The new 2020/2021 season is upon us and while football have been gifted with games to watch on every other day during the closing stages of the last season, going back to the stadium is still not an option.
Current guidelines state that gatherings of over six people are banned for the foreseeable future, meaning football crowds will not be permitted. Despite that setback, Premier League chief executive Richard Masters remains confident that stadiums will be back at full capacity by the end of the 2020-21 season.
The same modus operandi will be adopted across Europe and the rest of the big leagues. Nevertheless, football will be returning to our screens and there a loads to be excited about for the 2020/2021 seasons. Here are our top picks for the big four leagues – EPL, La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga.
English Premier League
The 2020-21 Premier League campaign will, if all goes to plan, conclude on May 23, 2021, in order to give ample preparation time for the delayed Euro 2020 tournament, which will commence three weeks later. This means the 38-game season will be condensed by nearly a month.
Liverpool have raised the bar, and they must match up to their standards. The only problem is that, so far, they have ignored the old truism that you must capitalise on success by strengthening when you are at the top. Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal have all made significant additions to their squad this summer in an effort to close the gap on Liverpool – who have made just one signing, a reserve left-back to provide cover for Andy Robertson.
Chelsea have been on a shopping spree during the transfer window. Pedro and Willian are gone, but Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech arrived from Bayer Leverkusen and Ajax, respectively, for combined fees of over $130m. There are also holdovers Callum Hudson-Odoi, Mason Mount and Ruben Loftus-Cheek to contend with on the flanks. Christian Pulisic has plenty of objectives for this season for Chelsea too. There are more goals, more assists and more trophies to secure.
Under the maverick Marcelo Bielsa, Leeds have a manager who has forged a side that trusts in the system and fears nobody. The summer signing of Spanish striker Rodrigo from Valencia for £30m — he should contribute at least 15 goals — and defender Robin Koch from Freiberg are bits of smart business, while they also have managed to bring back in the impressive Jack Harrison from Manchester City on loan. Kalvin Phillips is getting international recognition in the UEFA Nations League with England, while Pablo Hernandez is ageless, so expect this Leeds team to run and run with El Loco, ensuring they leave nothing on the field.
After winning last year’s La Liga title with a relentless final sprint, Real Madrid are betting on practically the same group of players as they seek to successfully defend a domestic crown for the first time since 2008. With their finances squeezed by the Covid-19 pandemic and their squad already well rounded, Real have had neither the resources nor the desire this summer to make the glamorous signings for which they are renowned.
The only new addition to Zinedine Zidane’s squad looks to be Norwegian midfielder Martin Odegaard, who returns after spending the last few years on loan across Europe before coming of age with a splendid campaign in La Liga with Real Sociedad.
Barcelona are still reeling from a dismal finale to the season and are in the middle of a squad overhaul led by new coach Ronald Koeman. Barca may have clung on to Messi after a two-week saga but are still in deep trouble on a sporting, institutional and financial level.
Koeman, a beloved former Barca player but with a patchy record as a club manager, faces a daunting task in reshaping an ageing side whose weaknesses were woefully exposed by the 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League. Unlike predecessors Ernesto Valverde and Quique Setien, the Dutchman will look to impose his authority on a dressing room that many believe has had too much power for too long and it will be fascinating to see how he gels with the players.
With new head coach Andrea Pirlo in the hot seat for the 2020/21 campaign, Juventus are set to undergo somewhat of a transitional period. Pirlo will have to meet the incredibly high standards set in previous seasons, but must also take his squad into a new, younger and more streamlined direction. It’s by no means going to be an easy first season on the job for the Italian, as Juve gear up to defend their Serie A crown, but there is an air of optimism around his appointment.
Sure, he doesn’t have the experience as a manager, but his supreme understanding of the game as a player combined with his importance to Juventus as a club will give him an immense presence in the dressing room. Then, they still have Cristiano Ronaldo – who doesn’t look like he’s gonna be slowing down any time soon!
Bayern Munich are basically the Yankees of the Bundesliga. Seeking their 30th title this season, they’ve also won five European Cups, and some of the best players in the history of the sport have dressed for The Bavarians: From Oliver Kahn to Manuel Neuer in goal, and legends like Lothar Matthäus to Robert Lewandowski today. They are the standard of German fussball and have been for decades, but are in a battle for domestic glory in 2020.
Robert Lewandowski is one of the best strikers in Europe today. The Polish international has 25 goals in 23 club appearances this season, and is one of the most feared players in the Bundesliga. Manuel Neuer might be the best goalkeeper that’s ever lived and he’s won everything there is to win, including six-straight Bundesliga’s for Bayern. Kimmich plays a withdrawn role, but has starred in four straight league winning campaigns for the European giants.