The state of affairs as Europe’s top five leagues return from the World Cup break | Popgen Tech


After Lionel Messi’s Argentina the World Cup last Sunday in Qatar, focus now returns to club football with Europe’s top five leagues set to resume in the coming weeks.

The Premier League is the first to start again, with all 20 teams in action on either December 26 or 27, while Ligue 1 and La Liga resume in the next few days.

You will have to wait until the new year for Serie A to start again, before the Bundesliga resumes with Bayern Munich’s visit to RB Leipzig on January 20.

It’s been a while since Europe’s elite took a break for the World Cup, so here’s a refresher on how things shaped up before the break.

Lusail Stadium, Lusail, Qatar

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Lusail Stadium, Lusail, QatarCARL RECINEReuters


Title race

It looks like a two-horse race in LaLiga as it looks huge Barcelona and Real Madrid are set for an epic title battle.

Barcelona have their noses in front with a margin of two points over Madrid, but Carlo Ancelotti’s side came out on top when the teams met in October.

The next El Classico will take place at the Camp Nou on March 19 and could have huge implications for who lifts the LaLiga trophy at the end of the season.

Champions League places

With Barcelona and Madrid stretching away at the top of LaLiga, Basque teams Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao are the two teams occupying the other Champions League spots.

Athletics are one of three teams on 24 points, while Villarreal in ninth place is just three points behind them champion league heroics last season.

Osasuna and Rayo Vallecano are two teams not expected to be in the race for the top four, but they sit seventh and eighth respectively and are well within striking distance.


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Relegation battle

Six-time Europa League winners Sevilla are in deep trouble at the bottom of LaLiga, with two wins in their first 14 games putting them in the relegation zone.

They have yet to win at home, and head coach Julen Lopetegui was relieved of his duties following their Champions League exit.

Seville is held from below by Cadiz and Elche, with the latter having yet to win a league game this season and picking up just four points before the World Cup break.

Big performances will be needed from World Cup heroes like Argentina’s Marcos Acuna and Morocco’s Youssef En-Nesyri and Yassine Bounou if Sevilla look to pull themselves out of trouble.


Title race

Arsenal hold a five-point lead at the topbut Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City will fancy their chances of retaining the title and have a rested Erling Haaland itching to get goals back.

Haaland has been a revelation since joining Borussia Dortmund, Scored 18 times in 13 games, although City’s pursuit of a fifth title in six years has been hampered by defeats to Liverpool and Brentford.

However, with Haaland ready to play and Arsenal striker Gabriel Jesus out for three months with a knee injury sustained during the World Cup, Mikel Arteta’s team must pick up where they left off.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta

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Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta Stuart MacFarlaneGetty

Champions League places

Newcastle United is one of the stories of the Premier League season, with a run of five consecutive wins under Eddie Howe taking them up to third place.

There’s still a long way to go, but Newcastle are in a prime position to finish in the top four of the Premier League for the first time since the 2002-03 campaign under Bobby Robson.

Tottenham currently occupy fourth position with Manchester United just three points behind in fifth, while Liverpool’s poor start sees them 15 points off leaders Arsenal.

Surprise package Brighton and Hove Albion and Chelsea are both on 21 points, but a solid run of form could put the pressure on those above.

Relegation battle

It could be a case of out of the frying pan, into the fire for Lopetegui as he was appointed as Wolves head coach in November, with the Midlands club bottom of the Premier League at Christmas. Only two teams in this position have avoided relegation in the past.

A source of comfort for Wolves fans will be just how many teams are in danger of relegation, with Bournemouth in 14th just six points above them.

Everton and Leeds United are down there again after falling short last seasonwhile 2021-22 Europa League semi-finalists West Ham United are just a point above Nottingham Forest, who are in the bottom three after a difficult start to their first season back in the Premier League after a 23-year exile.


Title race

After an incredible start, Napoli currently have an eight-point lead at the Serie A summit, the biggest among the top five leagues.

They have achieved this in impressive fashion but are yet to lose a league game this season and boast the most potent attack with 37 goals in 15 games, led by the division’s top scorer Victor Osimhen (nine goals) and new star Khvicha Kvaratskhelia (11 goal involvements), both of whom should be fresh after not playing in the World Cup.

Only three points separate Milan in second place and Inter in fifth among the chasing packbut Napoli could soon be out of sight if they can pick up their incredible form from before Qatar.

