By Jonathan Lewis | 28th DEC 2020
2021 is set to be one of the most unpredictable years in footballing history. A lack of fans, international tournaments scattered across numerous countries, and wide-open title races will no doubt make for enthralling viewing for fans and punters alike. Here is everything you need to know ahead of an action-packed footballing calendar.
In 2020, football has undergone a revolutionary shakeup. The absence of fanatical fan bases from stadiums, a decrease in revenue, and a changing of the guard from old to new have rewritten the rule book. And yet, for all that things may be changing, several integral elements of the game remain largely unchanged. Just about every major league is back up and running after a prolonged layoff, while huge transfer fees show no sign of being eradicated anytime soon. But what about the major European leagues? More specifically, who is in line to win to silverware next year?
Starting in the Premier League, Liverpool look best placed to retain their title after breaking a 30-year curse to lift the coveted trophy back in June. Manchester City, under legendary coach Pep Guardiola, are already faltering only a few months into the new campaign. Other challengers to Liverpool’s crown are also struggling to keep pace at the top of the table, with Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham and Frank Lampard’s Chelsea both losing to the league leaders this year.
The battle for Europe is likely to be eagerly contested, however. Arsenal have endured a shocking start to the 2020/21 campaign, which could pave the way for the likes of Wolves, Everton, Leicester City and even Southampton to sneak into the European places.
Speaking of Europe lets venture over to the mainland to assess what we can expect elsewhere. In Germany, Bayern are on a mission to win the Bundesliga for a record 9th season in a row, with Jurgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund being the last side to deny FCB way back in 2012.
Die Schwartzgelben look best placed to rival Bayern this time around, though the recent dismissal of long-time manager Lucian Favre won’t exactly help their charge. Best of the rest could be Bayer Leverkusen. Despite losing star forward Kai Havertz last summer, the North-Rhine Westphalian outfit are currently flying high in the Bundesliga, under the stewardship of former Dortmund boss Peter Bosz.
Meanwhile, don’t write off Borussia Monchengladbach or RB Leipzig either, as both are led by very impressive young coaches in Marco Rose and Julian Nagelsmann respectively. While all are worthy contenders, Bayern once again looks to be best placed to retain their title. A fairly sluggish start traditionally gives way to a ruthless run of form from Bayern in the new year, so don’t let their patchy early season form fool you just yet.
In Spain, we could be set for the most open championship race in years. La Liga, for the past decade, has chiefly been contested between giants Barcelona and Real Madrid – with city rivals Atletico occasionally challenging. However, at the current time of writing, Real Sociedad have capitalised on the poor form of their far more illustrious domestic rivals. Real and Barca are both expected to turn things around eventually, but now does appear to be a time of transition for both historic clubs. Anticipate a very close, fascinating title race in Spain next year.
Italy’s Serie A could be similarly open next year if form and history are anything to go by. Much like Barcelona, current champions Juventus are going through something of a transitional period at the moment. Their downfall has allowed perennial recent strugglers AC Milan to climb to the summit of Serie A after a fine run of early-season form. Should Juve fail to wake from their stupor, the famous Rossonneri could go all the way, to win their first scudetto since 2011.
French football has seen its fair share of fairy-tale stories in recent years, with both Montpellier and AS Monaco winning Ligue 1 within the past decade. However, this season, huge favourites PSG are looking formidable after a remarkable run of form. It will seemingly take something pretty special from the likes of Lyon or Marseille to halt Thomas Tuchel’s men, who reached the Champions League final last season.
What then will become of the Champions League, a trophy that currently resides in Bavaria? Well, don’t bet against the German champions holding onto it for another year. Hansi Flick has built a supremely capable squad, one which is the favourite to triumph once again in Turkey next summer. By contrast, Liverpool will be itching to win the trophy for the 7th time, after putting up a tame defence of their crown by losing to Atletico Madrid in the Round of 16 last season. At this current point, these two giants of European football are best placed to add another trophy to their dazzling collections.
Where the Champions League has two clear favourites next year, the Europa League is anyone’s guess as things stand. English sides have looked strong in the competition so far, with Arsenal and Leicester City very much breezing through the group stage. However, the addition of Manchester United, who drop into the competition after finishing third in their Champions League group, possibly stand the best chance of all of collecting silverware at the end of the season.
The bookies’ current favourites are Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham, unsurprising given the club’s current form – as well as their managers pedigree in the tournament. The English sides won’t have it all their own way, however; as AC Milan, Napoli and Bayer Leverkusen are all expected to put up a good fight in the knockout stages.
Overall, 2021 is set to be a colossal year for football in Europe and around the world. Euro 2020 is will likely see the return of sold-out stadiums once again, something we haven’t seen at a major football event since March. We can’t wait to see what transpires over the coming months – hopefully, this piece has given you a rough idea of what we can look forward to in the world of football.
Read more about what we can expect from 2021 here.
Jonathan Lewis is an MFF Sports Writer