Thursday, 13 January 2011

A look around Europe

In January last year we took a quick glance around, to find out who was in the running for league titles, and who were the players who had been stealing the limelight and putting in the class performances.

England - Premiership

The Premiership has been as exciting as ever, but with the gulf in class between the teams becoming shorter, no teams are dominating, or is any team serious putting any daylight between the top spot and the chasing pack. It really has become a case of “anyone can beat anyone”.

Who’s in the title hunt?

Manchester United sits atop of the Premier League, with rivals Man City and Arsenal collectively just 4 points apart. Tottenham, Chelsea and Sunderland are in the chasing pack, mainly in the hunt for Champions League places.

Chelsea has been in shocking form this season, but a team who has such a strong first 11 cannot be discounted. They may not be in the hunt right now, but they could definitely make a late charge, if they kick on from January.

Relegation candidates

From 20th to 12th place in the league, the nine teams are only separated by 5 points. West Ham currently sit bottom, while Wigan, Aston Villa, Wolves, West Brom, Birmingham, Fulham, Liverpool and Everton are all possibilities for relegation. Some have more quality then others, but let’s clear: No one is too big to go down.

Star performers

Samir Nasri – the 23 year old has been sensational this season for the Gunners. He has carried the creative and goal scoring mantle since Cesc Fabregas has had injury problems, and picked up 13 goals in 26 appearances this season.

Gareth Bale – The Welshman has been performing really well and constantly over the past 12 months, and has shown at the highest level that he can be one of the World’s be left midfielders. He is just 21 years old, and needs to continue this form and progression.

Spain - La Liga

Who’s in the title hunt?

La Liga has been interesting this season. Yes Barca and Real are the only two teams battling for the title, but some of the football they have been playing has been sensational. Barcelona is dismantling teams, breaking records left, right and centre, while Lionel Messi, Xavi and Iniesta still continue to shine. Real Madrid on the other hand, is still clinging on to the Barca coat-tails.

Villarrael are playing some sensational football, but unfortunately, they are 13 points behind the league leaders. Not that they have been performing poor, it’s just that Barca and Real are that dominant. So it seems its now only between Villarrael, Valencia and Espanyol for the final two Champions League spots.

Relegation candidates

Real Zaragoza use to have a batch of some of the best football talent in Europe, think players such as Diego and Gabriel Miltio, Ricardo Oliviera, Roberto Ayala and Pablo Aimar but still managed to underachieve unbelievably and get relegated two seasons ago. With promotion last year, the now sees themselves in the current bottom three with fellow promoted side Sporting Gijon as well as Almeria. Levante, Malaga and Osasuna are the other side’s who could slip through the trap door.

Star performers

Lionel Messi – Aren’t you guys sick of hearing me speak about this guy? The Best player in the World continues to progress, and smash teams into the ground, scaring the life out of defenders and goalkeepers. His stats this season? Played 15, scored 18 with 12 assists. Not much more to say.

Cristiano Ronaldo – the World’s two best players, are going head to head once again this season, with Ronaldo more than capable of holding his own. The £80million man has been worth every single penny, and this season, whether it is left foot, right foot, with his head or from a set piece, CR7 hits the back of the net. His stats this season? Player 18, score 22 with 6 assists. Not much more to add!

Italy - Serie A

Who’s in the title hunt?

The Italian top flight redeemed some excitement with AS Roma pushing Inter Milan all the way to the wire last season. This season, Inter have struggled terribly (similar to Chelsea) and failed to mount any sort of challenge (injuries didn’t do a lot to help the cause). However they have sacked Rafa Benitez, hired Leanardo, but cannot be consider title contenders as they sit in 7th place, 11 points behind the league leaders.

AC Milan sit 4 points clear at the top, while Napoli, Lazio and Roma make up the chasing pack. Cavani has been a revelation at Napoli, Zarate continues to be spectacular for Lazio and Borriello has been a great signing for Roma. These players are leading the charge for their respective club.

Palermo and Juventus are the other real contenders, but will probably be more focused on Champions League qualification.

Relegation candidates

Bari, Brescia and Lecce currently occupy the bottom three spots, however similarly to the Premiership, the teams from 10th place onwards to the relegation zone, are only separated by 5 points.

Big names such as Parma, Genoa and Fiorentina all find themselves in the bottom half of the table, amongst these 10 teams.

