How the title odds have drastically changed in Europe's top leagues this season
A Changing of the Guard?
The last year has been a bizarre one, to say the least. The world finds itself in unprecedented circumstances and that has had a knock on effect to football; games played behind closed doors without fans in attendance, rigorous testing for players and staff alongside a completely different approach to how match-days are carried out has transformed the sport to the extent that it will probably never be quite the same again.
But the perplexities are not just limited to off the field. On it, we are witnessing a season like no other - and it is not just down to the ongoing global pandemic. There seems to be a collective power-shift across Europe, where in a number of the continent's top leagues, the underdogs are battling their way to the top.
While there is still half the campaign still left to play, should things continue as they are, we could well witness a changing of the guard in England, Italy, Spain and France in the spring.
Join us as we look at which sides are in with a shot of upsetting the odds by winning their league title this season, and how the odds have drastically changed since the summer.
The Premier League - Manchester United
We'll start on home soil with the Premier League. Manchester United are the most successful club in English top-flight history, winning 20 titles in total, but they have not lifted the trophy since 2012/2013 when Sir Alex Ferguson was in still in charge. A string of underperforming managers have each tried to write their name into Old Trafford folklore, but each have all successfully failed in doing so.
This season, under the watchful eye of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, things seemed to have just clicked into place for United and there is a collective feeling that if they are going to win the league in the post-Ferguson era then this is the best chance they’ve got.
Liverpool have been hit hard by injuries and look a shadow of the team they were during last season, while Chelsea and Tottenham have both been inconsistent and don’t look like serious title-challengers this time around. Rivals Manchester City are undoubtedly the team to beat, and they will certainly not be easy to overcome.
Pep Guardiola’s side look hungry and back to their best following a rare trophy-starved campaign in 2019-20, where they obtained just one title from a potential four on offer, and they are currently hot on the heels of their city neighbours, trailing by two points with a game in hand.
United, though, still have a huge chance of going the distance and are showing the sort of consistency required by a team who are genuine contenders for the title, their last defeat in the league falling all the way back on November 1st. 14/1 shots before the first ball was kicked in September, The Red Devils are now 7/1 in the Premier League winner betting and will continue to shorten if they can retain this current level of form.
La Liga - Atletico Madrid
Over to Spain now, where the power shift in La Liga is swinging uncontrollably away from the two long-standing driving forces in the division. Real Madrid dragged their way to the title last season but that was largely helped by how poor Barcelona and Atletico Madrid were throughout, but this season things are different.
Atletico have long been known as Spain’s third-biggest and best side, regularly keeping up with their city rivals and Barca, though they have only managed to upset the applecart by winning La Liga once since the turn of the century in 2013-14.
However, that looks as though it could all be changing this season as Diego Simeone’s men currently lead the way on 41 points - seven points ahead of Barcelona and four ahead of Real - having played two less games than their rivals for the title.
A club renowned for its defensive capabilities, 2020-21 has so far seen Atletico concede just six goals in 16 games in the Spanish top-flight. While this is impressive it is not particularly surprising given the history of their tactical approach under Simeone, but what is different about them this season is how many times they’ve found the net at the other end of the pitch.
Los Rojiblancos have scored 31 goals so far - second only to Barcelona who have netted 37 times - which is just 20 goals short of their entire tally from last season’s campaign where they scored 51, conceded 27, and finished third on 70 points - 17 behind eventual champions Real Madrid.
Having started the season as 9/1 shots for the title, Atletico are now odds-on favourites to lay claim to the trophy for the 11th time in their history, and considering just how inconsistent Barcelona and Real Madrid have been of late, you'd struggle to look past them going the distance in the remaining months ahead.
Serie A - AC Milan
The title race in Serie A this season is arguably the most exciting throughout the whole of Europe. Currently just 10 points separate leaders AC Milan and fifth-place Juventus, although the latter do have the luxury of a game in hand to play with.
The Rossoneri have not won the league title in Italy since their dominance in the division came to an end back in 2011. The 18-time champions have fallen by the wayside during the last decade but this season they could well regain their status as title-winners, should they manage to pull ahead of their rivals in the upcoming months.
Prior to their 3-1 loss to current champions Juventus at the start of the month, Milan had not lost a game in Serie A all season, but that defeat has only served to intensify an already intense battle for top spot.
Milan’s primary rivals, Inter, closely tail them at the summit by just three points having played the same number of games, while third-place Napoli are nine points behind at this stage but, like Juve, also have a game in hand. Roma are still in the mix, too, currently in fourth on 34 points (18 games played) while Atalanta are perhaps not to be disregarded either, currently sixth on 32 points having played 17 games.
So it is still all to play for in Serie A, and while the league could be settled in a number of ways from now until May 22nd, AC Milan - who started the season as 22/1 outsiders for the title but have now been cut to just 5/2 - currently find themselves in the driving seat of their own destiny and in with a great chance of finally overthrowing Juventus from their perch at the top of Italy's premier division.
Ligue 1 - Lille OSC
Much like Juventus in Italy and Bayern Munich in Germany, the French first division has been dominated by Paris Saint-Germain in recent years. The Parisians have won seven of the last eight Ligue 1 titles, and unsurprisingly lie top of the pile once again this season.
However, unlike years gone by, they are top by only a whisker and neck and neck with them are a side who have won just one league title in the last 40 years - Lille OSC. Level on points with PSG after 20 games, Christophe Galtier’s side have been a breath of fresh air this season, losing just twice in the league since mid-August (six draws, 12 wins).
Les Dogues have taken points from PSG, Lyon, Monaco and Marseille this term and have the second-best defensive record in the whole division having shipped just 15 goals - behind only PSG (11 goals conceded).
While the task in hand is certainly a challenging one, much like in Italy, Spain and England, the teams who have for so long been so dominant in their respective league’s are now showing signs of faltering - perhaps down to fatigue or complacency - and in France it is no different.
PSG are usually streets ahead by this point of the campaign but they have already lost more games than they did throughout the whole of last season and just one less than when they won the league in 2018-19.
If a shock similar to that of when Monaco clinched the trophy in 2016-17 is to be repeated again, then it will be this season, and it could easily be orchestrated by an unassuming side like this exciting youthful Lille outfit, who are now a lot shorter at 16/1 to do the business compared to the 66/1 they set off at back in the summer.