The 2021-22 season has reached the halfway stage in the top four football leagues — Bundesliga, Premier League, Serie A, and La Liga.
Some of the title races look well on their way to being wrapped up already, while in others, the battle seems much more closely fought.
As the battles gather pace, here’s an analysis of the standings in four top leagues across Europe:
English Premier League (Favourites: Manchester City)
Pep Guardiola’s incredible Manchester City machine seems to already have one hand on the title, having a 10-point lead over second-placed Chelsea, who sit at 43 points.
Last year, City won the Premier League and even made it to the Champions League final, only to fail at the last hurdle in Europe. But what is important is that this version of the team maybe even better as they haven’t lost any of their star players and have gained significantly with the blockbuster signing of Jack Grealish for 100 million euros.
What makes City’s current success especially impressive is that their marquee signing has hardly played, having only had 13 full starts, showing the depth of the squad, who have multiple world-class players across pretty much every position. Even considering the strength of the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea, it’s difficult to see anyone knocking off City from the top spot.
Other Contenders: Liverpool and Chelsea
Last year, Liverpool barely made it into the top four because of an unfortunate rash of injuries to their center-backs and people were questioning whether it may be the time for the Reds to move on from manager Jurgen Klopp, citing possible burnout as the reason for last year’s mediocrity. All those critics have been silenced this season as Liverpool have simply been incredible, racking up 52 goals in 20 games behind only City.
The return of Virgil Van Dijk and Joel Matip from injury has seen the defence revitalised; on the opposite end, Mohamed Salah and Diogo Jota have been equally impressive, with Salah, in particular, shining brightly, as on his current form he has a very legitimate claim of being European club football’s best attacker this season.
Incumbent Champions League holders Chelsea FC started off the season looking like the favourites to win the title, with strong performances by goalkeeper Edouard Mendy seeing them top the table.
Though their form has stuttered since then, they continue to impress: they have conceded the second-fewest goals and scored the third most in return, with their German mastermind Thomas Tuchel evolving his tactics this season to get the best out of wing-backs Ben Chilwell and Reece James.
It is a testament to the strength of the League that all three of these contenders can be considered among the top five European teams, showing that even though the League may seem to be over, with teams of this quality anything is possible.
Bundesliga (Favourites: Bayern Munich)
To say that Bayern are favourites would be quite an understatement as not only are the German giants the record holders with 31 league title wins, but have won the last-nine Bundesliga titles in a row.
Managerial wunderkind Julian Nagelsmann has not made drastic tactical changes to what his predecessor Hansi Flick was doing, but the few changes he has made have been extremely well-thought-out, with the biggest being the shifting of Leroy Sane from the right to the left-wing. It has seen the German speedster hit new heights in a Bayern shirt.
Bayern also have a striker whom many consider being the world’s best. Robert Lewandowski has already scored a whopping 20 goals in only 18 games. Though the gap between Bayern and second-placed Dortmund is a not-insurmountable five points, it is hard to look past them as most likely winners of this year’s competition.
Other Contenders: Borussia Dortmund and Hoffenheim
Though Borussia Dortmund lost their star, Jadon Sancho, to Manchester United, their results in league play remain unaffected as they sit on 37 points with Erling Haaland, in particular, going from strength to strength. The young Norwegian has notched up an admirable tally of 13 goals and five assists from only 11 starts.
While the team looks positive on the attacking end, the main sticking point is their leaky defence. They have conceded 28 goals in 18 games so far. Veteran defender Mats Hummels has come under heavy fire for his lacklustre performances lately. Only if they sort their backline out can they prevent their rivals Bayern from wrapping up a 10th straight title victory.
Hoffenheim have been a surprise package this season. After all, in the last season, they finished only 11th, sitting comfortably in the midtable. This year, they find themselves surprisingly in third place. If they are to pull off what would be a monumental upset by winning the league, they will no doubt look to their talismanic striker Andrej Kramaric, who has been their standout performer for the last few seasons.
Though he has not hit the goal-scoring heights he usually does Kramaric’s their top provider with seven assists. If the goals start coming as well, the implausible may seem less plausible, game by game.