How are Europe’s major leagues shaping up at the winter break?
In many respects, we don’t know how lucky we are to have football on over Christmas here in England. Although the Premier League and Football League continue right through the festive period, it’s not the same case in other major European top-flights.
As football in Spain, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany and France enters winter breaks of varying lengths, that got Coral’s football experts thinking about what the state of play is on the continent in these domestic divisions?
Here’s our progress reports from those respective countries.
It looks like just being a two-horse race for the Scudetto, with reigning Italian champions Juventus leading Roma by three points after 16 matches. Nine back are a trio of teams with Eternal City outfit Lazio ahead of Rafa Benitez’s Napoli on goal difference.
Then come surprise packages Sampdoria and Genoa, who both hail from the port city by the Ligurian Sea. Whether either side has the stamina to remain in the top six remains to be seen.
Underachieving AC Milan, Fiorentina and Udinese follow, with Palermo completing the top half ahead of Roberto Mancini’s Inter Milan. Parma look doomed to relegation already as they have just six points (nine from safety) following a deduction for failing to pay players’ wages.
Cesena and Cagliari occupy the other spots in the bottom three, while Atalanta and the two Verona teams (Chievo and Hellas) trail Torino and Empoli, with minnows Sassuolo punching above their weight in 12th.
It’s realistically a three-way race for the Spanish top flight title, as defending champions Atletico trail Madrid rivals Real by four. Barcelona are just one point back from Los Blancos, but Carlo Ancelotti has the comfort of a game in hand over the Catalan giants.
Valencia, Villarreal, Sevilla and Malaga make up a very familiar best of the rest, ahead of gallant Galician club Celta Vigo, who are one of three teams on 20 points. Basque Country new boys Eibar plus Espanyol are the other two in the top 10.
Athletic Bilbao lead the bottom half from Madrid’s lesser known pair Getafe and Rayo Vallecano. It’s just the bottom seven in immediate relegation danger with David Moyes’ Real Sociedad heading this mini-league following 16 matches.
Levante, Almeria and Granada all have their heads above water for now, as Deportivo La Corunna, Cordoba and Elche all occupy spots in the drop zone.
There’s method in the madness of eccentric Argentine coach Marcelo Bielsa, as his Marseille side are leading the way in France after 19 games. They are two clear of the other team that have Olympique in their name, Lyon, with reigning champions PSG a point further back.
St-Etienne, Monaco and Bordeaux are all in the mix for European places, ahead of Rennes, Reims and Montpellier. Lille, a side often plundered by Premier League teams for the talent it produces, sit a lowly 13th in mid-table alongside Toulouse and behind Nice and Guingamp.
Nobody in the bottom half is safe from a relegation battle, with Lorient, Lens and Metz just outside danger. Evian are inside on goal difference, but it’s going to be hard for Bastia and Caen to come up with a survival bid.
Could this be the year when PSV Eindhoven break the domestic Dutch domination of Ajax? Frank de Boer’s Amsterdam outfit trail by four points at the halfway stage in a 34-game campaign.
Rotterdam giants Feyenoord are the closest challengers, while former champions Twente and AZ Alkmaar are on course for the European play-offs. Chelsea’s feeder club, Vitesse Arnhem, meanwhile, joined Heerenveen in mid-table.
Six sides from Rotterdam’s other team, Excelsior, down will be worried about relegation. Minnows Dordrecht look set to drown, as they have just seven points and that makes them nine from safety already.
Bayern Munich have an 11-point lead in their bid to retain the German title for a third successive season, and that looks a mere formality now. Wolfsburg sit six ahead of Bayer Leverkusen, who head the European challengers.
Four points separate Borussia Monchengladbach (fourth) from Eintracht Frankfurth (ninth), with Roberto Di Matteo’s Schalke, Augsburg, Hoffenheim and Hannover also in the mix. Promoted Paderborn and Cologne join Mainz in mid-table, meanwhile.
Below them are five Bundesliga heavyweights that no longer seem to pack much of a punch. Hertha Berlin, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Werder Bremen and Jurgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund all have a relegation battle on their hands, and Freiburg prop up the table.