Top 4 of the Top 4: Predictions for Europe’s Top Leagues

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Predicting the end results of a football season is like trying to cook a new recipe. You know what goes in, you know what’s supposed to happen, but inevitably something goes horribly awry — the unexpected hits and my deep dish lasagna ends up looking like something I spotted in the gutter earlier.

That’s all to say that any prediction is almost a shot in the dark, but someone needs to eat that lasagna, so here goes nothing. Dig in:

 

English Premier League

Top 4:

  1. Liverpool
  2. Manchester City
  3. Tottenham Hotspur
  4. Arsenal

I know that Manchester City are the odds on favorite to hoist their third consecutive Premier League title, but here’s the thing: The Citizens don’t care much about domestic trophies. Sure, they’ll give it their best (and their best could be more than enough), but City’s big focus is on a European title. 

Liverpool are quite the opposite. The Champions League is great, but the Reds’ real goal is top honors in England. Sadio Mané, if he stays healthy, could be the best player in the league. Liverpool were literally centimeters from winning the league last season, and if VAR continues to hurt Manchester City the way it has thus far, this may actually be Liverpool’s year (all Liverpool fans should knock on wood and loudly belt “You’ll Never Walk Alone”).

Tottenham is still third-best, though a busy summer may begin to close the gap between them and the top two teams. After a full offseason to build chemistry and bolster their squad, Arsenal possesses the most dangerous striker partnership in the League. However, it is the backline that the Gunners claim is a defense that will prevent them from challenging for a higher finish in the Premier League.

 

Spanish La Liga

  1. Barcelona
  2. Real Madrid
  3. Atlético Madrid
  4. Real Betis

The top teams in Spain have retooled and reworked themselves. Barcelona added Antoine Griezmann and Frenkie de Jong, Real Madrid added Eden Hazard and Atlético Madrid bet massively on Portuguese wonderkid João Félix. All three teams should have bumpy starts as they sort out chemistry and positioning issues — but expect the end of the season to be a real contest. 

If Zidane can reintegrate Gareth Bale, if Barcelona sign Neymar, if Christian Eriksen moves to either Madrid club, the season could completely change. Barcelona are the best club on paper, but this year’s La Liga could be a wild ride.

Real Betis have been a decent club for the last couple of years, challenging the top half of the table. The addition of Nabil Fekir may push them towards the top. He is that good. If Fekir performs, he could single-handedly push Betis into the Champions League.

 

Bundesliga

  1. Bayern Munich
  2. Borussia Dortmund
  3. Bayer Leverkusen
  4. RB Leipzig

Bayern Munich looked dead in the water a week ago after top transfer target Leroy Sané’s injury. The additions of Ivan Perišić and Philippe Coutinho have given the team new life. The Bavarians still lack a legitimate backup striker, but they are title favorites nonetheless. Dortmund have kept ahold of most of their prized assets and added new ones in Julian Brandt, Thorgan Hazard and Mats Hummels, who is returning to the club after a stint with Bayern Munich. They have the firepower to challenge Bayern at the top.

Leverkusen have been rebuilding for the last few years, and after a fourth-place finish last season, now may be the right time to push up the table. Leipzig have a new, talented manager in Julian Nagelsmann, but they lack depth. The difficulty of two high-level competitions hurt them the last time they were in the Champions League. Exhaustion coupled with striker Timo Werner’s desire for an exit may make a title challenge impossible.

 

Serie A

  1. Juventus
  2. Inter Milan
  3. Napoli
  4. A.S. Roma

The Old Lady has won 8 straight Serie A titles. This type of dominance is unheard of. NBA fans complained about the Golden State Warriors’ dynasty, but imagine being literally any Italian team not named Juventus. The loss of wingback João Cancelo will hurt, but Matthijs de Ligt is perhaps the most important summer signing in all of Europe. Juve’s one weakness may be new manager Maurizio Sarri, who has struggled in locker rooms across Europe. Then again, it may not matter at all.

Inter Milan, on the other hand, have a new and tested manager in Antonio Conte, who returns to the Serie A where he last coached with Juventus. In fact, it was Conte who kickstarted the aforementioned golden age. Inter Milan added Diego Godín and Romelu Lukaku to both block and score more goals, and a manager with a championship pedigree. But will Internazionale live up to that expectation?

Napoli and Roma are stuck on the outside looking in. Both clubs have boatloads of homegrown talent but lack the financial resources that the Inter and Juventus enjoy. Napoli will be a threat, but they need to acquire more talent to support their aging stars. Roma are at the beginning of the same cycle, with a treasure chest of good, young players. This could be a breakout year for a relatively youthful squad, but to push Juventus and potentially secure a title, Roma, too, will need to spend money.

Jasper Sundeen is the assistant sports editor. Contact him at [email protected].

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