What’s the state of play in Europe’s big five leagues?


A strange season is entering the run-in, with just a handful of games to go before the end of campaigns across Europe. Relegation, European qualification and titles are still to be decided in each of Europe’s big five leagues, so here is the state of play ahead of domestic football’s return this weekend.

 

Europe’s big five leagues – the lowdown

 

Premier League

A 14-point lead means Manchester City are considered champions-elect, while at the other end of the table Sheffield United and West Brom are surely heading to the Championship.

The last relegation spot is occupied by Fulham, but Newcastle United are only a couple of points above and in dire form. Above those two, a single point separates Brighton, Burnley and Southampton but each of those teams are likely a single win from securing safety.

Champions League qualification is always a battle and everyone above Arsenal in ninth will consider themselves still in the hunt for a top-four finish, though Merseyside neighbours Everton and Liverpool might have left themselves too much to do.

Leicester City will be hoping to avoid a repeat of last season’s collapse, when a return to Europe’s elite appeared to be in the bag. In-form Chelsea are fourth but the Blues are being hunted down by London rivals West Ham and Tottenham.

Harry Kane and Mohamed Salah are tied on 17 goals in the race for the Golden Boot, but Manchester United star Bruno Fernandes is only one behind.

 

La Liga

In the second big five league, Atletico Madrid seemed certain to claim the La Liga title a few weeks back but some poor results of late have opened the door for old foes Barcelona and Real Madrid to threaten.

Barca’s winning streak – fuelled by a stunning return to top form for Pichichi front-runner Leo Messi – has cut Atleti’s lead to just four points. Real Madrid are not out of it either.

The upcoming Clasico, set for April 10, will have a massive impact on the title race. Atleti will hope for a draw in that one with Diego Simeone’s side seeking their first title since 2013-14.

Sevilla have a 10-point cushion in fourth spot with Real Sociedad and Real Betis in the Europa League places ahead of Villarreal.

With 10 games to go, nothing is decided at the bottom. Huesca, in last place, are just four points behind Elche in 16th and a host of teams – including Getafe and Cadiz – will also be nervous.

 

Serie A

Juventus have been champions of Serie A nine years in a row, but their grip on the title is slipping. Only a remarkable end to the season would see them make it 10 straight successes.

It is Inter who lead the way with a six-point lead, plus a game in hand, on city rivals AC Milan. Antonio Conte’s side finished second last year but 19 goals from Romelu Lukaku have them closing in on the Scudetto.

Only Cristiano Ronaldo has scored more Serie A goals than Lukaku, with the Portugal great four clear in the race for the Capocannoniere, but Juve could end the season without a trophy. Andrea Pirlo’s men will face Atalanta in the Coppa Italia final in May.

Atalanta are trying to hold off the challenge of Napoli for the last Champions League place, while rivals Roma and Lazio seem set to scrap for Europa League qualification in the next few weeks.

With just 15 points on the board, it is a matter of time until Crotone’s relegation is confirmed. It looks like two from three above them, with Torino only a point above the drop zone, though they have an extra game to play. Minnows Spezia and Benevento have almost secured safety.

 

Bundesliga

It has not been a procession for the European and world champions, but Bayern Munich are closing in on a ninth straight Bundesliga crown in the fourth big five league. They have a four-point lead from RB Leipzig but cannot complete a successive treble after a shock early cup exit at the hands of second division side Holstein Kiel last year.

Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski is certain to win the Bundesliga’s top scorer prize for a sixth time in his career. The Pole has hit 35 goals – 14 clear of Andre Silva and Erling Haaland – and could break Gerd Muller’s long-standing record of 40 league goals in a Bundesliga season.

Despite Haaland’s exploits, Borussia Dortmund – second in the last two years – are in fifth and in danger of missing out on Champions League qualification. Thanks mostly to Silva, Eintracht Frankfurt are four points ahead with third-placed Wolfsburg another four points away from BVB.

Union Berlin and Freiburg are unexpected Europa League contenders but Bayer Leverkusen – who have dropped to sixth spot – should improve after the recent sacking of Peter Bosz.

It is only three seasons since Schalke were runners-up but a diabolical period since then will see the Gelsenkirchen giants relegated: they have 10 points from 26 games. Mainz have put together an improved run of form to move clear and Arminia Bielefeld facing the drop with Schalke. Cologne are currently in the Bundesliga’s relegation play-off place.

 

Ligue 1

The most exciting title race of the big five leagues could actually be in France, where Mauricio Pochettino has dragged Paris Saint-Germain into top spot after taking over from Thomas Tuchel.

PSG, hunting a fourth straight title, are level on points with Lille, who have taken just four points from their last four games to surrender their advantage. PSG host Lille this weekend in what promises to be a blockbuster clash.

After losing to PSG in their last game, Lyon are three points behind in third, with Monaco a point further back. Those four will play in next season’s Champions League, with Lens – enjoying a stunning return to Ligue 1 after last term’s promotion – on track for Europa League qualification.

Kylian Mbappe’s tally of 20 goals – six clear of Memphis Depay – means the prolific 22-year-old should top the Ligue 1 scoring charts for the third season running.

Rock-bottom Dijon have lost 10 in a row, a dire run that leaves them 14 points from safety. Strasbourg and Saint-Etienne have a four-point gap to the relegation play-off spot, which is occupied by Lorient, but they are only above Nimes on goal difference. Nantes are 19th.

 


 

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