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European Soccer Preview 2009-2010: The Big Three

By TSSCrew / 08.14.09

Football talk dominates the headlines now (especially with Vick landing in Philly), but across the pond, the coming weekend brings about the dawn of the futbol season in England. Just last week, the top divisions in both France and Germany also kicked off, with the likes of those in Spain and other countries to follow suit as August winds down.

Besides battling for the championships in their respective leagues, clubs around Europe will also be vying to stay in the top four (or top three in Germany, France, and Russia, and top two in Turkey, Holland, Greece, Scotland, etc.) to qualify for Champions League football in 2010/11 to compete for continental supremacy (this year’s spots obviously have been decided). Here’s a club-by-club rundown of those most likely to nab those coveted CL spots from the three top leagues in Europe.

England (EPL)

*Awash with more Arab money cash than any other league in the world, the Premiership’s Big Four (Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Manchester United) has now expanded into a wide-open Big Six, with Manchester City and Tottenham looking to deliver on their substantial investments.

1. Chelsea

2008/09 EPL Finish: 3rd

2009/10 Champions League participants: Yes

Bringing in a disciplinarian last season didn’t work out with all the big-name stars in their roster. With ex-AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti in to manage the egos instead of battle them this time around, look for him to coax the best out of the likes of primadonnas such as Didier Drogba and Nicholas Anelka.

2. Manchester United FC

2008/09 EPL Finish: 1st

2009/10 Champions League participants: Yes

Wayne Rooney simply can’t compensate for the loss of the best player in the world. But with pure wingers in Antonio Valencia and Nani, as well as Michael Owen and Dimitar Berbatov upfront, they’ll lack movement but retain the same fixed point system that gave them success with Ruud Van Nistelrooy. The difference between then and now will be the steel in midfield that Fletcher and Anderson will provide as compared to the failed Alan Smith-John O’Shea midfield experiment from a few years ago.

3. Arsenal FC

2008/09 EPL Finish: 4th

2009/10 Champions League participants:
Yes

It’s been a long time coming but the youngsters will finally click. Ivorian defender Toure’s absence will be forgotten with a maturing Alexandre Song and Arsenal will finally have the firepower to make up for Henry’s departure from a few years ago, as long as Eduardo Andrei Arshavin—and supply line Cesc Fabregas—stay healthy.

4. Manchester City FC

2008/09 EPL Finish: 10th

2009/10 Champions League participants: No

The rise will be that swift. Chelsea proved money can be silverware and the additions of hard-workers in Kolo Toure, Carlos Tevez and Gareth Barry will add industry to a team with finesse (Robinho, Emmanuel Adebayor).

5. Liverpool FC

2008/09 EPL Finish: 2nd

2009/10 Champions League participants: Yes

The fall will be that swift. Once Ronaldo left Manchester, the title was Liverpool’s to lose. (As predicted) Xabi Alonso left and Javier Mascherano wants to head to Barca, breaking up the most complete, cohesive centre midfield this side of Barcelona’s triumvirate.

6. Tottenham Hotspur FC

2008/09 EPL Finish: 8th

2009/10 Champions League participants: No

Every year Spurs splashes out on talent, but they never seem to sign what they need: central defenders. In Ledley King and Jon Woodgate, they have England’s most talented defenders of this era, but also the treatment room’s busiest customers.

SPAIN (LA LIGA)

1. Real Madrid CF

2008/09 La Liga Finish: 2nd

2009/10 Champions League participants: Yes

No defense? None needed. Workhorses Esteban Granero, Lassana Diarra and the emerging Fernando Gago will be this edition of Madrid’s Fernando Hierro and Claude Makelele. The addition of Xabi Alonso will make this arguably the most well rounded midfield in the world. Don’t forget a front three of Kaka in the middle, with Benzema and Ronaldo swooping in from out wide. Scary.

2. FC Barcelona

2008/09 La Liga Finish: 1st

2009/10 Champions League participants: Yes

Simply put, Barca got shook from all the noise Madrid made. Ever the egoist, new striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic may seriously wreck the beautiful chemistry of a once-perfect front six. It couldn’t last forever.

3. Sevilla FC

2008/09 La Liga Finish: 3rd

2009/10 Champions League participants: Yes

Managing to hold onto Luis Fabiano yet again, they should hold up strong with Didier Zokora supplying the midfield spark they missed when Seydou Keita left for Barca.

4. Valencia CF

2008/09 La Liga Finish: 6th

2009/10 Champions League participants: No

Despite being flat broke, they managed to hold onto a strong core, including Spanish internationals David Villa and Silva. With the World Cup approaching, Manuel Fernandes will look to stake his claim in the Portuguese national team and solidify the role Costinha held down.

ITALY (SERIE A)

1. Internazionale

2008/09 Serie A Finish: 1st

2009/10 Champions League participants: Yes

The nerazzuri made out like bandits in giving up Zlatan Ibrahimovic in exchange for a shit ton of cash and Samuel Eto’o. With his speed, the African Player of The Year will destroy Italian defenses and Argentinean striker Diego Milito would help fill the void left by Zlatan even more so. And don’t think manager Jose Mourinho will let them lose their winning mentality.

2. Juventus FC

2008/09 Serie A Finish: 2nd

2009/10 Champions League participants: Yes

The race will be tight. With Pavel Nedved enjoying retirement, Brazilian Diego will step in to fill his boots. Compatriot Felipe Melo will complement, perhaps improving towering striker Amauri’s goal output. Giorgio Chiellini and Zdenek Grygera will add the steel in the back. Juve will win the title come 2010/11.

3. ACF Fiorentina

2008/09 Serie A Finish: 4th

2009/10 Champions League participants: Yes

Star striker Alberto Gilardino will continue to thrive under manager Cesare Prandelli, as he makes a push for a berth in the Italian national team. The same will motivate the graceful midfielder Ricardo Montolivo to steal ageing Andrea Pirlo’s spot in the World Cup roster.

4. AS Roma

2008/09 Serie A Finish: 6th

2009/10 Champions League participants: No

With the attacking talent in this squad, they should be top two, but the terry-cloth backline will once again be their downfall. They won’t have to worry about AC Milan at their heels—the Rossoneri won’t challenge Roma unless Alexandre Pato wins the Golden Boot.


TAGSChelsea SCEngland (EPL)European SoccerEVERYTHING ELSEFC BarcelonaGolden BootInternazionaleITALY (SERIE A)Real MadridSevilla FCSoccer/FutbolSPAIN (LA LIGA)SPORTSVIDEOS

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