With the new European club football campaign upon us, it’s time to look into the future and predict what the new season will bring.
Can last season's champions maintain their momentum? Who will be the key players, and what will be the main stories of the 2012-13 campaign?
Here are my picks for the continent’s top five leagues; have your say in the comments box below.
Spanish La Liga
Champions: Real Madrid. They are the finished article and as they enter their third season under Jose Mourinho I believe they have become even stronger than last season. There has been a shift in the balance of power and I think Los Blancos will hold onto their top spot this year. Led by Cristiano Ronaldo, they have all the weapons necessary to shoot down Barcelona once again.
As far as the Catalans are concerned, I think they will fall short. I am not convinced Tito Vilanova can easily step into Pep Guardiola’s shoes and have the same influence as his mentor did on the team. Most of Barca’s players have won it all, and I don’t think Vilanova is the right man to motivate them right now. Then again, when you have Leo Messi, anything is possible, right?
Top 4: Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Valencia.
Story to follow: Ronaldo vs. Messi. Last season, they scored a combined 96 goals in La Liga. Messi, who finished the campaign with 50, outscored 15 teams on his own. The question this year is what can these two extra-terrestrials do for an encore? I will be watching closely.
English Premier League
Champions: Manchester City. On paper they have by far the strongest squad in the country. Last season, even though Roberto Mancini mismanaged several situations, including the Mario Balotelli and Carlos Tevez disciplinary issues, they still managed to finish on top. Therefore, with the momentum and confidence gained from that title, they will be tough to stop.
As far as challengers are concerned, Manchester United will again lead the charge although they should have strengthened their midfield. I can’t believe Alex Ferguson has spent so much on a striker in Robin van Persie when he needed a world-class playmaker.
Top 4: Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool.
Story to follow: Last chance for Arsene Wenger? I know for a fact that several players at Arsenal have lost faith in the manager’s philosophy and his project. You can’t lose your top players every year and believe that you still know what you’re doing. Wenger has been a fantastic manager but seven years without a trophy is too long and the time has come for him to step aside.
Italian Serie A
Champions: Napoli. I know it’s a controversial pick, but I have arguments to defend my case. First of all, this team has enjoyed more stability than any other in Italy, having kept most of their star players. Yes, they did sell Ezequiel Lavezzi but they have Goran Pandev, who is almost as good. They have added some depth to the squad and will benefit from the fact champions Juventus are in internal turmoil due to coach Antonio Conte’s involvement in a match-fixing scandal.
Regarding both Milan giants, I think they will play a peripheral role this year. AC Milan are rebuilding and have lost two world-class players in Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva. Meanwhile Inter have changed managers more often than Massimo Moratti changes shirts and there is no continuity at the Nerazzuri.
Top 4: Napoli, Juventus, Inter, Roma.
Story to follow: Conte's ban. The Juventus manager was suspended for 10 months for failing to report attempts to fix matches while he was at Siena. He won’t be able to sit on the Juve bench but he will be involved in training. How much impact will this have on the Bianconeri's season? The answer to that question will affect this season’s title race.
Champions: Bayern Munich. After two years playing second fiddle to Borussia Dortmund, the Bavarians will celebrate a 23rd domestic title this season. Bayern can still rely mostly on the same group of players, including Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben and Mario Gomez - who make up one of the most explosive attacking trios on the planet. I also expect Croatia striker Marko Mandzukic to play a key role as well after his move from Wolfsburg.
I expect Dortmund to falter a little after enjoying so much success. In my mind they will focus mainly on the Champions League, where they haven’t made an impact in a long time.
Top 4: Bayern Munich, Dortmund, Schalke, Wolfsburg.
Story to follow: Greuther Furth. Who? Exactly. This smalltown club is the latest in a series of low-profile sides to be promoted to the Bundesliga. It will be their first ever appearance in Germany’s top flight and their claim to fame is that the town is home to Playmobil. Yes, I played with those toys when I was a kid, maybe you did too.
