After a delayed start to the 2020-21 campaign, all of Europe’s top soccer leagues are in the midst of competitive and interesting title races. Among the top five leagues, only two of the current leaders won their last respective campaigns, and both currently lead by just one combined point (Liverpool are level on points but ahead by GD). All of the current league leaders are within just a game’s reach, so there’s no room for error at the top.
With quick turnarounds between competitions, teams will have to decide whether to divert their efforts towards European or domestic competitions, in order to maintain a healthy and rested squad. There is still plenty of football to be played, with over 20 matchdays remaining for each league, in addition to the knockout rounds of the Champions and Europa League. Assuming there isn’t another stoppage in play due to COVID-19, the next five months will contain plenty of interesting football across Europe, but who will come out victorious?
English Premier League: Manchester United
The Red Devils currently sit level on points with reigning champions Liverpool but have played one less game. Ole Gunnar Solskjӕr’s squad are on a two-month unbeaten streak in league play, with Bruno Fernandes leading the way. The Portuguese midfielder has been revolutionary since being signed from Sporting CP, with 18 goal contributions in 2020-21 league play. After being knocked down to the Europa League, United can now divert their efforts towards winning their first league title since 2013 – back when the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge.
Manchester United face plenty of competition at the top; six other teams sit within five points of the top. Liverpool have struggled recently, picking up just 2 points in their last 3 matches, but remain ahead of United. Crosstown rivals Manchester City have improved after a sluggish start, and only sit four points behind with a game in hand. Leicester City and Tottenham are also in the mix but will need a little help to catch up. Ultimately, I see United coming out on top, thanks to weak competition and a strong attacking presence, with Fernandes winning PFA Player of the Year.
Runner-Up: Manchester City
Bundesliga: RB Leipzig
Things are getting bold in the Bundesliga, as Leipzig are my pick to dethrone Bayern Munich and their blitzkrieg-esque reign of terror. The Bavarian superclub have won the Meisterschale a record 29 times, including 8 straight. Currently, Leipzig trail them by one point, having just conceded just 6 goals to teams not named Bayern Munich. 33-year-old manager Julian Nagelsmann has been praised for his squad’s adaptability, with formations and player roles varying on a weekly basis. However, in order to come out on top of the Bundesliga, Leipzig will need to ditch their European ambitions in the Champions League.
Leipzig face Liverpool in the UCL round of 16, a tough matchup for any club, so conserving effort for a Bundesliga run is in their best interest. Bayern Munich will likely focus their efforts on the more prestigious Champions League, seeking a second straight win. Their lack of depth and spotty defense pose a weakness that should cause the Bavarians to drop points in league competitions. Leipzig are primed to take advantage of this opportunity, and if they can earn an average of 2.4 points per game, the Red Bull-backed club might just become the first club to dethrone Bayern since 2012.
Runner-Up: Bayern Munich
Serie A: Inter Milan
Despite dropping points recently to an average Sampdoria side, Inter Milan are still my pick to win the Scudetto for the first time since 2010. They only trail AC Milan in the table, as their city rivals lead by a single point. Inter boast a well-rounded squad with a perfect blend of youth and experience. Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez lead the pack up top with 21 goals in 16 league matches. The Nerazzurri lead Serie A in goals scored and are primed for a title run after being knocked out of the UEFA Champions League (Inter placed 4th in Group B, so they weren’t demoted to the Europa League).
The Serie A title race is one of the most competitive this year, second only to the EPL. Inter have a few clear cut challengers, the most notable being their fellow San Siro occupants. Soccer fans have been feeling nostalgic watching former European giant AC Milan return to the top of the table. Milan have relied on youth to win, so the sustainability of their success is questionable. Don’t count out a talented Juventus squad either, who look to complete a decade-long run of dominance with their 10th straight title. Roma and Napoli are on the fringe as well, but it looks like a 3-horse race is inevitable.
La Liga: Atlético Madrid
Arguably the surest bet of the five leagues, Atlético are in great form thanks to new striker Luis Suárez. They sit two points clear of rivals Real Madrid with an additional two games in hand. Atlético’s only loss is to their rivals, and with FC Barcelona in a slump, Los Rojiblancos are running away with the title. Similar to the situation in the EPL, Atleti are benefitting from weaker competition around them.
If it weren’t for the impressive gap at the top, there would be some cause for concern in Madrid. Fullback Kieran Trippier is facing a 10-week ban due to a betting violation; the Englishman is appealing but has already missed two league games. In addition, Atlético are also poised to make a Champions League run, which could impact their squad availability for league play. However, Atleti are looking to add squad depth in the January window, with the likes of Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud and Arsenal full-back Ainsley Maitland-Niles linked in transfer rumors to the Spanish capital.
Runner-Up: Real Madrid
Ligue 1: Paris Saint-Germain
Saving the worst for last, Ligue 1 is the least competitive year in and year out. PSG continually dominate the “farmers league” due to their superior budget totaling nearly $1 billion. The Parisian giants currently sit second in the table, trailing Memphis Depay and Lyon, but like Thanos, their title win is inevitable. PSG should easily regain the top spot once Neymar returns from injury, delivering new manager Mauricio Pochettino his first major trophy as a manager.
Runner-Up: OL Lyon