Title Races Across European Football
Title Races Across Europe’s Big Four Leagues & Who Leads The Pack
For the time being, we’re stuck with no football. With so much talk around the competitive seasons being postponed or just straight up cancelled, we thought we would look at each of the top four leagues around Europe and go into detail on who would be crowned champions, if all competitive seasons were cut off right now.
Premier League - Liverpool
Pretty easy place to start off. Having been top of the table since matchday 2 in the Premier League, Liverpool’s biggest worry right now is just getting the FA to hand them over the silverware. Jurgen Klopp’s side have blended together a perfectly-balanced squad with a winner’s mentality gained from last season’s European triumph, grinding their way at times to a 25 point gap lead over Manchester City, with just 30 points left in the season for the Cityzens to play with.
Liverpool’s staggering ability to find a way of winning this season is reflected in their xPTS (Expected Points) tally for the campaign, which is currently at -22.19 points better than what they ‘should’ be on. Not only is this better than the hauls of every leading side in Europe’s top four leagues put together, but it emphasises the cliched tradition of champions knowing how to win ugly.
Whilst stars such as Mohammed Salah and Virgil Van Dijk have won plenty of plaudits, arguably Liverpool’s unsung hero of the campaign has been Trent Alexander-Arnold. Not only has he been an ever-present in terms of appearances, but he leads the side for assists at 12 with an xA (Expected Assists) tally of -2.17 better than what we would have expected to see him amass. On top of that, his haul of 2.64 Key Passes per Ninety is the best of anyone in the Liverpool team, and a better record than the likes of David Silva, Son Hueng-Min, Dele Alli, Nicholas Pepe and Mesut Ozil so far.
Having beaten the Reds to the title on the last day of last season, the numbers behind Pep Guardiola’s City side this year, in the league at least, are pretty damning. The Cityzens have lost the same amount of games as Sheffield United and, whilst Liverpool can point to an xG (Expected Goals) tally of -4.97 better than what they ‘should’ have scored, Guardiola’s team have actually been more wasteful in front of goal than most teams with their haul of +5.08 fewer goals scored than what we would have expected them to register.
La Liga - Barcelona
Having only won one La Liga title against Barcelona’s four since 2012, Real Madrid were looking like mounting their first serious title challenge before this season’s La Liga was postponed, despite coming into the season as underdogs in our football odds. With 27 games played over the season, Barcelona have a two point lead over Real with the two teams on 58 and 56 points respectively.
Both sides have been far from their vintage best this year however, with Barcelona frequently reliant on the brilliance of Lionel Messi and Real Madrid still struggling to fill the void left by Cristiano Ronaldo. Barcelona have scored 14 goals more than Madrid and their xG of -11.19 is worlds away from Los Blancos’ haul of +4.48, though it should be noted that Messi has scored 19 of the Blaugrana’s 63 goals in the league with a league best xG of -3.82.
Goals have undoubtedly been the core issue plaguing Zidane and co. at the Santiago Bernabeu this campaign. Whilst Karim Benzema is second only to Messi in the race for the Golden Boot, his 14 goals so far have come with a costly xG of +2.02 fewer than what he ‘should’ have scored. What’s arguably more concerning for Los Blancos however is the fact that Sergio Ramos is their next top goalscorer with 5 goals so far. Real have undoubtedly been hindered by injuries to Marco Asensio and Eden Hazard, however the fact that Vinicius Juniour, Gareth Bale, Luka Jovic, Isco, James Rodriguez, Lucas Vasquez and Rodrygo between have not even managed to match Benzema’s tally is concerning.
For Barcelona, it’s at the opposite end of the pitch that they’re struggling for consistency. Real’s record of +6.36 xGA (Expected Goals Against) is miles ahead of Barcelona’s leaky -3.46 more goals conceded than we ‘should’ have seen. Barcelona’s xGA is actually fine for the most part, however it’s clear that mentality is a key issue and they shut off right before the intervals in a game, with their numbers jumping up to conceding -1.30 more goals than they should have between minutes 31-45, and an alarming -2.37 more from the 76th minute onwards. With no more Clasicos left in the season however, the title is Barca’s to lose for the time being.
Bundesliga - Bayern Munich
Arguably the most exciting of all the title races in Europe, the Bundesliga had four teams closely battling it out for the title at the time of its postponement. Just six points separated Borussia Monchengladbach in fourth from Bayern Munich, always a strong favourite in our football spreads, at the top of the tree, with Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig sandwiched 4 and 5 points off the top respectively.
In terms of xG for the season, the likes of Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho have contributed hugely to Borussia Dortmund’s potency in front of goal and their tally of -18.42 is not only better than Bayern, Gladbach and Leipzig combined, but it’s the best xG ratio of any side currently in Europe’s top five leagues. Dortmund are however the only side in Germany’s top four to have an xGA worse than what they have actually conceded, currently sitting at -0.99 against Leipzig’s +1.64, Bayern’s +3.35 and Gladbach’s +4.54.
Bayern Munich have won seven Bundesligas in a row since the 2012-13 season and were once again heavy favourites in our European football spread markets heading into this campaign. Whilst things were looking pretty shaky at one point under Niko Kovac, the emergence of Hans-Dieter Flick has revitalised the Bavarian outfit and their xG and xGA tallies are easily the most consistent of Germany’s top four teams. That, coupled with the vast array of experience they’ve accrued over the years in getting titles over the line, means that they stand to be Bundesliga champions once again this year.
Italy - Juventus
Another league where the leaders are locked in a tense head-to-head race, Juventus have won every Scudetto since 2011-12, a run of eight triumphs in a row. Having beaten Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan behind closed doors just before the postponement of the Italian season, Juventus hold a flimsy one point lead over closest rivals Lazio.
A tale of two forwards in some of the best forms of their respective careers, Ciro Immobile and Cristiano Ronaldo have both contributed hugely to their two sides racking up the wins this campaign. Ronaldo has bagged a whopping 21 goals in 22 games, contributing a haul of -3.65 against Juventus’ overall xG of just -0.72. Whilst this does suggest some kind of reliance on the Portuguese talisman, it’s nothing compared to Immobile’s 27 goals (and 7 assists) in 26 games, coming in with an xG of -6.78 and making up just under half of the Biancocelesti’s goals this season.
At the other end of the pitch, Juve’s defence has been the foundations of their success during their time at the top, with legends such as Gianluigi Buffon, Georgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci creating a spine that was amongst the best on the continent. And whilst their xGA this season is still at a healthy +3.10 goals fewer than what they ‘should’ have conceded, it’s practically dwarfed by Lazio’s whopping tally of +8.45.
But whilst Lazio might possess the league’s best frontman, a healthier defence, scored more goals, and have outperformed their Turin rivals at either end of the xG pitch, the title looks to be heading to Juventus for a ninth straight year.