French Ligue 1
Champions: Paris Saint-Germain. Who else? Since Qatar Investment Authority bought the club two years ago, $300 million has been spent on strengthening the squad. Their team is so much stronger than any other in France that it will be a major shock if they fail to win their first title since 1994. Manager Carlo Ancelotti surely believes anything else but first place is a failure after being runners-up in 2011-12.
Even though they are overwhelming favourites, PSG should still not take anything for granted. As Montpellier proved last year, David can beat Goliath. This season Lille and Lyon could cause a surprise or two, so watch out for them.
Top 4: PSG, Lyon, Lille, Bordeaux.
Story to follow: Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He earns more money than anyone else in France and his ego is bigger than life, so how can he be controlled? Judging from previous incidents throughout his career, the striker will definitely be at the center of attention for all the good or bad reasons. How Ancelotti deals with the big Swede will go a long way to deciding if PSG can live up to expectations and win the league.
liverpool, 4th? yeah right...they'll be lucky to finish 6th.
Barcelona has fall short? Pedro Pinto my dear sir, I believe you were the one who predicted the defeat of barcelona to real madrid last year, at December 10,2011. I read you're article the night before the match( I live in Asia) and guess what.. they shot down Madrid to 3-1... As far as Im concern.. you're articles are mostly biased.. and I heard you're a ronaldo fan...
Barcelona will be champion this year in Spain. They have a far more stable squad compared to Real Madrid that each year tries to buy whatever big player is available.
Barcelona should maybe sign another striker like Pato to help Messi and then they are set.
Yes, Wenger knw wht he is doing...this is a season for trophyys!
I think Newcastle should be somewhere up there too! As for L'pool, I have to see something extraordinary to be convinced! and what about Arsenal?
Its quite interesting your take on la liga and how is going to pan out, I can put my neck on the chopping board that Madrid will never retain the league.Did you really follow la liga last season, if it hadn't been for some poor refereeing decisions we [BARCA] would have won the league no doubt. After a long rest by our players and having the MESSIAH [MESSI] on our side,we are ready to take the world of football by storm. Mark my word this season will see the best of the almighty Messi and his BARCA companions. We will show Mourino and co that indeed we are incharge.
Pandev almost good as Lavezzi? You can't be serious man
Jose Mourinho has played with basically the same team for third year in a row, as Pedro argued, I think they`ll be more powerfull now. Another major player like Modric would be able to improve mid-line of Madrid.
About England I believe Roman Abramovich has made the best selection so far- Hazard, Oscar have a potential to be next superstars. Man City are not such a traditional team like Man unt, so I think they woudn`t win again.
Good pre-season overview.
Real Madrid wont retain the title. Trust me it wont happen.
I work for a major European bookmaker. I disagree with your assumptions on the Italian Serie A mainly, but also on the Premier League and Spain.
In Italy, there is no other team than Juventus. Simple as that, Napoli do not have the strength and dept to put up a serious title challenge, the most they can hope for is a 3rd place fight out. Juventus will win the league by more than 10 points this year, they are the only club to have invested heavily over the past 2 seasons, and they will retain their title easily.
In Spain, Real Madrid will focus more on the Champions league this year, as that is what the fans really want having beating barca to the league last season. That was enough for them. Barcelona have all the quality to easily snatch the league. All they have to do is find some motivation to beat the small teams, as that is what lost them the league last season. Also if Villa plays they will improve in banging in the goals when it counts as that is what they lacked in the league last year, a prolific goalscorer, and that is exactly what Villa is!
In England, Manchester City are without a doubt the team to beat. However Man U have signed Robin Van Persie and show that they mean business, Sir Alex is way more experienced and the will snatch the league in my opinion with City switching their focus to the Champions League. A tournament which they failed to impress in last season exiting in the group stage.
Having said all this, my strongest opinion is in the Serie A where i firmly believe and please quote me at the end of the season that Juventus will win easily. And perhaps we will see Roma and Napoli taking over from Inter and Milan, as these two power houses of italian football have shown no signs of wanting to win anything so far in this transfer market, although Inter are showing slightly more interest that Ac Milan.
I have some doubts on Manchester City and Napoli...i don't see the turmoils in city disappear...new ones will come since Mancini ego is bigger than Ballotteli or Tevez,
Also, I don't believe Mazzarri can take Napoli to the top.
but we'll see....
yeah right we wil see!