Napoli at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona on December 21

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Napoli at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona on December 21SSC NAPLESGetty

Champions League places

Just six points separate second and seventh in Serie A as teams desperately scramble to keep leaders Napoli in sight.

Inter are currently out of the top four on goal difference, while Juventus are third despite Massimiliano Allegri coming under pressure during a mixed start.

Holders Milan are second and Lazio sit fourthwhile Jose Mourinho’s Roma are well in seventh place.

Relegation battle

The three teams in the relegation zone have yet to reach double figures for points, with Spezia, who are placed 17th, six points above the drop zone.

Cremonese, Sampdoria and Hellas Verona in 18th, 19th and 20th respectively have combined for two wins from 45 games so far.

While the likes of Spezia, Lecce and Sassuolo perhaps looking over their shoulders, they can remain fairly confident of playing Serie A football next season if the bottom three maintain their awful form.

Nicola Murru of Sampdoria

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Nicola Murru of Sampdoria Simone ArvedaGetty


Title race

In the Bundesliga, Bayern won six games in a row before the World Cup, a much needed run as they have won in just one of their previous six.

This upswing in form has seen them build up a four-point margin at the topbut the loss of goalkeeper Manuel Neuer with a broken ankle sustained in a skiing accident could be a major blow.

However, it is reasonable to expect Bayern to have enough quality to see off the challenges of the likes of Freiburg and Leipzig and a 11th consecutive Bundesliga title.

Champions League places

Borussia Dortmund will face Chelsea in the Champions League round of 16but they have a lot of work to do if they are to qualify for next year’s competition after a disappointing start in the Bundesliga

They currently sit sixth and are playing catch-up, with Eintracht Frankfurt and Union Berlin also in front of them.

It should be an exciting race for the top four places, with ninth-placed Werder Bremen just six points off the Champions League places, while Seventh-placed Wolfsburg are a team to watch with nine unbeaten runs ahead of the World Cup.


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Relegation battle

Schalke have won just twice at the foot of the league this season and could face immediate relegation back to the second tier.

Stuttgart occupy the relegation play-off spot and have appealed to the former head coach Bruno Labbadia as they fight to stay up, while Bochum are between Stuttgart and Schalke.

Of the teams just outside the drop zone, Xabi Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen have won their last three games before the break and look to be steering themselves out of trouble, while Augsburg, on the other hand, have failed to win any of their past seven.

Xavi Alonso

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Title race

While a 2022-23 league title would be only Napoli’s third in the club’s historyLigue 1 leaders Paris Saint-Germain will collect a ninth in just 11 years if they see the job through.

PSG’s players played alongside Messi and Kylian Mbappe at the World Cup in a brilliant final and return to club football with the hope of working together to finally win the Parisian club’s first Champions League.

Mauricio Pochettino’s failure to win European football’s top prize last season cost him his job despite winning Ligue 1 at a gallop.and Christophe Galtier will know the same fate could befall him if PSG are defeated by Bayern in the round of 16, with the first leg to be played on February 14.

PSG’s domestic challengers include Lens and Rennes, but they face a real challenge if they are to close the five-point gap to Galtier’s side, who are unbeaten and have the division’s best attack and meanest defence.

Kylian Mbappe arrives at a Paris Saint-Germain training session

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Kylian Mbappe arrives at a Paris Saint-Germain training sessionAurelien Meunier – PSGGetty

Champions League places

While Lens and Rennes may not be able to catch PSG at the pinnacle of Ligue 1, the two teams will certainly fancy their chances of staying in the top three.

With fourth place in Ligue 1 just enough to earn a place in the Europa League, Marseille will aim to oust one of the above teams and wrestle their way into Europe’s premier club competition.

Lorient have finished 16th in the last two campaigns but an excellent start sees them in fifth place, above perennial European contenders Monaco, Lille and Lyon.

Relegation battle

Ligue 1’s relegation drop is wide open with the reduction of France’s top tier to 18 teams meaning four teams will be relegated this season.

There are just six points between 11th-placed Reims and second-bottom Strasbourgthe latter of whom narrowly missed out on the European qualification spots in the past term.

Angers props up the league on eight points, and their survival chances could take a significant hit if they lose midfielder Azzedine Ounahi, who is reportedly wanted by Barcelona after excellent performances for Morocco at the World Cup.


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