Star performers

Zlatan Ibrahimovic – He had a season away from Serie A, although he was panned by critics, he still collected four trophies during his time at the Camp Nou, and returned to Italy where he is in his comfort zone. He has regained the form which saw him receive the plaudits while playing at Inter Milan, and with his performances this season, he is returning to his status as one of the best strikers in the world. He has played 17 games, scoring 10 goals, with 8 assists.

Edinson Cavani – This is one of my favourite players in Serie A, and he has taken the mantle as one of the most promising strikers in the World. The 24 year old has been instrumental in Napoli’s challenge for the title this year, scoring 13 goals in 19 games, with 3 assists. The Uruguayan is on loan from Palermo, but its evident Napoli will do all they can in order to keep the striker at the end of the season.

Germany - Bundesliga

Who’s in the title hunt?

The Bundesliga has been a story of two teams this season. Defending champions Bayern Munich have been horrible (a trend with all the top teams domestically around Europe) and they now sit a massive 14 points behind the league leaders, the league leaders being Borussia Dortmund. Yes the Yellow and Black side that were so impressive in the 90’s are finally back at the top where they belong. They have had a brilliant season so far with the defensive combination of Neven Subotic, Mats Hummels and Marcel Schmelzer the cornerstone helping the team only concede 10 goals in 17 games.

Dortmund sit 10 points clear of nearest challengers Mainz and Bayern Leverkusen, so it’s pretty much there title to lose.

Relegation candidates

Monchengladbach is struggling at the bottom of the league, while more surprisingly Stuttgart sit just two points above them, and in serious danger of relegation. Koln, St. Pauli, Werder Bremen and Wolfsburg (minus Eden Dzeko) make up the other relegation candidates.

Star performers

Borussia Dortmund – They are run away league leaders, with a host of players playing above expectations and surpassing their expectation. The defensive three I mentioned earlier have been superb, Nuri Sahin and Mario Gotze in midfield as well as forwards Lucas Barrios and Shinji Kagawa.

France - Ligue 1

Who’s in the title hunt?

Another tightly contested league, with no one team clearly dominating, with the top 6 only just separated by 3 points. Lille currently sit top, with PSG, Rennes, Lyon, Marseille and Saint-Etienne making up the chasing pack.

Relegation candidates

Promoted side Arles-Avignon are 11 points adrift, and seem already gone, while fellow promoted side Caen along with RC Lens make up the other teams in the relegation zone. AS Monaco and Valenciennes are the other two teams hovering just about the drop zone.

Star performers

Steve Mandana – the Olympique Marseille goalkeeper, and club captain, is vastly fulfilling his potential, and at 25 years old, having a great season in Ligue 1. He has kept 7 clean sheets this season, and his side have the third best defensive record in Ligue 1.

Nene – the Brazilian has been an inspired signing for Paris Saint-Germain since joining from AS Monaco. He has been top class in the clubs Europa League campaign, and domestically he has hit 13 goals in 18 appearances.

Moussa Sow – the 24 year old Senegalese striker has finally begun to show his ability, and reach the potential he was touted as possessing while playing at Rennes. Now with league leaders Lille, he has scored 14 times in 18 league games.

Netherlands - Eredivsie

Who’s in the title hunt?

Defending champions FC Twente are still in the title hunt, but sit second behind free scoring PSV. The league leaders have blitzed 53 goals in 19 games, and only conceding 19 goals. FC Groningen and AFC Ajax are the only other teams really in with a shout at the title.

Relegation candidates

Willem II has only 4 points, from 19 games and is cast iron candidates. VVV-Venlo is 8 points away from safety, and seems likely to join the Willem II in the Eereste Divisie, while Excelsior, Excelsior and Vitesse are the others who could slip into danger.

Star performers

Ola Toivonen – the 24 year old Swedish striker was linked with a move to Liverpool in the summer, but the deal never surfaced. He has notched up 11 goals this season.

Balazs Dzsudzsak – another PSV player who has been on fire this season, and has been instrumental in PSV’s return to the top, chipping in with 10 goals.

Björn Vleminckx – the Belgian forward is at the top Dutch scoring charts, and he plays for mid table side N.E.C. He has contributed 13 of his side’s 31 goals scored this season.

So that’s Real Talk Football’s half season look around Europe, let us know what you think about all the teams underperforming in their domestic leagues, as well as some of the stand out individuals.

All tables from, and are all correct as of 12pm 13/01/2011

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