The Sport Axis

COVID-19: THE RETURN OF EUROPEAN FOOTBALL ACTION by Elijah Agboola

The return of football has been met with so much fanfare amongst the fans. It’s almost like the feeling of watching Arya Stark slay the Night King (or even greater). Bundesliga was the first league to resume play. Though having the least fan base among Nigerians, it was the beginning of the end. I was surprised to see the viewing center in my area put out a post for prospective viewers. The return of football has not only made our weekends livelier, it has returned a source of income to many others (dem bet naija people).

Premier League is resuming June 17, La Liga is resuming June 12 and Serie A is resuming June 20, what more can we pray for? Ligue one cancelled their league and declared PSG as the winner, the President of Lyon was not happy with that and promised to sue the French Football Federation.

Well, for the numerous premier league fans, they already know the winners of the league. The race for the Premier league top 4 is more intense. For La Liga fans, it’s a two legged horse race between Barça and Real Madrid. For Italian Seria A, it is a race between the perennial winners Juventus and the attacking machines of Lazio. This write up is simply a little teaser into what we should expect.

Serie A

Juventus has been winning the Serie A title since 2011/2012 season. However, they are facing stiff competition from the energetic and attacking minded Lazio led by the mobile Immobile. He is the leading Serie A goal scorer and is responsible for 45% of the goals scored by Lazio. At present, they are second in the league to Juventus. Although, Juventus is leading Lazio with just a single point, there are twelve games left to play. Juventus is relying on their talisman Cristiano Ronaldo, a man who has contributed to 42% of the goal scored by Juventus and was in a rich vein of form before the break. The question upon resuming the league, will Lazio keep up with the form or not? Will Juventus win the league for the 9th consecutive season?

La Liga

The two top teams in La Liga have been performing below expectations. Barcelona’s reliance on the individual brilliance of Messi and Marc-André ter Stegen keep growing day by day despite the amount of millions already spent. Real Madrid is still trying to recover from the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo and the millions already spent doesn’t seem to be doing that just yet. Barcelona is leading the La Liga with Real Madrid trailing by 2 points. With 27 matches played and 11 left, who will prevail? Real Madrid might be reaping more benefits from the Covid-19 enforced break as they have players who have returned from injuries. The likes of Hazard and Bale have returned and are fully fit, this might give them the much needed push.

The top 4 is still open for grabs. The point difference between the 3rd placed Sevilla and 6th placed Athletico Madrid is just 2points. Athletico Madrid has not been able to get over the loss of Antonie Griezman coupled with the injuries of Diego Costa and the inconsistency of Morata. The only good thing for them is their progress in the Champions League where they defeated Liverpool home and away in the Champions league. However, the break should be favorable to them. The likes of Diego Costa, Alvaro Morata and Joax Felix will be fully fit. Real Sociedad has been the most surprising team so far in the top 4 race. Led by the Real Madrid prodigy; Martin Odeegard, Alexander Isak and Mikel Oyarzabal, they are currently occupying the 4th position and are on level point with 5th place Getafe. However, there are still 11 games to play to determine who will join Barcalona and Real Madrid in Champions League next season.

Premier League

This has been the most disappointing league so far this season. Premier league leaders, Liverpool, are leading their closest rival with 25 points and need to win their next two games to win the league. The point gap between Liverpool and 4th place Chelsea is more than the point gap between 4th place Chelsea and 20th placed Norwich.

Despite this disappoint and heart breaking stats, there have been some excitement in the league (Arsenal fans aren’t part of the excited ones though). The rise of Leicester City  in the league, the fall of Pochettino, and many more. Unlike other leagues, we already know the winners of 2019/2020 Premier league. In addition, we know Leicester City and Manchester City will qualify for the Champions league. Guess what??? Just one slot left. Chelsea is currently occupying the 4th place and leading 5th place Manchester United with 3 points who are leading 6th and 7th place Wolves and Sheffield United (who have played one game less) with 2points.

Tottenham will be one of the major beneficiaries of the long enforced break. Before the break, Tottenham was facing injury crises all over the pitch and the players tank were empty. The likes of Son, Kane, Lo Celso, and Bergwin. The enforced break has helped all their players return from their injuries. Since they are out of all other competitions, they would be able to face the league squarely and finish as high as possible.

Another beneficiary of the break Chelsea. As at when the break was enforced, the likes of Kovavic, Kante, Abraham, Odoi, Pulisic and Loftus-Cheek were all out injured. The good news is that they are now fit giving rookie coach Frank Lampard selection headache. Most Chelsea fans can’t wait to see the return of Loftus-Cheek and Pulisic to the starting line up. Unlike Tottenham, they are still in contention for the FA Cup and Champions league (although Bayern thrashed Chelsea 3:0 in first leg. Since it’s football, never say never). And with the top four competition heating up, there is no margin for error.

Manchester United fans can’t wait to see the combination of Bruno, Pogba, Rashford, Martial and James. The combination of Bruno and Pogba has been giving some United fans orgasmic feelings. Let’s just hope it won’t end in tears. However, United were in good vein of form before the enforced break, whether or not they will be able to maintain the form is what we can’t predict. Unlike the other teams that suffered during the injury crises of their team, United actually were raking up wins in the absence of Pogba and Rashford. Now, the question is how will the return of Rashford and Pogba affect the stability that have been built over the weeks. United are one of the favorites to win the Europa league and are still in contention for the FA Cup and top four finish.

The only good news for Arsenal is that Bellerin, Tierney and Toreira. They are still in contention for the FA Cup and an European qualification.

Notable mentions to the likes of Wolves and Sheffield United performing wonders in the league. We hope they maintain this for the last 9 games.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Agboola Elijah

Elijah Agboola is a student of the Nigerian Law School and a member of the Sport Axis Team of Law Axis 360°.

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