It’s early, which is why there is a fair bit of fun to be had with an article like this. The European football season has only just been underway for more than a month. The UEFA Champions League is three rounds down in the group stages and the five English clubs – Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspurs – are leading each of their groups.
Here are some saucy predictions for the 2017-18 European Football season. Be prepared!
EPL Heads Back to Manchester
It has been a while. But after Leicester City and a boring Chelsea title, the English Premier League could very well head back to Manchester. But which one? Blue or red? That’s the big question. So far, though, it’s neck-and-neck. In their 12 games so far, Jose Mourinho’s United has two draws and one loss (to the lowly Huddersfield), and Pep Guardiola’s City has just one draw. It’s too soon to call it, yes, but looking at the way City has been destroying teams in both the EPL and UCL, it’s tough to look past them. Guardiola has turned them into a mini-Barcelona in just one season, while Mourinho has turned United into a functional mini-Chelsea. Yet, it’s City whose football looks delicious enough to eat right now. They have scored 40 goals in their 11 games and conceded only 5. The derby will be some game! A red-hot Tottenham could, however, spoil United’s podium party.
Premier League Champions 2017/18 Prediction: Manchester City
The Return of Barcelona
After suffering through one of their most unsuccessful seasons in recent memory, Lionel Messi’s Barcelona, despite losing Neymar (to PSG), have responded well under new boss Ernesto Valverde. Much of it is down to Messi’s vengeful form. The Argentinian striker has been devastating so far, single-handedly dragging his team to 10 wins out of 11, already 5 points clear of arch-rivals and defending champions Real Madrid. Messi has shown his magic with the national team, too, dragging them out of a torrid qualifying campaign to qualify directly for the World Cup next year in Russia. The pattern, too, has been similar: if Cristiano Ronaldo wins the Golden Ball one year, it’s mostly Lionel Messi the next. Messi has won 5 to Ronaldo’s 4, and this could well be the beginning of a sixth.
La Liga Champions 2017/18 Prediction: Barcelona
The Downfall of Bayern (Not So Much)
After the sacking of coach Carlo Ancelloti, Bayern Munich – German giants of all time – are said to be on a slide downward this season. Last year, they had their best ever start to a domestic season, but this year, with a somewhat aging team, they have only won 5 out of their 8 opening games. Additionally, they lost their UCL Group game brutally to French giants, Paris Saint-Germain. They might not be the power they once were in European football competitions, but we can’t see the Bundesliga slipping away from them even in this form. Borussia Dortmund currently lead them by two points, but this is also the same Dortmund team that has lost to both Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspurs in their UCL group already. One senses that Bayern will perhaps reach the Round of 16 and crash out to a first-placed team like Barcelona, but could just win the Bundesliga after huffing and puffing for most of their season. Much will be down to whether Bayern interim boss Jupp Heynckes will stay in charge for more than this season until they poach one of the EPL coaches.
The Year of Paris
Paris St-Germain is the team this season. THE team. After world-record transfers of Mbappe and Neymar, they now look like the French Galacticos for whom winning the French Ligue won’t be such a big deal. But it’s the Champions League that their owners Oryx Qatar Sports Investments are really after. Pumping the big money in has only been part of a victory. It’s now down to Neymar – who looks like he will truly give Ronaldo and Messi a run for their money in the ‘Footballer of the Year’ race. He has scored 9 already in 12 games, setting up a further 8 for his teammates. What’s more – PSG have won 12 out of their first 13 games and are in scintillating form in the UCL. They have scored 12 in 3 games, conceding none, even defeating Bayern 3-0 at home. This is their biggest chance to win it all – and go where no French club has gone before.
UCL and French Ligue 1 2017/18 Prediction: PSG
The Exit of Leicester City
Leicester City, EPL Champions and a fairytale story of the decade a little more than a year ago, had quite a follow-up season. Manager Claudio Ranieri was sacked, but they reached the quarterfinals of the UCL on their debut attempt. They earned more UEFA prize money than eventual champions Real Madrid in the process. But they finished mid-table, and won’t be playing in top European competition again for a while. Now after the sacking of next coach Craig Shakespeare on Tuesday, Leicester are in the relegation zone with only one win in their first 8 games. Caretaker Michael Appleton could give way to a new, seasoned manager soon. The favorite is 2014 EPL winning coach Manuel Pellegrini, but it could well be damage control for a season that might never take off. Will they get relegated this season, two years after winning the most unlikely title ever? Maybe. Maybe not. Our bet is on them scraping through in the final few weeks, only to be classified as 500/1 again next season. We all know what happens then.