becoming league winners. Juventus will, in my opinion, go on to win the Serie A (even though it’s been their hardest defense in recent years) but it’s starting to show how well competition has caught up; which makes me believe that come 2019, we could be looking at more close runs for the league title or even new title winners in different leagues across Europe.
In Italy, the likes of Roma, Lazio, and Napoli have been sensational at times. Shame they crumbled towards the end and let Juventus earn the advantage; but I know they’ll be back next season, and they’ll be tougher too. Take a look at the French Ligue 1. Perhaps PSG could win another title but I doubt it will be as easy as they have had it in recent years. Marseille have their own money now. May not be Sheikh Money but it is still money. The team has played some scintillating football this season and we can’t wait for how they push for silverware next season. Monaco will also be looking to bounce back after failing to defend their own title so watch out for a real battle in France.
In Germany, Bayern will need to evaluate an ageing squad in dire need of refreshing. If this isn’t done in the summer, they could get overrun by the younger teams in the Bundesliga. The energy that we’re seeing from Leipzig, Dortmund (at times), and Leverkusen is promising even though they have had some bad games. I expect to see more from all of them next year. If Leipzig can keep Werner and Dortmund somehow manage to have Bashuayi (or any good striker) next year, we could in for a treat. In Spain, Barcelona will tell themselves that winning the title was easy but I think they are league winners partly because Real Madrid had a terrible start to the campaign. Atletico themselves were also slow out of the blocks so Barcelona took advantage of a great chance to move ahead, and stay ahead of the pack. Next season might not be so easy. Both Madrids will be back; plus the likes of Valencia, Sevilla and Celta Vigo will be gunning for glory next year.
Finally, England will be boiling this time next year. Man City will be the team to beat. Very few teams struggle to live with that target on their backs. A lot of teams in the EPL will be studying how the Man City team has set up for games and will be planning to counter that. Money (and I mean a LOT of money) will be spent to strengthen squads and we could be looking at Chelsea, Liverpool and Man United stating their intentions early and throughout the season.
Expect a blockbuster 2018/2019.