I agree with your prediction in Spain. Valencia aren't that good anymore but there is no other competion for that 4th spot os they'll still take it. I think Barcelona probably have a better squad but Real Madrid have the best manager in the world in José Mourinho and he'll motivate his players, something I'm not convinced Vilanova will be able to do, so due to Mourinho Real Madrid will defend their league title.
In England I think Manchester United will win the Premier League, because they have Fergie and have made some very good transfers such as Kagawa and RVP that will be hungry for success, something I'm not so convinced these Man City players will have, given that they're mostly mercenaries and have just won the league, and they aren't shaking up their team any. But I think Manchester City and Chelsea are stronger on paper and will be challenging for the title of course. But Liverpool on the other hand don't stand a chance of making the CL. My prediction for them is 7th. I think Tottenham will make it as long as they sign a good striker, but Arsenal and Newcastle have a good chance of making it instead.
In Germany I agree except with Wolfsburg finishing fourth. I think it will be Bremen but if it's not Bremen it will be Wolfsburg I think.
Italy will be a hard one. I think Juventus will defend their league title, but given that Conte's banned, it's not as obvious anymore. AC Milan, even having lost Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva, should still be up there (I think they'll finish second) because their squad has quality none of the less, and Napoli has a great squad. I think they'll finish third but they have a good chance of winning the league. So you could very well be right Pedro. I'm a Juventus fan in Serie A so I hope you're wrong, but if some one other than Juve has to win, my preference would be Napoli.
And finally in France, of course PSG should win the league no problem, but if not I think Lille could win it. Lyon will be up there too.
My presonal predictions for Europe's top leagues:
Spain: 1. Real Madrid 2. Barcelona 3. Atletico Madrid 4. Valencia
England: 1. Manchester United 2. Manchester City 3. Chelsea 4. Tottenham
Germany: 1. Bayern Munich 2. Borussia Dortmund 3. Schalke 4. Werder Bremen
Italy: 1. Juventus 2. AC Milan 3. Napoli 4. AS Roma
France: 1. PSG 2. Lille 3. Lyon 4. Bordeaux
Wow, you sir needs to stop smoking the pipe... liverpool making top 4?? you obviously have no clue about the EPL and I am not surprised since you work at cnn...
oh and by the way arsenal wil for sure make the top 4 ( I am thinking top 3 with a trophy)
Hunter, Milan Lost : Ibrahimovic, T. Silva, Gattuso, Zambrotta, Van Bommel, Nesta, Seedorf, and a few other less important ones....
They brought in so far Montolivo, Traore, acerbi, constant and zapata!
This is not the sign of a team who wants to compete.
In Portugal will be:1st Sporting 2ndBraga 3rdBenfia 4thFCPorto
you know for a fact several players have lost faith in the manager? gimme a break, the players would be NOTHING without wenger. who was RVP before he went to arsenal? wenger stood by him, despite all his injuries, and as per usual he left when he was offered more money. It disgusts me. Wenger is one of the few managers who have principles, who play the game as it should be played. Tell me please, why would you watch bolton play? they pay their players similar wages and all you see is glorified rugby. Wenger is pound for pound one of the best managers in the world, and if he left arsenal there would be a queue of clubs wanting him to sign.
I agree with the Spanish league predictions, except for the fact Barcelona will win the title. I think Real Madrid and Mourinho want the Champions League this season
I don't agree with the Premiership predictions. I think Man United will win, they have changed my mind after signing Van Persie and plus Kagawa is a good signing. But I'm surprised Man United didn't buy a centre midfielder, they need one, they would a better team with one. I think Cleverly is going to fill the centre midfield role. Originally I thought Chelsea would win it, but they will finish second, as they have a strong squad and a good manager. Man City will finish 3rd, as they will concentrate more on the Champions League. Arsenal will finish 4th, they have made good signings and more are expected to come. I think people are overestimating the impact Van Persie's departure will have on Arsenal. Plus Pedro lay off Wenger, he's doing his best, its the board that are to blame
In Italy, I expect Juventus to retain their title, they have the strongest squad and have added to it over the summer. Napoli will finish second, they still have Cavani and Hamsik despite the loss of Lavezzi. Inter Milan third and Roma 4th
1. Borussia Monchengladbach
2. Bayern Munich
3. Borussia Dortmund
just got back from a secret mission in the future. There ,I saw:
a. ENG: Chelsea, Arsenal, City, United
b. ITY: Juve, Inter, Milan, Napoli
c. SPN: Barca, Madrid, Valencia, Athletico
Well, be advised, i may have changed the future!
