Football emerged as a huge relief amid the coronavirus pandemic as it provided people with a much-needed outlet during these difficult times.
After a break of over three months, the 2019-’20 campaign across Europe’s top leagues was concluded within a window in July and August before the new season kickstarted across these leagues straight away in September.
The European campaigns – Champions League and Europa League – were squeezed in the gap between the two seasons leaving some of Europe’s top sides with virtually no break between the campaigns.
This non-stop football seems to have taken the toll on some of Europe’s elite teams who are usually involved in a large number of games during a season.
A month into the new seasons across Europe’s top five leagues, a common trend is quite visible. Unexpected table toppers. As the big teams battle fatigue and a lack of pre-season, some of the lesser teams have grabbed the opportunity with both hands to set the early pace in these competitions.
Here’s a look at how the tables look in each of Europe’s top five leagues
Aston Villa who narrowly escaped relegation last season are the only team in the Premier League after five round of matches to have a perfect record. Their 1-0 win over Leicester City helped them secure a fourth win on the spin.
Just behind them in second place are Everton who are unbeaten in the league so far having beaten the likes of Tottenham already.
Among last season’s top four sides, only defending champions Liverpool are in the top four spots as things stand with Chelsea in seventh place, Manchester City in tenth position and Manchester United languishing in 14th spot.
Liverpool who have failed to win their last two matches have conceded 13 goals this season making them the league’s joint-worst defence in the Premier League.
The story is similar in La Liga. Real Madrid and Barcelona both lost this weekend to leave the door open for other teams to take charge of La Liga. Real Sociedad and Villareal are now top of the standings with Getafe in fourth place.
Newly-promoted Cadiz who stunned Real Madrid on Saturday are in fifth positions as Barcelona are down in ninth place.
Atletico Madrid are the only unbeaten team in La Liga this season but have only won two out of their four matches and occupy the eighth position on the table.
Sevilla are in the tenth spot while Valencia are 13th in the table.
While AC Milan are a huge club, few expected them to be early pace-setters in Serie A. Inspired by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Milan are enjoying their best start to an Italian football league season since 1995-’96 when they won the title under Fabio Cappello.
Just below in the second spot are Sassuolo who finished eighth last season. Atalanta are the only team among last season’s top four to be in the Champions League spots as things stand.
Juventus are fifth winning only two out of their four matches so far, while Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan who were finalists in the Europa League last season are in sixth after defeat in the Milan derby at the weekend.
AS Roma are seventh while Lazio who will play in this season’s Champions League are in 14th place.
Bundesliga is perhaps a bit more on the expected lines but Bayern Munich not being on top of the league is a bit of a surprise considering the way they ended last season destroying each and every team that came in their path. The European champions were stunned 4-1 by Hoffenheim this season and since have not been at their best.
Borussia Dortmund were also beaten by Ausburg but have been playing decent football otherwise.
RB Leipzig, semi-finalists in last season’s Champions League are the Bundesliga leaders as things stand. Not completely shocking, but definitely not everyone’s favorites especially considering they lost Timo Werner to Chelsea in the summer.
Lille lead the Ligue 1 after seven matches and the fact that PSG aren’t top is always a big surprise. Last year’s beaten Champions League finalists made a disastrous start to their new season falling to back-to-back defeats. However, the French champions have since recovered to win their next five games and are second in the table.
However, Lyon who also reached the Champions League semi-finals last season are down in ninth place after only winning two out of their seven matches so far. Andre Villas-Boas’ Marseille have also made an indifferent start with just three wins out of seven matches.
AS Monaco are also in seventh place. The Ligue 1’s big teams have little reason to complain as the 2019-’20 campaign was decided on points-per-game rule. But back after a long break, the players are perhaps struggling to be at their best allowing the smaller teams a chance against them.
It’s still early days and the big guns of European football are expected to regain control at the top of their respective domestic football leagues.
But with the 2020-’21 Champions League and Europa League campaigns beginning this week, the fixture pile-up will test even the best of clubs across Europe.
The unexpected faces at the top however are an exciting development and with football set to be behind closed doors for a good part of the new season, and the big guns facing a task on their hands to compete on multiple fronts. The exciting early new development might just flourish into a fairytale.
It’s 2020 after all, so expect the unexpected.
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