John Gillespie ’20
Much has changed since writing last about Liverpool hitting Man City for 3 at Anfield back in November. This was truly the last time anyone looked like interrupting the one-speed league leaders. The Reds have now all but officially run away with the league and any neutral’s interest with the Premier League lies in seeing how the rest fill in the top four in such a top-heavy (that is, the very top) year. The title could be won at Goodison Park, which would continue the trend of dominance in the latest Merseyside Derbies while tasting just that much sweeter for Liverpool. Four English teams remain in the Champions League with Manchester City facing the toughest challenge of the bunch against Real Madrid.
Their focus remains with the competition as Pep Guardiola hopes to fill a void in his trophy cabinet that he has yearned for since his days with Barcelona. His team’s home Apr. 4 contest remains the toughest obstacle on Liverpool’s road to bringing the undefeated season back into style. The bookies have City as favorites to win the Champions League, but form would grant Liverpool the benefit without the doubt. The competition finally returns on Tuesday, Feb. 18 with Liverpool in action against Real Madrid.
Though Liverpool has one hand on the Premier League trophy, the rest of Europe moves humbly along. Italy, Spain and Germany are all posed for what will be thrilling title races until the finish. Lazio and Inter look to make nothing easy for serial Scudetto winners Juventus in a race that has historically been one-track-minded. Bayern Munich look to be finally threatened with some real substance this time around, as Leipzig’s dynamic displays just might put them over the edge in the Bundesliga, with Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Mönchengladbach both not far behind.
Spain is a particularly interesting situation, with storylines having teemed from the country throughout the season; only some of them relate to what has happened on the pitch, however. Most recently, Barcelona sporting director Eric Abidal struck up a public feud with Lionel Messi over the players’ ultimate performance levels in the last days of Ernesto Valderde’s tenure, prompting Messi to publicly lash out on his Instagram profile and spark transfer rumors connecting him to Manchester City.
Pep Guardiola has come out and publicly stated his desire for Messi to stay with Barcelona, quickly putting a lid on the situation. Messi’s blaugrana and Zidane’s Real were both on the end of devastating Copa del Rey eliminations. Considering what the eleventh hour had in store for Quique Setien’s men, Barcelona will now be only aiming for Champions League and domestic league triumphs.
Zidane’s men look increasingly dominant and stable, two words that often go hand-in-hand in the footballing world these days. A fourth consecutive Champions League victory for Zidane in the seasons he has last managed los blancos looks on the cards, with Eden Hazard’s return to active participation only solidifying those chances and making it more likely that another League victory will be in the future for Zidane and his men. The season is certainly sure to be exciting with so many major developments.
Matches to look forward to in this upcoming season include Barcelona taking on Real Betis in what will be Setien’s return to the Benito Villamarín and surely a thrilling game, and Manchester United taking on Chelsea on the Monday of the upcoming Champions League matchweek for what will be a contested match without question.