With surprising races among a handful of clubs in three of Europe’s top leagues, we take a look at the tables in the Premier League, La Liga, and Bundesliga.
If you haven’t been living under a rock, you will undoubtedly have heard about the unbelievable run Girona are having in La Liga this season.
Taking a trip northeast, you’ll find a similar situation unfolding in Germany. Just about any football fan this millennium would’ve picked Bayern Munich to win the Bundesliga in any given season — but the nearly inevitable German giants are far from sure things to win it all over halfway through the 2023-24 campaign.
Inspired by teams currently going further than anyone thought they could this season, we’ll look at the hottest ongoing title races among some of Europe’s top leagues, picking a winner for each one while also looking back at a similar tight sprint to the finish from years past.
The Spanish top flight is the most exciting battle of all thus far, mostly thanks to how unexpected it has been. The Albirrojos sit atop the La Liga perch at the time of writing, currently a point clear of European elites Real Madrid, and a staggering eight clear of Atletico Madrid and Barcelona.
Champion Prediction: Real Madrid
Girona are on an unreal Cinderella run. They are well-coached, play gorgeous football, and always seem to find a result. Yet somehow, it just doesn’t feel like Real Madrid are going to falter down the line. When the going gets tough, Real get tougher, and I expect them to outlast Girona. It may very well go down to the last day, however.
Historic Title Race: 2015-16
Another title charge that went down to the final day, the 2015-16 La Liga season was one to remember. The legendary MSN front three led Barcelona, Atletico Madrid was in peak Simeone years just a season removed from a title win themselves, and Real Madrid featured a super team that would go on to three-peat in the UCL. The quality that all three teams had in their squad was unprecedented.
Barça had their destiny in their own hands, needing a win to secure back-to-back titles and take a step towards the treble. Cometh the hour, cometh a Luiz Suarez hat-trick to seal a 3-0 win for the legendary Barcelona squad.
With half of the season played, it’s a clear two-horse race. Bayern, still to everyone’s shock, find themselves second in the league with 47 points, 10 points clear of Stuttgart in third. They’ve scored the most goals (56), have the best goal difference (+38), and joint most wins (15); yet somehow there’s a team above them.
Xabi Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen are currently unbeaten through 19 league games played. What’s more absurd is that they are yet to lose a single game across all competitions this season. Alonso has an almost perfectly profiled squad for his style of play, and there are so many standout players for Bayer this season. They’ve shown no signs of slowing down either.
These two sides met early on in the season and battled out a 2-2 draw at the Allianz Arena in a superb game for the neutral, and the reverse fixture on February 10 will have huge title implications. Get your popcorn.
Champion Prediction: Bayer Leverkusen
You’d struggle to find a better-coached team in Europe, and Leverkusen have the perfect blend of squad talent, determination, and experience; with a young hungry coach who’s willing to take risks and more often than not sees the rewards. Bayern will pose a consistent threat and bet on them battling all the way, but my money is on the underdog this time.
Historic Title Race: 2022-23
We don’t have to think back far for one of the most enthralling German title races ever. Maybe a bit of recency bias at play here, but the drama of the 2023 final day was unmatched.
It all came down to goal difference. Going in, Dortmund led the league and had their fate in their grasp while Bayern looked set to finally relinquish the throne. Twenty-four minutes into Dortmund’s game they were 2-0 down at home to Mainz. I don’t often use the term bottle job, but this situation warranted it.
Despite fighting back to draw the game level in the 96th minute, a last-minute Jamal Musiala strike gave Bayern the win and the title.
The past half-decade of the English top flight has often been a two-dog race between Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City and Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. Last year we saw Arsenal throw their hat into the mix and look like real contenders for most of the season before their eventual dropoff. This season we see those three still in the thick of it, but with a couple of surprise packages as well.
Aston Villa is the biggest headline. Unai Emery has come in and molded this team into a super-aggressive, high-intensity side that has already taken massive scalps in the first half of the season. The other name in the hat, albeit as an outside bet, is Tottenham. Ange Postecoglu has made a huge difference and despite a host of injuries, they sit just three points off second place.
As it stands, Liverpool sit atop the league, five points clear of Manchester City with a game in hand. The worrying thing for their rivals is that they just seem to get results in whatever situation, no matter the variables. Pep’s side has yet to flip that good ol’ Man City switch in the second half of the season that sees them transform into a near unbeatable machine. It’s a matter of when rather than if though.
Arsenal in third on 46 points, tied with City, will have their say in how the title is decided, but it’s difficult to pick them over two juggernauts that have been there and done that.
Champion Prediction: Liverpool
Jurgen Klopp recently announced this would be his final year as Liverpool manager, and as much as football isn’t scripted, I just cannot imagine anyone but the Reds winning it all. It would be a picturebook ending to the career of one of the greatest managers in Premier League history, and with this squad that he’s built more or less from the ground up, and how intensely they fight for him, I’ve got Liverpool winning the league.
Historic Title Race: 2011-12
No other words needed.