What to Expect for the Rest of the European Soccer Season
The run-in begins this weekend.
Now that the final international break of the 2018-19 season is in the books, here’s what to expect from in the five major European leagues and two tournaments as the 2018-19 season reaches a climax .
Four of the eight remaining teams are English. It’s the first time in a decade that four English clubs have advanced to the final eight and they all have a legitimate shot at lifting the big cup. Manchester City — who are chasing an unprecedented Quadruple — face Tottenham, while Liverpool have been handed the easiest task in matching up against Porto. Manchester United, on the other hand, have the toughest task, facing two difficult legs against Barcelona. Ajax and Juventus represent the last hope for the Netherlands and Italy, respectively.
And the favorite is… Oddsmakers in Britain have made Manchester City slight favorites over Juventus and Barcelona. Given the pressure of trying to pull off the Quadruple and an extremely tight race for the Premier League, however, it seems Barcelona are best positioned to win the tournament. If they do, it will mark the sixth consecutive win for a Spanish side, and the eighth in the last 11 tournaments.
There is a fantastically tight title race in England. Both Liverpool (76 points, 31 games played) and Manchester City (74 pts, 30 games) could get near the fabled 100 points by the end of the season. Both clubs are still in the Champions League, so player management and injuries are going to be vital over the next eight weeks. City is also trying to win the FA Cup, adding at least one more match to their schedule.
Their remaining schedules are about even in terms of strength, but Man City will have to play Tottenham and Man United in a crucial period. Liverpool finishes with a tricky match against Wolves. And the favorite is… um, Man City? Or Liverpool. One of those two for sure.
Europe and Relegation. Tottenham, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United are in a scramble for the final two places in next year’s Champions League. And Wolves great season could end with them grabbing an unlikely place in next year’s Europa league.
At the bottom of the table, Huddersfield and Fulham are basically already relegated, while Cardiff (28 pts), Burnley (30), Southampton (30), Brighton (33) and Crystal Palace (33) are scrambling to stay up.
In Spain, Barcelona is dominating. The Catalan giants are 10 points clear of Atletico Madrid and 12 in front of Real Madrid. Only a catastrophic collapse would prevent them from winning their 26th league title. They are also on course to capture their 31st Copa Del Rey. They face Valencia for the title on May 25th. They could win a rare treble if they also capture the Champions League, which is a much tougher task.
Germany has a legitimate title race. Bayern Munich, who have won the past six titles in a row, are deadlocked with Borussia Dortmund, who captured the crown in the two seasons prior to Bayern’s current streak. Both clubs are on 60 points with eight matches to play. And the favorite is… The edge goes to Bayern, who have been on great form over the past month, while Dortmund has let a once comfortable lead dwindle to zero. Bayern were knocked out of the Champions League, but can still make it a double by winning the German Cup (DFB-Pokal).
Nothing to see in Italy, move along. Juventus currently enjoys a massive 15-point lead with 10 matches to play, so the Turin-based club looks sure to capture an eighth consecutive title (their 34th overall). They were knocked out of the Italian Cup (Coppa Italia), but remain in the Champions League. And as they proved in the last round, any team with Cristiano Ronaldo should never be counted out of anything.
Speaking of nothing to see, PSG has left the others in the dust. Paris Saint-Germain has an eye-popping 20 point lead in the title race, so officials might as well hand them their seventh crown in the last eight years. They are also well positioned in the Cup (Coupe de France), facing Nantes in the semi-finals.
The second most important club tournament in Europe is down to the quarterfinals. The Europa League produces some great matches, even if television providers in the U.S. force viewers to pay to watch the matches. Two big English clubs — Chelsea and Arsenal — are the feature attractions, facing off with Czech Republic side Slavia Prague and the only Italian club left, Napoli, respectively. The latter match is the highlight of the round.
Also challenging for the title are representatives from Spain (Valencia and Villarreal, who face each other), Portugal (Benfica), and Germany (Eintracht Frankfurt).
And the favorite is… This is a tough one, though Chelsea has been made the slight favorite by the English oddsmakers. Arsenal, Valencia and Napoli are all strong options, though. A Spanish or English club has taken the title each of the last seven seasons.
What else to watch for
Women’s soccer has been making huge strides this season. In England the Women’s Super League has been drawing big crowds and playing high quality football. And in Spain, 60,739 turned out earlier this month to watch the Barcelona women’s side take on Atletico Madrid’s women’s club. That was a world record crowd for a women’s match.
Violence and racism remains a big, ugly problem. English star Raheem Sterling has been the subject of racist abuse on multiple occasions this season, and has emerged as the face of the resistance. A spectator jumped onto the pitch and punched a player in the English second division recently, and violent behavior from fans have marred matches in Greece and Scotland.
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