Liverpool? 4th? Are you serious?
In Premier League, why don't MU?
I do not know, but I believe that Chelsea was weaker after Drogba left the team. The new players hired this season are very weak, as references from their countries of origin.
man-u will get the title in the epl, madrid retains, Borussia Dortmund also retains
all the articles are very much relevant,to the point,thought-provoking,carry on the good work mr. pinto
Porto, Real, Milan, PSG, One Manchester club, Anderlecht, Ajax, Bayern and Zenith look strong on paper. But they will have to prove themselves on the home and away green lawns. Wishing them and their challengers an exciting new season 2012-2013.
HEY PEDRO,Gotta say i say i basically agree in a roundabout way with your tips.......16 march 2010...chelsea 0 inter 1......where have all the inter players gone.......and now juventus look pretty good to me......i saw 1 good strong signing.......was he from the left side of udinese...because he looked a good one last year.......APPASIONATA""""""""""
Man U is more hungry than Man City to win the PL. Liverpool unlikely to end in the top 4.
Juventus in the team to beat in Italy.
In the Netherlands: 1 ajax, 2 psv, 3 feyenoord, 4 twente
Spanish la liga win Real Madrid, i agree with you. You must look in my page. http://madryt-barcelona.pl
I disagree with Liverpool being fourth, I can see United top, City second, Chelsea third and Tottenham fourth. I think Newcastle will be right up there again, I'm tipping them for fifth/sixth,I could see Arsenal even finishing sixth if not fifth this season. I predict Liverpool will struggle, they could end up by seventh, eighth or ninth, they ar simply not good enough. Cracking article though, great analysis of your predictions along with the 'stories of the season'.
Having got every one of his Euro 2012 predictions wrong I wouldn't bet on any of Pinto's predictions this time. However, I'm surprised he didn't predict that Spurs would win the EPL, after all it does have his favourite Portuguse manager in charge and look at what he did for Chelsea!
........Liverpool 4th...!!!! U must be kiddin Pedro Sir...!!!
Mr Wenger and his "bizarre" philosophy: get quite young players, if they are French better, squeeze them and after, he throws them to any good buyer. Three years complaining about referees, stronger rivals in Europe, lack of money to spend. His speech is run out. He must step down and retire. Cazorla???? Another Spanish overrated player.
i think arsenal have always come out strong under pressure and to say they wont finish top four is an understatement....just watch out them come stronger for sure! podolski will do wonders and santi carzola...watch this guy. chelsea will emerge stronger with oscor and harzad. man city are already strong and manchester united will b the team to beat ofcourse. thats is if vanpasie does what he did at arsenal.liverpool can expect number six.its difficult to predict the champions at the moment becaz the transfer window is not closed.
Liverpool 4th? That's hilarious. Do you know anything about English football?
Not convinced Man city will win the premier league title. Liverpool will not finish 4th. My pick Man utd, chelsea, man city, spurs.
Liverpool 4th really ?? Joke of the year !! And Arsenal not in top 4 ?? This shows how biased and unknowledgeable the writer is !!
Heh, heh. Liverpool may be at the BOTTOM of the league come this weekend with 2 losses!
Malcom, if Santi Cazorla were a good footballer, Real or Barcelona would have sign him. And he doesn´t have a fix position in Spanish national team. Anyway "We are delighted, we are delighted..."
Liverpool don't have a shot of getting higher than 7th!
England: City/Manu: definitely top 2, Chelsea : 3rd (more quality than anyone else), 4th/5th/6th: straight fight between Arsenal, Spurs and Newcastle. Spurs and Arsenal have better squads than Newcastle, but have had a lot more player turnover.
