Who are the most promising and exciting teams around Europe?
The start of the 2020/21 season has already had its ups and downs for many teams across Europe. However, there are some out there that stand out from the rest, having started much better than expected.
Even though we are 2 months into the season, some teams remain undefeated, some are overachieving compared to what everyone had predicted for them, and some look like they are serious title challengers. Either way, there are a lot of clubs that have stepped up ahead of this season and their hard work on training ground and in the transfer window is starting to pay off. Whilst only 5 have been mentioned in detail within this list, many more will be recognised at the end!
Here is a look at 5 European teams that YOU must keep an eye out for this season
Typical formation: 4-4-2
Manager: Christophe Gaultier
Captain: Jose Fonte
Key Player: Renato Sanches
LOSC Lille are one of the most exciting teams in all of Europe! Having proven already in the 2020/21 campaign that they are a well organised side both at the back but also going forward. Christophe Galtier has put together a promising attacking side with the necessary group of experience that includes Jose Fonte and Burak Yilmaz.
In recent years, the clubs recruitment has been nothing short of successful. From the signings of Renato Sanchez and Jonathan Bamba to the that of Jonathan Ikone. Having focussed on picking up top-quality talent from other French clubs setups. Mike Maignan has played over 120 times for Les Dogues, having been picked up from the PSG B team, a similar career path that can also be said for Jonathan Ikone who made the move from PSG to Lille, for a significantly cheap price.
The club has used the sales of the likes of Eden Hazard, Rafael Leao, Victor Osimhen and Gabriel Magalhaes to build the foundations for the future. Having used the money bring in great young talent such as Sven Botman (to partner Jose Fonte in defense), Jonathan Bamba and Domagoj Bradaric. Not to mention the recent 30 million euro signing of Jonathan David from KAA Gent.
How have they been performing?
Lille so far remain undefeated in their Europa League campaign. Most noticeably beating AC Milan 3-0 at the San Siro. As they have only lost once in Ligue 1, sitting 5 point behind in second place PSG.
Lille have signed very well and it is starting to show in their performances, being able to cope with the jam-packed schedule of playing every Thursday and Sunday. The French outfit remain strong in numbers. Having multiple options all across the pitch. Galtier has plenty to choose from in every game and has had the luxury of being able to rotate the squad to ensure they remain fit and healthy throughout this difficult season.
The squad depth has meant that players such as Timothy Weah, Xeka, Soumare, Soumaoro and Lihadji have all remained mostly on the bench so far this season. Many of the bench and non-starting XI have showcased their talents when being utilised by Galtier to show just how strong of a squad Lille have.
— LOSC Lille EN (@LOSC_EN) November 5, 2020
This season so far has highlighted the impressive defensive operation that they are working with. Using the traditional 4-4-2 formation to make it difficult for teams to break down. Lille have been able to grind out results, even if the score fails to flatter them at times. The tactical setup has worked exceptionally well, due to the team’s hard work and fantastic unity as they all continuously fight for eachother on both attack and defense.
The only concern for Les Dogues has been their ability to break down teams. This comes as a result of their 4 draws in 10 Ligue 1 games this season, being a slight problem for the club. This problem for Lille was recently seen during their 1-1 draw against Lyon, usually a good result but given that Marcelo was sent off for the opponents with 40 minutes still to play, questions were asked about the clubs attacking display. Whilst also being the case as Lille picked up their first defeat of the season in a 3-2 defeat to Stade Brest.
The attacking side of the team is starting to gel however. With Ikone, Bamba and Araujo all having been instrumental to the sides early successes so far this season, Lille are becoming a serious challenger to PSG for the Ligue 1 title. They are becoming a challenger that maybe very few expected at the start of the season, but given the sides impressive start to the season, they may well be in this race for the long run.
Typical formation: 4-3-3
Manager: Arne Slot
Captain: Teun Koopmeiners
Key Player: Calvin Stengs
AZ Alkmaar have a whole host of exciting talent emerging as they become one of the stand out clubs in the Eredivisie. Having only finished behind leaders Ajax on goal difference last season as the pandemic brought the season to an early end, AZ have leapfrogged Dutch giants PSV and Feyenoord to finish second in last seasons campaign.
A lot of their successes are due to the exciting production line that they currently have in Alkmaar. With names such as Myron Boadu, Teun Koopmeiners, Calvin Stengs and Owen Wjindal all being noteworthy. Whilst Ajax will be known most for their youth setup in The Netherlands, AZ Alkmaar have a lot of exciting talent coming through their ranks at the moment.
Since the end of the last campaign, AZ have sold the talented winger Oussama Idrissi to Sevilla, being the only major loss for the side. However, AZ have strengthened with the acquisitions of Bruno Martins Indi and Jesper Karlsson (who is starting to fill the void left by Idrissi).
