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What’s Going on Around Europe?

By | 9th March 2009

real-madridIf you’re like me, the world revolves around the English Premier League. You work five days a week only to get to the weekend. When Saturday morning rolls around, the rain clouds appear to be moving in, and scarves and flags are everywhere you look, you know it’s football time. Throughout all of this, though, I seem to lose sight of the rest of Europe and the other top leagues. With all of Europe’s leagues getting to the tail end of the season, let’s see what is happening around the continent:

France

For the past six seasons Lyon have easily taken the Ligue 1 crown. In the 2008/09 season, Lyon appear to have some competition. While the Champions League club are still sitting atop the French league with 53 points, Paris St. Germain stands only one point back with 11 games to go. Marseille rounds out the top three with 49 points (three back on PSG). Former Champions League finalists Monaco have been off their usual pace and find themselves in an extremely disappointing 13th place, just four points above the relegation zone.

Toulouse’s Andre-Pierre Gignac continues his spectacular form in France as he heads the golden boot race. The French striker has 16 league goals in 27 appearances. Is a move to England or another top league on the cards? Only time will tell. One striker who is a target for the bigger clubs is Lyon’s Karim Benzema, who is fourth in the leading goalscorer race in Ligue 1 with 12 goals.

Germany

The Bundesliga has perhaps been the most topsy-turvy league in the world this season. While Bayern Munich were expected to steamroll over the competition, quite a few other clubs have thrown their hats into the ring. After 23 games this season, Hertha Berlin sit atop the Bundesliga standings with 46 points. Four points lower sits Bayern Munich, who have been chasing that top spot all season. The biggest surprise this season has been the excellent form of Hoffenheim, a newly promoted club, who are tied with Bayern Munich on points. Wolfsburg and Hamburg both also have 42 points, making it a four-way tie for second place.

Leading the way for Hoffenheim this season has been Vedad Ibisevic, a striker from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ibisevic has 18 league goals in only 17 league appearances! Familiar figures Patrick Helmes and Mario Gomez are trailing in the goalscoring race, with 17 and 14 goals respectively.

Holland

Like the Bundesliga, the Dutch Eredivise has a bit of an unusual look this season. Long gone are the days where Ajax, Feyenoord, and PSV would run away with the league. This year, AZ Alkmaar sits atop the league in convincing fashion. AZ have 66 points, while their closest competitor, Twente, have 55 points. What’s so familiar about Twente? Yes, that is Steve McClaren’s side sitting in second place in the Eredivisie. Ajax surprisingly sit in a UEFA Cup spot in third with 52 points, breathing down Twente’s necks. Heerenveen round out the European spots on 51 points. From there, PSV sit far back on 46 points, desperate to finish in a UEFA Cup spot at the very least.

AZ’s success has come on the back of Mounir El Hamdaoui’s 20 league goals in 25 league appearances. The Moroccan striker is five goals ahead of his competition in the goalscorer’s table, as three players are tied on 15 goals (Blaise N’Kufo, Danijel Pranjic, and Marcus Berg). Klass Jan Huntelaar, now at Real Madrid, still is the 20th highest goalscorer in the Eredivisie.

Italy

While David Beckham and AC Milan have been stealing all the headlines this year, Jose Mourinho and his Inter Milan side have quietly (or not so quietly) been going about their business. With 11 fixtures left, Inter sit comfortably on top of the Serie A, seven points above second placed Juventus. AC Milan are currently on course to be in the Champions League again next season, as the Rossoneri sit in third place, 5 points back from Juventus and 12 points back on Inter. Fiorentina round out the top four. Further back, in sixth, Roma are trying to climb the table to overtake Genoa, who surprisingly are in fifth place.

The golden boot race in Italy is a little surprising this season, with 32 year old Marco Di Vaio leading the way. His 19 league goals in 27 appearances puts him above Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Alberto Gilardino, and Diego Milito, who are all on 15 league goals.

Portugal

Over in Portugal, the usual suspects are at it again. Less surprising than the other European leagues, FC Porto, Benfica, and Sporting lead the list. Only four points separates first placed Porto and third placed Sporting, which proves it is still anyone’s league to win. Braga continue to hold their own, as they seek to make that fourth placed spot – and a UEFA Cup spot – their own. Nacional de Madeira and Leixoes, though, are both only one point back of Braga.

Nene, of Nacional de Madeira, appears to be running away with the golden boot this year, with 15 league goals. His closest competitor is Liedson of Sporting, who only has 9 league goals. Five players are tied for third place with 8 league goals.

Scotland

If you’re looking for a surefire bet, the Scottish Premier League is for you. As always, Celtic and Rangers fill the top two spots in the league, with Celtic on top once again. The Bhoys are three points ahead of the Gers, and the Old Firm have firmly separated themselves from the rest of the table. Hearts occupy their usual third spot, twelve points away from second placed Rangers. Dundee United occupies the other UEFA Cup spot. Not much to see here…

As lopsided as the Scottish table is, the goalscoring table looks the same. Kris Boyd of Rangers is head and shoulders above every other striker in the league, as he has an astounding 21 league goals in 25 appearances. Celtic’s Scott McDonald and Giorgios Samaras (formerly of Manchester City) are tied for second with 12 goals apiece.

Spain

When Juande Ramos took over the Real Madrid reins, Barcelona was quite comfortable with a 12 point lead over Los Blancos. Only six points now separate the two Spanish giants, while Sevilla and Villareal occupy the other two Champions League spots. Malaga and Deportivo la Coruna are both challenging for top four spots, though, as both clubs are just three points back on Villareal. Much improved from last season,Valencia find themselves in the top half again, despite their financial struggles. Valencia are in 8th place, just one point back of 7th placed Atletico Madrid.

Back in top form, Barca’s Samuel Eto’o leads the league’s goalscorers with 23 goals in only 25 games. David Villa sits on 19 goals, while Diego Forlan and Lionel Messi both have 18. 

With so many exciting leagues winding down over the next few months, football fans around the world are in for a real treat. The Premier League and all of these other leagues are full of great storylines, and no matter what you’re looking for, I’m sure one of the top European leagues can offer it. Stay tuned to Premiership Talk for occasional updates on all of these leagues and more.

What’s your favorite European league? Have your say in the Premiership Talk Forum!



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