European soccer previews

By Mark Villani

Barclay’s English Premier League

As Manchester United reach the end of their “glory, glory” era with star manager Alex Ferguson hanging up his whistle, the Premier League looks wide open this year as a number of teams could make their mark early. With new managers at Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea, one can expect an interesting display of tactics on the pitch.

There have been some upsets early this season as Manchester City was defeated by the newly promoted Cardiff City in only their second match of the year. This should be nothing to be worried about in the eyes of City fans. It’s early and this team has a lot of potential working with a new handful of world-class transferred players such as Jesús Navas and Stevan Joveti´. After they get a few more matches under their belt, this team will get into an entirely new rhythm of winning football.

Now that the transfer period is over there have been some key acquisitions, most notably Arsenal’s acquisition of Mesut Özil from Real Madrid. This dark-horse team could surprise this year even after suffering an eye-opening defeat in their first game against Aston Villa this year, and losing young midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to injury. Manchester United also made a statement signing Belgian midfielder Marouane Fellaini on the final day, but it’s questionable whether this team will adjust to another attacking midfielder and whether or not this addition will benefit or hinder the Red Devils.

The team to watch this year however is Liverpool. They play a simple game with a striking counter-attack. With Luis Suárez returning from suspension soon, this squad could very well win it all. As the season moves forward, Chelsea has the upper hand under the guidance of star manager José Mourinho. Their balanced style of defensive play combined with a controlling midfield and fresh young attackers will make this team a force in the Premier League this year. That being said it is extremely early, and this season will surely be a roller-coaster ride.

Winner: Chelsea

La Liga BBVA

The Spanish league always amazes the football world with the likes of the El Classico: FC Barcelona versus Real Madrid.

With the signing of Neymar to Barcelona, it will be interesting to see how the young 21 year old adjusts to this new European-style of play. He has shined so far, yet his play may have hindered the performance of Lionel Messi as the pair went scoreless in the recent Spanish Super Cup. On that note however, new manager Gerardo Martino needs to give Neymar a chance to develop some chemistry with this powerhouse offence as defence may be a bit of an issue this year for Barcelona.

Real Madrid is known for their record-breaking transfers and Gareth Bale is yet another addition to that reputation, as he was reportably brought over via a 96 million euro deal with Tottenham.

The Bale deal is the icing on the cake for this team. Cristiano Ronaldo is at the top of his game and his experience combined with the skill of Bale will be unstoppable. This team is balanced, featuring a strong attacking force and talented footballers with elite skill sets.

Winner: Real Madrid

Italian Serie A

The Italian league has brought forth some of the most competitive clubs in Europe. This year there is a battle between Italian giants Juventus and arch-rivals Napoli.
Juventus has certainly made a comeback from their recent Calciopoli scandal of match-fixing in 2006 by winning back-to-back Serie A titles and two Supercoppa Italia championships.
Behind manager Antonio Conte and his recent acquisition of superstar Carlos Tévez, this may very well be one of the best years for Juventus with young players Arturo Vidal and French phenom Paul Pogba truly gaining some chemistry within the hub of the midfield. This team is an attacking force behind a stellar midfield and an average set of defenders.

Napoli is a club who will surely challenge Juventus this year and may even win it all. With their new manager and former Chelsea boss Rafa Benitez, some key changes have been made to this all-star lineup. Former Real Madrid star Gonzalo Higuain is the new face of the Napoli offence. The midfield will be strong and supportive of an average defence behind keeper José Reina who will be looking for a championship season after getting his first few starts this year.

Winner: Juventus

German Bundesliga

The Germans bring forth a terrific, organized structure of play that is simple yet effective. The reigning winners of the Champions League, Bayern Munich are sure to be back at it this year for their defence of the Bundesliga championships and German Cup. The team who won everything last year has acquired key midfield Mario Götze from rival club Borussia Dortmund as well as Spanish star Thiago from Barcelona, who will reunite with new manager Pep Guardiola. They will surely have a well-structured team in the midfield as they adjust to Guardiola’s style of play along with a solid defence and great attacking options up front.

However, Borussia Dortmund will have something to say about Bayern’s dominance. Led by Polish superstars Robert Lewandowski and Jakub Blaszczykowski, Dortmund’s attack is stunning and early on this season they have shown their attacking dominance on the pitch. Though they may be lacking on the back line, if any team is going to give Bayern a run for their money, it’s Borussia.

Winner: Bayern Munich

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