How have they been performing?
Maybe the only team in this list to have not started their domestic campaign with flying colours, but there is still good reason for their mentioning in this list! For AZ, their form in the Eredivisie compared to that in the Europa League has been like chalk and cheese. Having beaten Napoli and Rijeka convincingly in their opening 2 games of the Europa League, they only narrowly lost 1-0 away to Real Sociedad in the same competition.
That same impressive form has yet to be matched in the Eredivisie. The club currently sits 8th in the league, having only won twice in their first 7 matches. Their only wins so far come from the 3-0 victory over RKC Waalwijk and a recent 3-0 win against SC Heerenveen. Whilst having drawn to PEC Zwolle, VVV Venlo and a dramatic 4-4 draw against Sparta Rotterdam.
Despite this, AZ are still undefeated in the league, but they do sit 10 points behind Ajax and Vitesse. Many fans would usually start to question the players and the manager at this point, for being so far off the performances of last season. However, the main contribution to AZ’s start has been due to the significant number of Covid-19 cases this season, having disrupted their campaign. The Dutch side at one point had to deal with 13 cases of the virus, most noticeably missing Myron Boadu, meaning that for the match against Napoli, AZ were only able to take 17 players to the game.
As a result, it is difficult to measure how well or bad the side have been playing given the affect the virus has had on the club. However, with all of that going on, it is impressive that they were able to travel to Naples and beat the Italian side on their own turf.
AZ will be most known for their strength of their midfield which is often occupied by Dani de Wit, Teun Koopmeiners and Fredrik Midtsjo. The three of them have been important in helping AZ dominate games whilst also controlling the pace of the games. Their quality was shown in March as they managed to beat Ajax at the Johan Cruyff Stadium 2-0. Arne Slot’s side showed their ability to control the game in the midfield whilst using flanks to their advantage as Stengs and Idrissi showed the Amsterdam side some real problems on the day.
AZ Alkmaar's success this season down to great coaching, some clever signings and forward thinking.
AZ's academy has also done a great job and is producing some of Netherlands brightest stars at the moment.
— Dutch Football (@FootballOranje_) March 4, 2020
Typical formation: 4-4-1-1
Manager: Imanol Alguacil
Captain: Asier Illarramendi
Key Player: Mikel Oyarzabal
Real Sociedad have become the early season surprises in La Liga as they top the league, albeit with a game more played than Real Madrid and two more than Atletico Madrid. The Basque club have looked nothing short of emphatic having beaten Real Betis, Getafe, SD Huesca and Celta Vigo all by a 3-goal margin this season.
After having seen Martin Odegaard leave the club to go back to his parent side Real Madrid, it was a question of whether they would be able to fill his position with the same quality. And… Well they have. Having signed Manchester City’s 4-time Premier League winner: David Silva. Despite being at the age of 34, he has been an important part of Sociedad’s bright form early on.
Last season, Real Sociedad finished 6th in La Liga, just 4 points behind 5th placed Villarreal. With that, the club were set for a Copa Del Rey final with fellow Basque club: Athletic Bilbao. The final has since been postponed due to the global pandemic, but if Bilbao were to face Sociedad under their current form, then it would be an uphill battle given Sociedad’s impressive start!
In a similar way to LOSC Lille, the Spanish side have plenty of options in the attacking areas. With Oyarzabal, Portu, Isak, William Jose, David Silva and Adnan Januzaj all providing quality options for Alguacil.
League leaders at the international break
🇮🇹 AC Milan
🇪🇸 Real Sociedad https://t.co/ZpDMPzjb4c
— Goal (@goal) November 8, 2020
How have they been performing?
Real Sociedad as mentioned currently sit top of the La Liga table. However, their Europa League group: that includes Napoli and fellow list-making side AZ Alkmaar, is as tight as it was expected when the group was drawn. The group has each of the three teams tied on 6 points. The group is currently split on goal difference with AZ out on top, but that could all change with 3 games to go.
This season, Real Sociedad have been an exciting counter-attacking outfit. As mentioned with their attacking quality, they have been ruthless in front of goal, having scored 18 goals in their first 8 games. A record that is 5 goals stronger than both the Madrid clubs. Their 18 goals have been shared out across 8 different players so far, showing that they are not a club that relies on a single goalscorer but have plenty of players who can find that back of the net.
Whilst their attacking statistics are worth talking about, it is also worth noting that in their first 8 games, Sociedad have only conceded 4 goals. Which is the second lowest in the league, only behind Atletico Madrid. Providing evidence to the idea that they may be more than just a surprise in La Liga, but they have the capabilities to be the next Leicester City in a league that has been dominated by Madrid and Barcelona for years.