Take a look at Pedro Pinto's last attempt to make a footballing prediction, when he gave us this what-they're-doing-wrong eulogy for English football in the Champions League:
It's worth pointing out that this article came at a time when both Arsenal and Chelsea had lost the first legs of their quarter finals and Pinto obviously tried to beat the crowd by tolling the death knell early. Oops!
Meanwhile the apparently struggling English league has had 8 Champions League finalists in 8 years – a run unprecedented in all history....
you have all failed to mention the greatest team in Europe
Celtic are supported by more people than any other team in the world and will easily win not just in Scotland but in Europe.
I disagree with Madrid will get the champion, the two matchs has let real madrid 5 points behind barcelona.
and i think the whole barcelona's players are strong than real mardrid.
Madrid get the champion of last season mostly depend luckly
What about the portuguese league, we're in front of the french league on the club statistics by UEFA.!
by the way in Portugal:
Pedro I have taken the time to read your article and to be honest with you it seems like you do not follow football closely as my self and other do. You may want to know why I am saying, but my advise is please you and get the review of last season from the different leagues that you have predict the champions for this season and I do believe that will broaden your horizon about what exactly happen last season and also what can be the likely out come of this season.
Greuther Fürth isn't only the home of Playmobil. Henry Kissinger was born in Fürth in 1923. He served as National Security Advisor and later concurrently as Secretary of State in the administrations of Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.
Best regards from Germany
Liverpool? 4th? The same team that finished closer (in points) to relegation than to the top 4 last term? The same Liverpool that barely qualified for the EUROPA league?
You have no clue about the Premier League do you, Pedro? Here's an education: Liverpool finished eighth last season, have at best a handful of above-average-yet-not-world-class players, have a new manager whose style will take some time to gel (and looking at how things are going now – their worst start of the season in a few decades – he might even get the sack before he sets his philosophy in motion at Anfield!)
Arsenal finished third last season, have not finished out of the top four since 1996 (not so coincidentally, '96 is when Wenger joined as manager) and have a much stronger and more experienced squad this season than they've had in a while (arguably since 2004). It's been 16+ seasons since Arsenal was in fifth position (despite losing its best players far too frequently). How then would Arsenal finish out of the top four this season and Liverpool finish at fourth?
Tottenham, Newcastle – heck, maybe even Swansea with how things are going – will more likely finish higher than Liverpool this season. (Newcastle or Spurs are more contenders for fourth than Pool).
One cannot read your opinion on Wenger (which you're entitled to) plus your unfounded view that Arsenal will finish out of the top four [for the first time in almost 17 years and with a stronger squad than one that finished third the previous season] without sensing an anti-Arsenal bias.
Forgive the scorned attitude – as I forgive your sheer ignorance.
arsene wenger hasnt lost it i know he has lost most of his best players but the gunners still believe in him and liverpool will have to be lucky to finnish 4th
LePrince, On the money mate. This lot including the writer of this rubbish are clueless. Tommy Smyth and some of the so called experts said arsenal was a bottom 10 team last season. Plenty of arsenal haters come on this thing, most of them talk crap. Arsenal will win big this season, because these mutts are trying to sell doom and gloom and we will prove them wrong, all of them.
i disagree fully with the rating at ENGLAND.............. how can you underate Arsenal..... i'd guess you aint a fan of the premiership, people like you either support Bareclona or Real Madrid. mtchewwwwwwwwwwwwwwww
you are just being sentimental and biased about your rating in ENGLAND...........
It didn't take much time for your prediction on Spain to be proved wrong....Realmadrid are 8 points behind Barca & don't seem to have the motivation to fight back.
Arsenal fan. Hopeful but realistic. 3rd place looks in the cards if their defense is really as good as its looked early on, 4th if its business as usual. There's always talent on this squad.
