The Welsh Gull

Torquay United, the Football League and other stuff

My Ultimate Championship predictions – Europe

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Reminder: the deadline for Europe predictions (along with Conference predictions) is Friday 10th August at midnight. Entries will be accepted after but will be subject to points penalties.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a European Football Expert, but I’m having a go at these anyway. It’s not like I’ve got much of a choice, what with it being my own competition.

Ligue 1

1. Paris Saint-Germain
2. Lyon
3. Lille
4. Bordeaux
5. Marseille
6. Montpellier
7. Toulouse
8. Rennes
9. Valenciennes
10. Sochaux
11. Saint-Etienne
12. Nice
13. Bastia
14. Nancy
15. Evian
16. Lorient
17. Reims
18. Troyes
19. Brest
20. Ajaccio

I know virtually nothing about French football at the moment, so you’ll have to bear with me. PSG are clearly the team to beat after spending a gazillion Euros on quality players and Carlo Ancelotti as manager. Lyon, Lille, Bordeaux and Marseille are the other main forces – Montpellier upset that last year but I can’t see them doing it again, especially without Olivier Giroud; great squads for smaller teams are invariably dismantled rapidly in this day and age. I’ve gone for Lyon and Hazard-less Lille above Bordeaux because they’ve got good core sides. Marseille are rebuilding but I can’t see them having another disastrous season.

The rest of it is basically me looking at past form and trends, and guessing from there. I know a little bit about the clubs involved but not enough to make a reasoned judgement. But then again, sometimes the less you know the better – I’ve tried guessing in the past by looking at squads, and occasionally that’s the opposite thing to what I should have done.

Bundesliga

1. Bayern Munich
2. Borussia Dortmund
3. Schalke
4. Bayer Leverkusen
5. Stuttgart
6. Hannover
7. Werder Bremen
8. Mainz
9. Hamburg
10. Hoffenheim
11. Borussia Monchengladbach
12. Wolfsburg
13. Nuremberg
14. Freiburg
15. Greuther Furth
16. Augsburg
17. Eintracht Frankfurt
18. Fortuna Dusseldorf

If I know the least about Ligue 1, then I only know a little bit more about the Bundesliga, widely regarded as the most unpredictable of the major leagues of Europe.

Bayern are always a good bet for the top, so I’m going with them (as I did last year). Dortmund, though, surprised me – I expected them to struggle as they lost players, which didn’t happen. Thus in spite of losing Kagawa and possibly more players in the future, I should imagine they will continue to do well. I wouldn’t be surprised if they won again.

The mid-pack is very competitive. Schalke and Leverkusen are reliable top half picks. Stuttgart, Hannover and Werder Bremen will be there or thereabouts in the battle for Europe. Monchengladbach, last year’s surprise package, have qualified for Europe and thus I can’t see them maintaining their form of last year.

Down the bottom, I’m going with two of the promoted sides to go down, and Augsburg, promoted in 2010-11, to end up in the relegation play-off. I don’t know why but I’ve got a feeling Greuther Furth will survive in the first season in the top flight since the club was formed by a merger.

Serie A

1. Juventus
2. Internazionale
3. Roma
4. Napoli
5. AC Milan
6. Lazio
7. Udinese
8. Parma
9. Fiorentina
10. Palermo
11. Bologna
12. Chievo
13. Catania
14. Sampdoria
15. Torino
16. Genoa
17. Cagliari
18. Siena
19. Atalanta
20. Pescara

I know a bit more about Serie A than the previous two leagues, but I think it is one of the easiest to predict because there is such a divide between the top and bottom teams. At the top, there’s a group of about 7 or 8 clubs competing for European spots. At the bottom, you have the same old yo-yo clubs.

To win it I’ve gone for reigning champions Juventus, but I expect Inter to push them under their new young coach Andrea Stramaccioni, who I hope will be the man to rid them of the Mourinho hangover. Roma could surprise under Zdenek Zeman. I expect Napoli to be Europa League contenders so I think that might hinder them slightly in the league, but I’m putting them above AC Milan who are currently selling off or releasing their crown jewels – it may be a few years before they are contending for the title again.

Mid-table is again anyone’s guess, while at the bottom, I’m tipping Torino and Sampdoria to survive, but Pescara, now without Zeman, to go straight back down, along with perennial strugglers Atalanta and Siena.

La Liga

1. Real Madrid
2. Barcelona
3. Valencia
4. Atletico Madrid
5. Athletic Bilbao
6. Sevilla
7. Real Sociedad
8. Osasuna
9. Espanyol
10. Deportivo La Coruna
11. Mallorca
12. Real Betis
13. Levante
14. Celta Vigo
15. Real Valladolid
16. Granada
17. Getafe
18. Rayo Vallecano
19. Real Zaragoza
20. Malaga

Being the only one of the four leagues to be on Sky Sports (as opposed to ESPN, which I don’t get), La Liga is the European league I know most about. And, like Serie A, it’s another league where you can easily divide the top teams from the rest.

History suggests that when Mourinho gets a team winning, they stay winning. Thus, I can’t see Barcelona recovering enough to beat them, even with David Villa’s return. Plus you have to bear in mind that the loss of Josep Guardiola will affect them in some way, as good a manager as Tito Vilanova may be.

Valencia seem to be settled in 3rd for all their financial issues. This may be because their nearest rivals keep getting bogged down in long Europa League campaigns. Atletico and Athletic could edge them but I don’t expect them to.

I’ve predicted all 3 of the promoted sides to survive. Deportivo, back after a year’s absence, will probably pick up where they left off. Celta Vigo and Valladolid will probably be down the bottom somewhere but maybe not immediate relegation. I’ve gone for Rayo and Zaragoza because they only just scraped survival last year, and Malaga because it is now clear that they are in massive financial trouble with a fire sale to come. They could easily go down, if they even make the end of the season.

Cups

Champions League: I’ve gone for Real Madrid for obvious reasons. I can’t see a Mourinho team failing again.

Europa League: Napoli, because they did well in the Champions League last year and the Spanish run in this competition can’t go on forever. I should think they will at least make the semis which should give me some points.

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Written by James Bennett

August 5, 2012 at 14:00

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