Everyone will be talking about Leicester’s run to the premier league title for a long time. It was a genuine shock and remarkable accomplishment. With so much cynicism around the world these days with the big clubs just winning consistently every year it’s nice to see a few reminders that in sports, anything can happen. Now with the new season well underway across Europe, there are already a few teams making a name for themselves and defying expectations. While no league is looking like there will be another Leicester City, there are plenty of pleasant surprises to let you know competitiveness hasn’t been completely killed just yet. Here is a look at a few surprises from some of Europe’s bigger leagues outside of England.
What a difference Zlatan Ibrahimovic makes, apparently. After losing the Swedish striker to the Premier League, as well as David Luiz, PSG hasn’t fared so well in French Ligue 1. Sitting in third place, they’ve fallen back after practically winning the league by Christmas last season. Now they are looking up at Nice and Monaco who are first and second, respectively.
OSG Nice finished fourth last season, so being at the top of the table isn’t the biggest shock, but considering they finished 33 points back of PSG it’s quite a turnaround. Nice are being managed this year by Lucien Favre, who lost his job at Borussia Monchengladbach at the start of last season. Favre is a good coach and was even rumored to have been considered for the Bayern Munich job. The team is off to a great start under the Swiss coach, and have the league’s best defensive record, allowing only five goals so far this season.
AS Monaco meanwhile is winning by scoring tons of goals. They’re second in the league, but boast the best attack in France, so far. Their 22 goals in the league are better than anyone else, the closest competitor, PSG, has scored 17 goals. They aren’t just getting scoring from one person either, although Brazillian Fabinho is their leading scorer (he’s a 22-year-old right back!). The team has had 11 different players find the back of the net this season.
The biggest surprise in Germany is that Bayern Munich sits at the top of the….oh no sorry. Bayern Munich sits right where everyone expected them to be this season, but going down the list sees a few names that might leave some scratching their heads. The top four in Germany feature two of the usual suspects, Dortmund and Bayern. Joining those two at the top, however, are Hertha Berlin and 1. FC Köln. Now, Hertha played well last season and nearly made it into the top four then, but they aren’t traditionally a force to be reckoned with in Germany. The team features four Bayern Munich castoffs and has just recently returned from the Bundesliga 2.
Berlin’s strong start is in large part to striker Vedad Ibišević. The forward was brought over on loan from Stuttgart last season, but that club’s relegation made the move permanent. Ibišević has scored seven goals in all competitions so far this season and is hanging out with names like Lewandowski and Hernandez at the top of the Bundesliga scoring chart. American defender John Brooks can’t be ignored either. The 23-year-old first choice center back has been a rock in Berlin’s back line. Berlin has conceded 7 goals so far in only 6 games, but keep in mind one of those games was against Bayern Munich and the other John Brooks was out with a bad back. The other five games, the Berlin side have only conceded once.
Down in fourth place is Köln. Last season the Rhineland club finished ninth, the season before 12th, the season before that they were in the lower division. Köln has made a steady rise up the table in recent years and a large part of that is manager Peter Stöger. The former Austrian international has his team playing well a disciplined game, and striker Anthony Modeste has already scored five goals in the Bundesliga this year. Köln put an end to Bayern Munich’s perfect season two weeks ago when they went into the Allianz Arena and held the record champions to a 1-1 draw. Timo Horn looks like one of Germany’s keepers of the future, and his play is a big reason Köln have only conceded 3 goals this season.
Spain’s top four features Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, and Sevilla. Those four are great teams but the order is not what you might think. Atletico lead their neighbors and Sevilla is in third just above last year’s champions Barcelona. It’s been a strange start to the season for Barcelona as they’ve lost twice already and have conceded 10 goals so far. Their defensive issues have opened the door for the likes of Sevilla to leap frog them. Sevilla’s new boss, Jorge Sampaoli, has taken his tough approach to Spain after leading the Chilean national team for four years. He’s had a successful start to his time in Spain. Sevilla has won the Europa league 3 times in a row, but they are looking a good bet to make it into the Champions League this year via league qualification, as opposed to entry via a Europa League win.
Real Madrid has long gotten the better of the cross-town rivals, but this year it’s been inverted. Atletico isn’t by any means an underdog here, they even won the league a few years ago. Their defensive record is remarkable this season, and considering the high-scoring nature of La Liga, only conceding two goals this year is tremendous. If they can keep it up, they will have every chance of winning the league again. They just need to find a way to get past Real Madrid in the Champions League.
Everything is going according to plan.
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— Serie A TIM (@SerieA_TIM) October 2, 2016