By Teo Icliyurek
Mid-March is upon us and most of Soccer’s main leagues are three quarters of the way done already. In a rather active second-half-of-the-season, there have been notable changes in the power struggles among Europes best. The assessed leagues below, long considered the world’s most prestigious, are: the most-followed Barclay’s Premier League, the rising Bundesliga, the ever-present Liga BBVA (better known as La Liga), Italy’s Serie A, and Ligue 1.
Barclay’s Premier League:
The consistency of both Chelsea and Manchester City make analysis a very easy task. As early as September/October, it was clear that these two teams, especially Chelsea, would be at the top of the table. Since deposing Southampton earlier in the season, Chelsea have remained top for 194 days, and are currently 5 points clear of Manchester City with one game in hand. Furthermore, Manchester City remain 4 points clear of third, despite a slight dip in form that saw them lose to Liverpool on March 1st and Arsenal, who sit behind City. The final spot currently belongs to the red side of Manchester who, also with a (quite huge) dip in form, are only 2 points clear from 5th place Liverpool and seem to be prone to lose their Champions League position.
This is one league that was never really going to be questioned, at least not for the first spot. Since 2011/2012, when Borussia Dortmund won their last domestic league trophy, the Bavarian side has been dominant both domestically and internationally. With their longest losing streak being of 1 game (a 4-1 defeat to not-so-title-contenders Wolfsburg), they sit clear at the top 11 points clear of their aforementioned defeaters. (Borussia Dortmund, sitting 10th after an appalling start to the season aren’t anywhere to be seen and thus only get parentheses). Second place currently belongs to Wolfsburg with 50 points, and third belongs to Borussia Monchengladbach. The gap between first and third is 20 points, ridiculously large. The only truly interesting thing to see (other than such Bayern thrashings as their 8-0 victory over Hamburg and breathtakingly quick soccer), is the 3rd place race. Monchengladbach, in third, keep the position from Bayer Leverkusen by 2 points and from Schalke and Augsburg by 3. Bas Dost’s impeccable form, consisting of 13 goals and 2 assists in 13 games (which is “holy shit” worthy), and Wolfsburg’s ability to feed him see them likely to retain their second spot and comfortable European qualification.
La Liga BBVA:
Now here things get interesting. In a matter of a few weeks, Atletico coach Diego Simeone publicly stated his side were no longer in the title race, former leaders Real Madrid lost to Athletic and drew against Villareal, and Barcelona leap-frogged into first. It was indeed crazy, almost worthy of a documentary. Barcelona currently sit one point above Real Madrid, with 62, and 7 above Atletico Madrid. Their scintillating form, capped off with a 6-1 thrashing of Rayo Vallecano, sees their form go to 15 wins of the last 16 and 25 in the last 28. Hey, Luis Suarez is back, Messi broke Ronaldo’s hat-trick record, and they currently sit top with an amazing run of form. Real Madrid, on the other hand, seem exhausted not only through their results but also in the way they play. Gareth Bale is being booed constantly, Ronaldo only mustered 5 goals in 8 in all comps, and Benzema seems to be atrocious.
Juve are in the lead (surprise, surprise). They are 11 points clear of second place Roma (50) and 15 points clear of third place Lazio (46). Roma, in second, seem to be quite lucky to be there with 7 draws out of the last 8 matches (the other being a 2-1 win against Cagliari on Feb 8th). This is the equivalent of 7 points out of 24 available — quite embarrassing for the league if one may say. Lazio, in third, are coming off a 4-0 thrashing of Fiorentina with much better form than the capital’s side.
Another one of the interesting leagues these days, Ligue 1 has been thrilling. For the first time in a while, we see a top three point difference of only 4, meaning more than just one team (I’m talking to you Serie A, Bundesliga, and BPL) actually has a shot at winning this thing. On Saturday, PSG wrecked at Lens, winning easily with a score of 4-1. This put them in first, leaving Lyon 2 points behind with a game in hand. Lyon took made the most of a 1-0 scoreline as they rose to the occasion, beating Montpellier 5-1 in an amazing comeback after form that had seen them score only one goal since January (whether you follow soccer or not, thats embarrassing). Needless to say, braces by both Nabil Fekir and Alexandre Lacazette saw the side cruise back into what might be winning form. They currently sit first, with 57 points, only one above PSG (56), and four above Olympique Lyonnais, whose 6-1 abusive victory over Toulouse saw them maintain a 6 point lead over 4th place Monaco who are coming off a UCL victory over Arsenal (Monaco also has a game in hand).