Europe’s top dogs as winter sets-in…
Posted on January 1, 2015
The UEFA Champions League is on the back burner at the moment, but already it’s pretty predictable how this season’s competition will develop over the coming months. But what about next season? As many of Europe’s top leagues have a winter break, how are the top clubs positioned to qualify for the 2015-16 competition?
Spain: Goal-happy Real Madrid (55 in 15), Barcelona and Atletico Madrid are all looking likely group stage qualifiers. Valencia are currently in the frame for the fourth La Liga spot and the play-off round.
England: Chelsea (10 points ahead of third position) and Manchester City are favourites to fight out the Premier title. Manchester United are coming up on the outside for the third group stage slot. The fourth play-off round place is going to be an interesting fight. Arsenal, as always, will be aiming for this position, but Southampton have it at present. West Ham will also be casting an ambitious eye at it.
Germany: Bayern Munich are a shoe-in for top spot (a margin of 11 points already) and with Dortmund’s decline, everything else is up for grabs. Wolfsburg and Bayer Leverkusen are currently in second and third respectively and the other play-off slot is currently in the hands of Borussia Moenchengladbach.
Italy: The poor showing among Serie A clubs is threatening Italy’s ranking in the UEFA pecking order, but at present Juventus are doing their best in the UCL to keep the flag flying. They are top of the Italian league with Roma three points behind in second. These two are clear of the rest of the pack. Italy have a third spot and Lazio are keeping the Roman challenge going for the play-off place.
Portugal: Benfica, six points clear at the top of the Primeira Liga, are favourites for top spot and nobody will be surprised that Porto are in second place. Sporting Braga are in the UCL play-off spot at the moment, but under pressure from Vitoria de Guimaraes.
France: Marseilles are the surprise Ligue 1 leaders at the halfway stage, two points ahead of Lyon. At present, Paris St. Germain, who have become the draw specialists this season (eight from 19 games) are in danger of having to go through the qualifying stage of the competition if they cannot turn draws into wins.
Russia: Zenit St. Petersburg are seven points clear at the top of the Russian Premier, ahead of CSKA Moscow, who are in contention for the UCL play-off. Dynamo Moscow and Krasnodar are challenging for that second place.
Netherlands: PSV Eindhoven are in the lead in the Eredivisie, four points ahead of a lack-lustre Ajax. Feyenoord are having a surprisingly good campaign so far in third place.
Ukraine: Dynamo Kiev are ahead at the winter recess in troubled Ukraine – can they break second-placed Shakhtar Donetsk’s six-year grip on the title?
Belgium: Club Brugge are the current leaders, four points ahead of reigning champions Anderlecht.
Turkey: The three Istanbul heavweights are battling it out at the top, with Besiktas two points ahead of Fenerbache and three ahead of Galatasaray. Only two can get a crack at the Champions League, though, with one group stage place guaranteed.
Greece: PAOK have top spot and are favourites for the group stage, but are one point ahead of Olympiacos.
League leaders elsewhere:
Austria: Red Bull Salzburg
Bosnia Herzegovina: Siroki Brijeg
Bulgaria: CSKA Sofia
Croatia: Dinamo Zagreb
Czech Republic: Viktoria Plzen
Denmark: FC Midtjylland
Georgia: Dinamo Tbilisi
Poland: Legia Warsaw
Romania: Steaua Bucharest
Some very familiar names there, but most of these can only dream of a Champions League group programme in 2015-16.