When every season begins, it brings with it hope. Hope is accompanied by expectations. And neither expectations nor hope knows any bounds. So, as the big teams across Europe set about their campaign, the fans, players, staff and management hope that this is their season. In fact, the quest to become Champions begins well before the season commences. Some teams even start planning their next campaign before the current one finishes. After all, to be called the best in your land is perhaps the greatest honour of all.
Transfers, strategies, changing coaches, changing formations, changing management. And after all of that, it eventually comes down to what happens on the pitch. Football, like all of sport, is down to execution on the day. And under the shining lights, sometimes it is about who holds their nerve better. Tactics transitioning into muscle memory can only go so far.
Sometimes, it is nothing material or specific that makes one champions. Ask Real Madrid who won the Champions League on the back of serially working miracles. It was seemingly an abstract force of nature. It is strange and yet very true. Some even call it pedigree. Or the knowledge of winning big titles. That overused phrase, "this team knows how to win the big ones". And therein lies the beauty of the beautiful game.
And yet, we still must predict. Look closely and look from afar before trying to rationalize what it all means. Thusly, here are the predictions for the Champions of Europe's Top 5 leagues. French Ligue 1, German Bundesliga, Italian Serie A, English Premier League and Spanish La Liga.
Champions Prediction - Ligue 1
In all honesty, can one look beyond PSG? A cursory glance at their squad and it is the most carefully assembled bunch of superstars this game has to offer. Their reserve goalkeeper is a multiple time Champions League winner. Meanwhile, the who starts is one of the most exciting young goalies in Europe. And already a Euros winner. The defence has two World Cup winners, multiple time Champions League winners. The midfield is smooth, press resistant, good on the ball, can pick passes and also drive forward. As for their frontline, well, it is worth so much that nothing yet invented can measure it. Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar.
Add to that, the trio have started to press and make off the ball movements to help when the opposition have possession. PSG are the overwhelming favourites to win the Ligue 1 title.
Champions of France prediction: PSG
Champions Prediction - Bundesliga
Strange things are not uncommon in sport. In fact, it happens so often that one usually cites sporting examples as motivation to scale seemingly improbable mountains. Stripped down to its bare bones, the absolute lottery that sport is, makes it worth the watch. And funnily enough, the pursuit of every team is to minimize this very unknown. That is perhaps why one talks so much about control. How well can one team control the midfield and control the ball. Sometimes control is not having the ball. Minimize error.
However, when you are Bayern Munich in Germany, winning the title is the necessity. It might sound ludicrous to the common man but Bayern Munich not winning the league is a disappointment. In that way, the German team is extremely similar to PSG. For both teams, the domestic league titles are bare minimums. For these two teams, the Champions League is glorious achievement.
Bayern Munich, having lost Robert Lewandowski, are bound to be affected in terms of output. The Polish striker, simply put, was a goal machine. Season after another, he was scoring for fun. As inevitable as the word. However, that loss is unlikely to derail their campaign too much. The team has enough quality overall to retain the Bundesliga title.
Champions of Germany prediction: Bayern Munich
Champions Prediction - Serie A
This is perhaps the most competitive league in Europe right now. The Premier League has pretty much, statistically, belong to one team. Despite the challenges, Liverpool have failed to cross the line. However, Italy has now emerged with no team clearly staking a claim to be runaway favourites. In terms of the number of teams competing to be called Champions, there are as many as four. Inter Milan, AC Milan, Juventus and Napoli.
Fans of Atalanta will feel they too have a fair chance at winning the Scudetto after their near perfect start. Atalanta are second to Napoli on the points table at the moment, both tied on 14 points and separated by only two goals. Defending champions AC Milan are not too far behind either. They are also on 14 points, however, with an inferior goal difference.
Inseparable at the moment, one feels that AC Milan possesses just about enough in their tank to see off competition. Juventus have been unfortunate with injuries as star midfielder Paul Pogba has been sidelined. Federico Chiesa has also been missing for a while. And one is not sure how he will return after his long injury lay off.
Champions of Italy prediction: AC Milan
Champions Prediction - Premier League
Well, Erling Haaland, according to popular opinion, has sealed the title in England. It seems as though the Champions trophy will remain in Manchester. Liverpool, the prime challengers of the last half decade are now going through a difficult team. And the remaining teams seem only to be pretenders now.
Chelsea, having sacked Champions League winning manager Thomas Tuchel, will take time settling in and adjusting to their new manager's philosophy. Graham Potter has done exceedingly well at Brighton. However, he is yet to prove his championship winning credentials. Meanwhile, Manchester United are also a team in transition. They have won four consecutive games, but the Europa League commitments is likely to be a major factor in derailing their title challenge, if one.
Arsenal, though, have emerged out of the box the quickest. They won their first five games to race to the top. A defeat to United since is yet to affect their position on the table. Spurs too have fared well under manager Antonio Conte. However, it is still difficult to see any of them competing toe to toe with City over the course of what will be a very demanding season. Pep's team have the quality and depth to retain the Premier League.
Champions of England prediction: Manchester City
Champions Prediction - Spain
After a lull, Barcelona seems to be back as a contender again. A summer of myriad acquisitions and releases have put them right in the mix for the La Liga title. It is difficult to pick the Champions of Spain. Perhaps as difficult as Italy, with the only difference being the number of contenders. That would also mean that the winners in Spain will perhaps amass more points.
There are lot of subplots here as well. Not solely a Real Madrid versus Barcelona battle. There is the one between the two elite strikers of this generation - Karim Benzema and Robert Lewandowski. However, it will not boil down to the simple case of who scores more. Madrid, having so strongly suited Mbappe, are without that new star acquisition up front. Their midfield, however, seems to have rejuvenated itself with Aurlien Tchouameni's arrival. The young Frenchman Camavinga is also finding his feet now.
Meanwhile, Barcelona has a new centre back pairing and an exciting frontline with Ousmane Dembele, Ansu Fati and Raphinha all feeling like new signings. Both teams have made flying starts to their campaign as well. However, Barcelona's frontline may still have to prove their consistency. Dembele is hardly ever fit over the course of a season. And Ansu Fati is still very young.
While Madrid's midfield is ageing, one feels they have another season in them.
Champions of Spain prediction: Real Madrid