Which Title Races Are Yet To Be Decided?
What are the closest title races remaining across the football leagues of Europe? Today on the blog Abhisar Gupta tells us that while the major leagues of Europe are all but done and dusted, there are still leagues where the title is still very much up for grabs.
Who doesn't like a title race going down to the wire!? Okay, if your team loses it on goal difference you probably won't enjoy it as much as others but there can be no denying the fact that the competitive aspect of sport is one of its chief draws.
The big footballing nations of Europe are going to be a disappointment in that regard this season. Bayern have won it with six games to spare and it will be a massive surprise if Manchester United, Barcelona, Juventus, or even PSG aren't crowned champions given the comfortable leads they have at this stage.
Worry not! There are some other European leagues where there's still plenty of fight left. Eden Hazard, Vincent Kompany, Marouane Fellaini, Thomas Vermaelen, or Jan Vertonghen might not get their hands on the Premier League title this season but the most riveting title race is probably on right now in Belgium.
Who Will Win The Belgian Pro League?
The Jupiler Pro League in Belgium is currently ranked 10th in the UEFA Coefficients and was recently restructured in the 2009-10 season to include play-offs at the end of the season. It's is a complex system to determine the winner, the relegation candidates and fill the Europa League spots.
The winner is determined by a play-off series between the top six teams. It's a mini-league in itself and each team plays the other twice (home and away). The teams also start with half the points (rounded up) they'd earned in the regular season. This system, while it has its critics, ensures a high level of competition for the top spot.
This year Anderlecht (34 points), Zulte-Waregem (32), Genk (28), Club Brugge (27), Lokeren (26), and Standard Liege (25) made it to the play-offs. The numbers in brackets represent the points they carried into the play-offs based on their performance in the regular season.
These teams will now play 10 games each and already the first 3 rounds of fixtures have brought them closer.
The top two at the start of the play-offs (Anderlecht and Zulte-Waregem) have not won any of their three games. In contrast, Standard Liege and Genk have picked up 10 and 7 points respectively (albeit with one extra game) and put themselves right in the mix. Only 9 points separate the sides and there are just 5 points between the top five teams.
The nature of the system is such that teams earn more points from the play-off games than from those in the regular season (because they are halved). So form at this stage of the season is everything. It's not an ideal system in the eyes of many but it does produce more games between the top sides and keeps the excitement going. Keep an eye on the results, it's going to be fun.
From Belgium we go to the land of Stoichkov and Berbatov.
Who Will Win The Bulgarian A PFG?
Bulgaria's A Professional Football Group also known as NEWS7 Football Championship is headed for a tantalising finish. 5 clubs are separated by 8 points with eight games to play.
Ludogorets are the defending Champions and current leaders. They're closely followed by the two staunch rivals from the capital city Sofia - CSKA and Levski. You probably have heard their names in the context of the Champions League in recent years. Lovech won the League in 2009-10 and 2010-11 so they too are a team that's generally been near the top in recent years.
Botev Plovdiv have an interesting story. They suffered administrative relegation in early 2010 due to financial troubles and dropped down to the third tier. In the 2010-11 season they went unbeaten in the third tier winning 37 of their 38 games to secure promotion. Last season they won the second division or the B PFG to return to top flight. Now they're in the hunt for the country's top division trophy. It could be some fairy tale!
The Canaries or the Yellow-Blacks, as they're known, have the second best form in the last five games and could move up the table if those above them continue to drop points. CSKA Sofia - a club where the likes of Stoichkov, Berbatov, Martin Petrov, and Stilian Petrov have played - have the best current form and would be keen to add to their League-best 31 domestic titles, the last of which came way back in 07-08.
It's worth noting that the two teams above them are also unbeaten in the last five games and will be equally motivated. There seem to be five genuine contenders for the Bulgarian top flight. It might not be the most glamorous trophy but if you love plot twists in a title chase this race will most likely not disappoint.
Who Wil Win The Luxembourg National Division?
They might be minnows in the football world but the top flight is certainly up there in the competitive stakes this season.
5 points separate the top four sides with seven games still to be played. F91 Dudelange have won three of the last four League titles and could make it a hat-trick of wins if they can sustain their unbeaten form from the last eleven League games.
Jeunesse d'Esch won the Title back in 2009-10 and would be looking for another shot at Champions League qualification. Differdange 03 have finished 4th in the last three seasons and have won the domestic cup a couple of times in recent seasons. They too have been unbeaten in their last eight games.
On the other hand, current leaders Fola Esch have not won the National Division since 1929-30 and the last time they won the domestic cup was back in 1954-55. Surely, they must be desperate to get their name back on some silverware.
All the teams look like genuine contenders and this one could go down to the last day.
Who Will Win The Macedonian First League?
The Balkan state of Macedonia provides another thrilling contest for the top division title.
Only 1 point separates the top three clubs with eight games to play. Turnovo have never won the top flight title and their inexperience in this regard might cost them. Metalurg have been Runners Up in the last two editions and will surely want to go a step further this time.
Five straight wins definitely signal their intentions. Vardar are the team with most titles and the defending champions. Their winning experience could come in handy but their form in the last five games does not quite attest to that. This trophy might be decided by the games between the top three sides.
There aren't many other multi-pronged title fights around Europe but the following competitions are worth a dekko.
Who Will Win The Czech Liga?
Viktoria Plzen and Sparta Praha (Sparta Prague) are fairly well known teams to the followers of European football. They're going neck and neck for the title.
Jablonec were within six points but last Saturday's massive defeat has left them 9 points behind with 7 games to go giving them an outside chance at best.
Other Title Races Worth Keeping An Eye On
Apart from these contests there are several other title duels across Europe where at least two teams are fighting it out:
- Galatasaray hold a 4 point advantage over Fenerbahçe with five games to go in Turkey.
- The story is exactly the same in Portugal with Benfica leading Porto by 4 points with 5 games to play.
- In Poland Legia Warsaw hold a 4 point lead over Lech Poznan but there are eight games to play.
- The battle in Switzerland might also get the neutrals involved as Basel and Grasshopper Zurich are separated by 3 points with nine rounds of action remaining. St Gallen might also have a say in the race as they trail the leaders by 9 points.
- In Russia, CSKA Moscow lead Zenit St. Petersburg by 6 points with 6 games to go in the Russian Premier League. Anzhi Makhachkala will probably not make up the 10 points gap to the top in that period.
There you have it. Those are some of the most interesting title battles I found around Europe. Whether you're bored of the one-sided nature of the major League title races or back yourself to have a quick punt on a close contest, check them out and you might discover some unexpected excitement.
Follow Abhisar on Twitter: @goonerdesi
And read more of his work on his blog Desigunner.wordpress