Van Persie's goals will be missed on occasion, but certainly not his attitude (brilliant technician, too full of himself). The loss of Fabregas two years ago weakened the midfield and the younger players have yet to mature. Song's departure will definitely be felt. I believe Diaby can be a great player if Wenger would only take the handcuffs off and encourage him to be more assertive. He too is brilliant technically, has great upper body strength and a rocket of a shot (when he thinks offensively).
Realistically, EPL is between Man Utd and Man City. City may let down after winning the title in spectacular fashion last year. Internal strife is inevitable when you have Balotelli and Tevez on the squad. Tevez in particular, is anything but an asset. Scores goals but plays with his head down and pouts when things go against him. Man UTD have the heart of a lion, a trait not easily adopted by others.
In Spain, Barcelona have all the motivation they need after last year's results. They remain #1 on the planet when the wheels are rolling......
Pedro I must confess that your analysis of la liga is very biased! in fact anytime you analyze an issue that involves Ronaldo,its always biased but there is one thing I am certain about...Barca will win not only la liga but the champions league as well
Le Prince and popgooner, you are spot on. Pedro has a bias against Arsenal because technically this team is by far much better in as long as seven years and to think they would finish out of the top four would be from someone who is clueless. i see some trophy success for Arsenal this time
It's very obvious you don't know a whole lot about the sport. RM are 8 points adrift after only 4 or5 games. Liverpool are sitting near the bottom of the table and Arsenal the only team that survives from the income generated by their football operations is always a Top 4 team. No one can help it if the players greed comes before club loyalty. So as long as teams like man c and psg overspend, they are forcing clubs to overpay. Arsenal won't get caught up in the fiscal irresponsiblity rampant among the other clubs. Kudos to Arsenal. Arsene will continue to run a successful program, so maybe you should step down.
This is one of the best EC football stories ever posted by CNN. Bravo!
Next learn how to cover an election cycle in any country and you'll have conquered the world of news–(in order of importance) Football, War, Politics. Cheers!
As a PSG fan, all I noticed in your article is how many other teams lost players to PSG.
I think this will be the year where Paris is finally magical, as the chants say...Paris est Magique! Et Rich!
as 4 epl i fail 2 agree,
I totally fail 2 agree that arsenal wont make it to top 4.u are misleading us as fans and i promise 2 avoid ua stories in near and further future
Every one who talked about weak Chelsea FC players...... I bet you did not even watch ONE match of Chelsea 'cause Eden Hazard is one of the best now in the EPL and Oscar scored two for Chelsea + Marko Marin and Moses are shining and even DROGBA called hazard ' Super 17'.
United are good but Rooney is a big shock and Van Persie needs support to keep shining and then Vidic, sorry but captains are KEY PLAYERS, that's why they are captains. City has also fallen to Aston villa............
PSG and Lille are contenders, no doubt.
Napoli have Cavani too so your' right about Seria A but Juve are SUPERB as far as i've seen
Bundesliga ... your prediction is good.... I must Say............
Finally , La Liga BBVA, Athletico are rising... you missed their performance against Chelsea and Valencia are going up too and this that Your prediction is right.
All of those that think Barcelona has a chance this year, are on some kind of Drug from out of Space. Barcelona's defense its gone, Song will not restore what's missing. As per the attacking force, Messi, Iniesta and XAVI are the only ones driving the team, Fabregas is on a long dream, the defense is broken, and with a Chelsea style defense and Real Madrid/Bayern M. Style of Attack, their defense won't stand a chance.. Napoli? are you kidding me? Chelsea squashed them with the Reserve team last year on the 2nd Round, this year they are not doing much better, go back to Italy. Manchester City has issues, starting with Bolatelli, and something called Winning in the Champions League? they have not won a game since they started competing last year. Go back to the UK, the Only Competitors this year for a Championship cup is Bayern Munich, has been consistent in reaching the semi's year after year, as Real Madrid, either of these two teams can win it. Chelsea, needs help, Torres is not doing a thing up front, everyone that is new that comes to Chelsea can score except Torres, when is the Manager going to realize to get rid of him. Send him back to Athletic Madrid or Liverpool, perhaps those team's style may work for him best. Any other team i left behind, is just that, nothing, they won't get anywhere this year, they are just there to warm up with the other team to prepare them for the Final.
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