2018-09-26 21:52:40 UTC
(or Wolfsburg, Kaiserslautern, Hellas Verona, Montpellier etc - teams
that unexpectedly came from nowhere to win championships)
I was thinking about this at the beginning of the season, but in the top
leagues, the prospects of the established order being upset seem pretty
dismal already. I had hopes of Everton and Leicester, for instance, but
in spite of strengthening their team (Richarlison, Bernard, Zouma,
Digne, Mina) the former are already quite far behind. They did play
very well against Arsenal and should really have won. Watford were also
looking intriguing, but now have been brought to earth. And of course
the most important factor is that Chelsea, Man City and Liverpool are
off to flying starts and it seems improbable that all three of them
would have the wheels fall off this year.
Same in Spain, today's results notwithstanding. And Italy looks like
being dominated by the usual suspects, with Bayern and PSG unlikely to
be challenged, and if they are challenged, it will be by teams like
Lyon, Marseille, and Dortmund (especially now that Hertha have been
So which leagues can we look at for unexpected winners? Probably not
Portugal (though Braga are hanging in there), nor the Netherlands (look
at the table). Perhaps Belgium (Genk doing well, but they are hardly
rank outsiders), though it is early days, and the format allows the
Anderlecht/Bruges cartel to make up a lot of ground in the championship
Russia does have a couple of outsiders high in the table right now, but
still behind Zenit. Turkey, only six games in, does look interesting,
However, casting my view around Europe, one of the best prospects of a
surprise champion is in Scotland, where Hearts are in first place,
unbeaten, on 16 points from 6 games, 5 ahead of the nearest contenders
(Rangers, Hibs, and Livingston (!)). Celtic are only sixth -having lost
to Hearts and Kilmarnock. I don't expect Hearts to hold on to first,
but it would be great if they did. Steven Naismith is performing
wonders for them, and has been restored to the Scotland side (where he
scored in their last game).
If we forget about championships, what do you folks think are the teams
in the various leagues most likely to force themselves unexpectedly into
the Champions' league spots (i.e. teams that have not made the CL in
years, and not obviously spent a fortune for an assault on those places
England - ain't going to happen. There are six contenders for the CL
(not all equal) and three of them slipping up is too much to ask this year.
France - maybe Lille ? Off to a decent enough start, and they are a
fairly big club with a big new stadium and some resources. Bouncing back
from a terrible year last year, flirting with relegation, they could get
into the top 3, especially if Monaco continue to do poorly.
Germany - Bremen and Hertha have shown early signs of doing something.
But here there are 2 spots perennially up from grabs - Leipzig,
Hoffenheim, Gladbach have all made it there, and Leverkusen and Schalke
regularly. Schalke are stinking up the joint so far, which offers an
opportunity to someone. Let's say Bremen just for fun.
Italy - I can't see anyone outside Juve, Napoli, the two Milan teams and
the two Rome teams doing it. Maybe Fiorentina. But I am pretty ill
informed about Serie A.
Spain - with none of Sevilla, Atletico, Real and Barca sputtering all
that badly, there seems to be no room.
If we made this a contest (sophisticated or not) who would you predict
as your best bets to make the CL as outsiders ?