With the Champions League underway, let’s look at some teams that may not be favourites for the trophy, but might shock a few fans around Europe.
Napoli are easily one of the most enjoyable teams to watch. They have such a balanced midfield with options like Hamsik, Jorginho, Allan, Zielinski and Diawara. They have midfielders who give them different options and are full of energy. They have a good defence too with Koulibaly and Albiol giving them strength at the back. But for Napoli it’s that forward three that is just so exciting. The main three, containing Lorenzo Insigne, Dries Mertens and Jose Callejon, contains speed, intelligence, and a killer instinct. Insigne has been consistently scoring and creating. Last season he scored 18 and assisted 9, while creating 1.7 chances per game. He is a player I am surprised is still at the club. With the numbers he is producing, I am surprised Barcelona didn’t buy him in the summer instead of Dembele. He would of costed less and wouldn’t demand to be a super star. But Insigne isn’t the player many talk about when discussing Napoli. In fact their Belgian winger, Dries Mertens, is the big player in Napoli. I think Mertens should be given a shout for the Balon D’or this year. He has easily been one of the best players in the continent in the past year. He scored 33 goals in the league and champions league last season. It’s almost incredible that a winger turned striker could put out numbers this insane at the first attempt. Callejon actually went under the radar for me, scoring 14 and assisting 12 in the league. All three of these players are similar. They all are incredible on the break and possess so much pace, and all contribute fairly to the team. Their manager Mauricio Sarri, has turned this team into one of the best attacking teams in Europe, and if it wasn’t for a dominant Juventus and drawing Real Madrid in the round of sixteen last season, then Napoli would of gained more credit for how well they play.
Pains me to say it, but Liverpool have such a high chance of causing a few upsets this season. They play in such a threatening and fast way which gives them the chance to beat anyone if they are given the chance to. Last season Liverpool were undefeated against the top 5, getting big wins against Chelsea, Man City, Spurs and Arsenal. Klopp has the ability to get his players motivated for the big games. Their style of play definitely helps them against the big teams. Bigger teams prefer to play higher up the pitch, with their defenders getting a lot of the ball. It’s why Liverpool are able to smash the bigger teams. They like playing without the ball and pressing high lines. It suits them for playing teams like Barcelona, PSG, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid. The only problem with their team is their defence, which doesn’t need to be discussed based on obvious reasons, and their squad depth. They bought well in some areas, with the addition of Salah already showing his worth, and Robertson giving some depth in their weakest position in defence. But they failed to buy in areas they were desperate to improve, being centre back and up front, They were constantly flirting with Van Dijk but it just failed to go through all summer. They tried to get both Lacazette and Aubamayeng, but refused to play the money. Their signing of Nabi Keita was brilliant, but isn’t available till next season. they have plenty of options in midfield but without Coutinho they do not have a match winner. If they have injuries they will struggle to beat anyone, but if they have a full team, I believe they could beat anyone in front of them.
Strange to think that a team that reached the semi finals last season to be considered as a surprise package, but after losing Mbappe, Silva, Bakayoko and Mendy to big clubs, casuals will instantly write them off. But when looking at who they bought in and who they kept, it just continues to show why Monaco are one of the best run clubs in Europe. after selling Mbappe, Silva, Mendy and Bakayoko for a combined fee of £300m, and bought in replacements for much cheaper. They signed some good players in Ghezzal on a free from Lyon and Jovetic for £10m, and most importantly they bought some great young players in Keita Balde, Youri Tielemens and Kongolo, all for these players for less than the sale of Mbappe. They sold high and bought low. But the best thing they could do was keep a hold of their best players, Radamel Falcao, Fabinho, Thomas Lemar and Kamel Glik. These were easily Monaco’s best players last season. Falcao is in some incredible form right now, scoring 9 goals already. Keeping Lemar was very important. If they sold both of their superb wide players I think they would of been in trouble. Lemar has an incredible output so Monaco have nothing to worry about. Fabinho was easily their best midfielder last season. He has an incredible ability to control the ball and has a real aerial threat which can neutralise some big players in a game. He made 32 key passes last season which is pretty incredible from a defensive midfield position. Kamel Glik was brilliant and as given them more experience in a team full of young players. It can be argued that Monaco have actually improved, but that’s yet to see. But what we know is they still have a chance to surprise some teams.
Now to a team that didn’t even exist 10 years ago. Leipzig surprised many by finishing second in their first season. They had players who were just so good and seriously helped them out last season, referring to Timo Werner, Naby Keita and Emile Forsberg. Timo Werner proved many wrong by scoring 21 goals and just proved he is one of the best young talents around. He’s fast. strong is incredibly accurate, with a shot accuracy of 61%. It goes to show how he scores with limited chances. Naby Keita is just incredible. He is one of those midfielders who can just do everything. He averaged 4 defensive actions from midfield last season and most importantly, completed 2.7 dribbles per game, only Ousmane Dembele completed more than him (3.2). The fact that Leipzig didn’t get bullied into selling him tells a lot about their ambitions. They want to be taken seriously. One player i’m surprised that wasn’t rumoured to move anywhere in the summer was Emile Forsberg. He topped the Bundesliga’s assist charts last season, beating Dembele and Thomas Muller. He has an amazing ability in his movement and how he picks out his passes. One of the greatest moments of last season was his back heel volley assist. It was incredible moment of magic that just showed his confidence. They’ve kept hold of these brilliant players and will be relying on them to get them threw the tough games they will face. Their sporting director Ralf Rangnick deserves so much credit for his recruitment this year, bringing in Augustin from PSG, Kevin Kampl to improve the midfield, and Bruma to add some pace to the team. All these players are under 24 so it goes to show how smart they are buying, without the need to sell. Let’s hope Leipzig can continue where they left off last season and continue to challenge the top.