Three months of intense footballing action beckons for fans of European football as battles for the UEFA Champions League and Europa League as well as the domestic leagues heat up.
Apart from Serie A, all four major European leagues are witnessing a multi-cornered contest among the clubs for the top position.
Arsenal and Manchester United have made a spectacular comeback in the Premier League, while Borussia Dortmund and Union Berlin are challenging Bayern Munich for the Bundesliga crown.
Paris Saint-Germain’s monopoly of the Ligue 1 is seeing a threat from Marseille and Monaco. Xavi’s Barcelona could take the crown away from Real Madrid this season, as Los Blancos focus on retaining their European crown.
With title races across Europe entering the business end, let’s take a look at the state of Europe’s top three leagues
Premier League: Arsenal and Manchester City in close fight
The world’s richest league is seeing an intense three-way battle between Arsenal, Manchester City, and Manchester United for the title.
Mikel Arteta’s long-term vision at the Emirates Stadium has transformed the Gunners into a feared unit, with Arsenal accumulating 54 points in 23 games. At the start of February, Arsenal looked set to win the Premier League trophy for the first time since 2004. But since then, they lost the Merseyside Derby, dropped points against Brentford, and lost a crucial encounter against Manchester City.
This has allowed Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City to close the gap between both sides with the Citizens briefly taking the top slot in the table. A 4-2 victory over Aston Villa last week put the Gunners ahead, but their position is far from secure.
Arsenal have a game in hand. And with no European fixtures on the calendar, they can fully focus their efforts on the Premier League. Pep Guardiola, meanwhile, has to take care of Manchester City’s UEFA Champions League campaign with the Citizens failing to take a lead in the first leg of their Round of 16 fixture.
Few people expected Manchester United to come back into the title race this season, but Erik ten Hag has managed to pull his team up with a swift turnaround.
Amidst all the drama surrounding Cristiano Ronaldo’s exit from Old Trafford, the Red Devils have become a more cohesive and consistent unit. With 49 points from 24 games, they are just three points behind their intra-city rivals and have a good shot at clinching the title if either Arsenal or Manchester City falter along the way.
With a win over Barcelona in the UEFA Europa League last night, Manchester United will be the most confident team in the Premier League for the next few weeks. The title could very well be decided in the final week in a three-way battle if all three teams continue with their form.
La Liga: Can Real Madrid stop Barcelona?
Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid showed why they are one of the best teams in Europe this week as they crushed Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League.
But the defending champions have a hard job ahead of them back at home as they are eight points behind Barcelona in the title race. Tight schedules are the main issue for Los Blancos right now because they have played 15 games since the start of the year.
Carlo Ancelotti remains confident that Real Madrid are still in the hunt for the trophy. The FIFA Club World Cup champions will face Atletico Madrid tomorrow night before facing Barcelona in the Copa Del Rey semifinals.
Barcelona last dropped points in La Liga back in December with the Blaugrana winning seven fixtures in a row to extend their lead at the top of the table.
A defeat to Manchester United in the UEFA Europa League notwithstanding, Xavi’s men are having a terrific season so far. They have lost just one game in the league, sitting comfortably at the top with 59 points from 22 games.
With European fixtures now out of the picture, Xavi can also keep his players fit for the remainder of the season.
The El Clasico between Real Madrid and Barcelona on March 20 could well be the title decider.
Serie A: Napoli cruising to title win
Napoli look set to win their first Serie A title in 30 years as they march their way to the trophy. Luciano Spalleti’s men accumulated 62 points in 23 games so far in the season with just one loss and two draws.
The Azzurri’s dominance in the league could be attributed to their elite attacking unit. With 56 goals so far in the season, they have averaged a brilliant 2.43 goals per game.
Defending champions AC Milan showed great promise in the opening weeks of the season, but have since faltered in their title defence. They currently sit fourth in the table with 44 points.
Only Inter Milan have a theoretical chance of catching up to Napoli, Simone Inzaghi’s men are dropping valuable points in relatively easy games, making their path to the top harder.
Unless Napoli blunder their games for the remainder of the tournament, they are likely to become the Italian champions for the first time since 1990.
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