Typical formation: 4-4-3 // 4-2-3-1
Manager: Stefano Pioli
Captain: Alessio Romagnoli
Key Player: Rafael Leao
The current stand-out team in Serie A. AC Milan have been something of a sleeping giant in Italian football as of recent years. But under Stefano Pioli, they look to be on their way back. The Serie A is becoming one of the tightest leagues in Europe to predict as the likes of Juventus, Napoli, Atalanta, Lazio, Sassuolo and Inter Milan are all providing stiff competition at the top of the table. However, it is AC Milan who go into the November international break top of the league and look good for that as well.
Much of their early season success can be accredited to the Swedish legend and striker: Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The star has scored 8 goals in 5 games, by far and away the top goalscorer for the club as Rafael Leao and Franck Kessie lead the chase with just 2 goals between them.
AC Milan (like all the other teams in this list) have a really exciting squad that is able to match their league position as well. Beyond the quality and experience of Zlatan up front. The Rossoneri have a great lineup of promising young talent with Theo Hernandez, Rafael Leao, Brahim Diaz and Sandro Tonali starring in their lineup to also watch out for this season.
After years of questionable signings since their last European success in 2007, AC Milan have started to make a real statement of intent in the early stages of this season.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the top scorer in Serie A and has AC Milan back at the top of the table. How is he still so good?
— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) November 11, 2020
How have they been performing?
As mentioned, Pioli’s men sit top of Serie A. After 7 league matches, the red side of Milan have won 5 of their 7 matches, having scored 16 goals in the process. However, a slight concern for AC will be that they have conceded 7 goals in the meantime.
They also face a difficult Europa League group with LOSC Lille, Celtic and Sparta Prague. Milan have started well, beating Celtic and Sparta Prague. However as mentioned earlier, Lille managed to get the better of the Italians on Matchday 3, winning 3-0 at the San Siro. The disappointing result seems to be a blip in the road as despite the following 2-2 draw with Hellas Verona.
In relation to the clubs fine start to the season, Milan have also overcome so difficult battles. Having been victorious in the Milan derby, winning 2-1 and only narrowly missing out on the 3 points at home to Roma, due to an 84th minute equaliser from Marash Kumbulla.
Many believed or may even still believe that Milan’s table-topping start to the season will come to an end after playing their fiercest rivals. However, AC have shown that they are a difficult team to break down and stop. The clubs performances since Pioli entered the fray have been exceptional as they become a real concern for the rest of the league. Could AC Milan really be back to their best?! Let me know!
Typical formation: 4-1-4-1
Manager: Marcelo Bielsa
Captain: Liam Cooper
Key Player: Mateusz Klich // Jack Harrison
Upon their return to the Premier League, Leeds United have been one of the stand out teams in the division. An honourable mention can also be given to the likes of Southampton, Aston Villa and Crystal Palace who have all started the season well above expectation.
However, I want to give the credit to Leeds United. A newly promoted side that have provided tough competition to Liverpool and Manchester City so far this season. It is with Marcelo Biesla’s free-flowing, hardworking philosophy that has enabled the Yorkshire club to compete with some of the best teams in England.
Despite recent results to Crystal Palace and Leicester, Leeds have looked dangerous, currently overperforming in comparison to the other newly promoted sides, Leeds look like a real threat to any team in the Premier League.
How have they been performing?
Leeds go into the November international break in 15th place in the Premier League. Having picked up 3 wins from 8 games and 4 defeats.
In their defeats, they remained competitive. Only narrowly losing out to Wolves and Liverpool whilst being taught a lesson in their most recently outings against Leicester and Crystal Palace- losing both of those 4-1.
The shinning star in the Leeds lineup so far has been Patrick Bamford. Somewhat of a revelation compared to his form in the Championship last season. Bamford has racked up 7 goals in 8 games, most noticeably bagging a hattrick in the clubs 3-0 vitory over Aston Villa.
The club has been injury hit in recent games. With the likes of Kalvin Phillips, Diego Llorente and Rodrigo all missing out on recent fixtures. With that in mind, when these players get back to full fitness, I believe we can begin to watch Leeds get back to their best. Showing the sort of displays that we became accustomed to in their performances against last season’s top two sides in England.
Patrick Bamford in the Premier League this season:
👕 8 appearances
⚽️ 7 goals
🅰️ 1 assist
And this one will count. 😅 pic.twitter.com/Dvnz0h6Q2l
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) November 7, 2020
Other noticeable clubs:
- Dynamo Kiev (Ukraine)
- Sporting Charleroi (Belgium)
- RB Salzburg (Austria)
- Leicester City (England)
- Sporting Lisbon (Portugal)
If you liked this article ‘The Five Most Inform Teams From Around Europe’, be sure to let us know who we have missed in this article and who else to watch out for this season!
Read more on some of the mentioned clubs here:
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