The most expensive man in football - but is Gareth Bale enough for Real Madrid to overturn their arch-rivals, in Spain or in Europe? (Image via faniq)

The most expensive man in football – but is Gareth Bale enough for Real Madrid to overturn their arch-rivals, in Spain or in Europe? (Image via faniq)

It has to be said – we are all relieved that the football season is now back in action. A lot of transfers have occurred this summer with a lot of teams willing to spend immense sums, such as Real Madrid and Barcelona (on Gareth Bale and Neymar respectively), and others choosing not to break the bank such as Manchester United.

The Armchair Pundits takes a look at the potential fortunes of the big 3 in Europe and offer predictions of who will be league champions in their respective countries.

Ligue 1 (France)

Potential Champions: Paris Saint Germain

The season so far: PSG have not had the ideal start they were hoping for, considering their first two matches ended in a draw and with the Swedish international striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic suffering a miniature “goal drought” even though he was very involved delivering a few assists. In the transfer market, however, new coach Laurent Blanc was able to add the much needed speed that was lacking in PSG’s game with the Argentinian speedster, Ezequiel Lavezzi.

Lavezzi responded immediately, grabbing the winner against newly promoted Nantes, and featured in the next match against also newly promoted from Ligue 2, Guingamp. Even though it took two newly promoted teams for the Parisians to grab their wins, it’s clear that PSG have finally found their stride.

Signs of success

1. Edinson Cavani and Zlatan Ibrahimovic

The purchase of Edinson Cavani is one of the biggest reasons why everyone should view The Red and Blue as title contenders. Cavani has been one of the greatest and most potent strikers in Serie A the last couple of years behind his new teammate Ibrahimovic, and the prospect of him joining up with the big Swede presents a possible dream pairing.

Ibrahimovic – the clinical finisher with great awareness and assists – linking with Cavani’s amazing finishing could on paper become one of the most formidable striking duos in France and even in Europe. Cavani has started his season well with two goals in four appearances in Ligue 1.

2. Having the best squad in France

Not a lot of coaches can boast that they have the best squad in their domestic league, but Laurent Blanc can. Any side would be happy to have such a broad selection of amazing talents and complete players as the likes of Brazilian superstar Thiago Silva, explosive winger Lavezzi and one of the better goalkeepers in Europe, Salvatore Sirigu.

The mercurial trio of Ezequiel Lavezzi, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani are arguably the best front line Ligue 1 has ever seen (Image | AFP)

The mercurial trio of Ezequiel Lavezzi, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani are arguably the best front line Ligue 1 has ever seen (Image | AFP)

Even though Blanc hasn’t produced a very convincing start with The Parisians, it’s obvious that these players should not be doubted. It’s a shame really that these players haven’t started to shine yet as before the season started, many thought that PSG were serious contenders for the Champions League.

Serie A (Italy)

Potential Champions: Juventus

The season so far: Juventus’ first win was somewhat shaky as they only managed to win by a goal against Sampdoria but nevertheless all doubts were put to rest in their next match against Lazio. Carlos Tevez has shown why he brought into the team from Manchester City as he has scored back to back so far in Serie A and with his second goal being quite the beautiful one.

Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal have started the season exceptionally well in the heart of midfield, with both contributing in numerous goals and assists. It seems like the manager of the Bianconeri, Antonio Conte, has a battle plan ready and will be trying to put Juventus back on the European footballing map.

Signs of success

1. The thick black-and-white line

Many would claim that Juventus have an almost unfair collection of talented and amazing defensive players. With players such as Leonardo Bonucci, Angelo Ogbonna, Pogba, Vidal and Giorgio Chiellini it’s obvious that the Bianconeri are not kidding around and ready to take the Serie A and Uefa Champions League by storm as they’ve got the right mix of talented and experienced defensive players. Paul Pogba is especially excelling at his role at Juventus and has the potential to eventually become one of the greatest midfielders to play the game of football.

2. Antonio Conte

There are several coaches who are hungry every season and then there is Antonio Conte. For the last two years he has been showing everyone why he is a big player in football with back to back Serie A titles with even achieving in the 11-12 season the invincible status during the Serie A campaign by not losing a single game.

 

Back from a 10-month suspension in relation to match-fixing allegations, Antonio Conte is once again at the helm of Juventus (Image | Getty)

Back from a 10-month suspension in relation to match-fixing allegations, Antonio Conte is once again at the helm of Juventus (Image | Getty)

As Juventus coach the only silverware that is missing in Conte’s trophy cabinet is the UEFA Champions League which we all know that Conte and the Bianconeri will be eager to win and will try their best to do so with their impressive team and squad depth. His difficulties with the Italian footballing authorities seemingly behind him, Conte is back to continue Juventus’ long road back to the top.

La Liga

Potential Champions: FC Barcelona

The season so far: FC Barcelona’s first match against Levante U.D. ended 7-0, a scoreline which many fans associate with the trashing FC Barcelona received from Bayern München in the Uefa Champions League last year. It was symbolic to many supporters of the Blaugrana as this is how they want their season to start – full of hope and attacking football that many people have come to love and hate.

It has to be noted that Cesc Fabregas managed to get 5 assists in the Levante match which is half of the assists that Fabregas managed last season in La Liga. Fabregas, who has emerged unscathed from a summer of rumour linking him with a move to Manchester United, is ready to prove his worth at Barcelona and to show that he finally deserves a starting position for the team.

Argentinian international, Lionel Messi has also shown why he is the best player in the world by scoring 5 goals in 3 matches in La Liga with 3 out of those goals coming in the same game against Valencia CF. Neymar is slowly and surely integrating himself into the Blaugrana side and even managed to score against Atletico Madrid in the Supercopa España.

Signs of success

1. The self-playing piano

With Tito Vilanova resigning from FC Barcelona in the middle of the summer many thought that the Blaugrana would struggle under the new manager, Gerard “Tata” Martino. But the Barcelona squad has basically remained the same since the 2009 season and this gives FC Barcelona the edge on their arch-rivals, Real Madrid.

FC Barcelona is a self-playing piano. It might sound harsh to say but it’s the truth considering the only “drastic” move that was very correctly done is shift Lionel Messi from right wing to the false 9 position.

Other than that, the philosophy has stayed much the same: a 4-3-3 formation with possession play and the 6 second rule defensively for the Blaugrana. It’s a winning tactic and has proven to be so as FC Barcelona have won a title every year since 2009 – although it should be noted that teams are finding better strategies towards this type of play.

2. Lionel Messi

Arguably one of the greatest football players of all time, if not the greatest, Lionel Messi is a one of kind player. La Pulga, as Messi is so affectionately known in Argentina, is one of those players that can take care of a match on his own either through scoring or assisting. He is capable of amazing passes, breath-taking ball control, great shots and an amazing efficiency in his goal scoring – like when he scored 91 goals in one calendar year in 2012.

His record of goals per season just keeps getting better and better as the seasons go by. Since 2009, Messi has scored 38, 47, 53, 73 and 60 goals respectively and so far in this season has managed to score 6 goals in 5 appearances for FC Barcelona. There’s no stopping the little Argentinian and he still wants to prove why he should be considered the greatest of all time. Lionel Messi is FC Barcelona’s biggest asset and his fitness and form will prove the difference in the title race between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Have your say | Tweet the author | Kevin Nissanka

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