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European leagues, season preview

Posted 14th August 2009

This could be the year that the leading European clubs fight back and upset the football odds. Barcelona might be European champions, but is hard to escape the feeling that English clubs and the Premier League have become pre-eminent. Serie A and La Liga have had enough.

The protagonists from both leagues, buoyed by the strength of the Euro against the pound, have spent lavishly. Real Madrid’s recruitment drive has been well-documented, but Barcelona, in the form of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Inter Milan (Diego Milito, as well as Samuel Eto’o, not a bad sweetener in the Ibrahimovic deal) have not been shy with the cash either.

Both Barça and Inter are defending champions who will have tougher title challenges than they did last term. Real are pre-occupied with the Champions League but will also want to improve a record of six La Liga titles in 20 attempts.

Manuel Pellegrini’s wave of new signings will take time to settle but are too talented to go trophy-less, especially as Raul Albiol and Xabi Alonso have been brought in to complement the attacking recruits. Real should win the league title but have more ground to make up in Europe – Barcelona and the English clubs know what it takes to flourish in the latter stages.

A victim of Real Madrid’s spending could prove to be the best summer signing. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar has arrived at Milan and should guarantee goals. His new club have under-achieved domestically in recent years and should push Inter close under new boss Leonardo. However, I expect Inter to make it five league titles in a row.

From serial league winners in Italy to first time champions in Germany. Wolfsburg won their first ever national title last season and will again take some beating. They have retained Edin Džeko and Grafite (54 league goals between them in 2008/09) and added Obafemi Martins. Bayern Munich will need new signing Mario Gómez to hit the goal trail immediately.