With the 2020/21 season kicking off or already underway all across the world, pundits, YouTube commentators, journalists and fans alike have begun writing up their predictions for how the season will end up. So, with everyone and their mother chipping in with season predictions, I thought it was time for me to throw my hat into the ring. In this article, I’m going to give my predictions for each of Europe’s Top Five Leagues and who is going to be champions. I’m also going to predict the winners of the Champions League, Europa League, MLS Cup, Copa Libertadores as well as a few bonus predictions.
Premier League (England) – Manchester City
Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side ran away with the title last season, and while I think they will definitely put up a good fight this year, I don’t think it will be enough to topple Manchester City. The title challenge will be between solely Manchester City and Liverpool as the rest of the pack is nowhere near the level of these giants, but when you compare Liverpool and Manchester City, the Citizens have probably the deepest squad in the world while Liverpool’s team has been extremely fatigued after playing at such a high level for the past year and a half. Not to mention that Pep and his boys will also be highly motivated to make up for last season which was relatively disappointing, and ended in embarrassing fashion.
La Liga (Spain) – Atletico Madrid
While this may be a controversial pick, I think this is the year that Atletico Madrid will yet again break the Real Madrid-Barcelona dominance just as they did six years ago. Real Madrid are the reigning champions and while they have a capable squad, I just feel that their attack will still fail to click. Eden Hazard will struggle to fit into the side, and they will continue to rely solely on Karim Benzema for goals. Barcelona, the Perennial La Liga winners, just came off one of their worst seasons in history. While hiring Ronald Koeman is a step in the right direction, there still exist major holes in the defense, not to mention the incompetent board remains for at least a year more.
Last season, Diego Simeone’s Atletico side was caught in a transition phase where many veterans left and new blood came in. I think this season, the new players will fully settle in and Simeone will be able to find that right balance between a strong defense and an expansive attack. Atletico Madrid’s title challenges rely heavily on the signing of Edinson Cavani, or at least another top striker, however. Though, I think they eventually will sign a new striker before the window closes.
Serie A (Italy) – Inter Milan
Again, I am going for the controversial but also more exciting pick, and this time I believe that Inter Milan will break Juventus’ nine-year title-winning streak. Although this choice may not be as shocking as it initially may seem. Juventus sacked Maurizio Sarri after a subpar season last year, yet they hired former player, Andrea Pirlo as his replacement, in what will be his first-ever managerial tenure. While I think Pirlo has the potential to be a great manager, his first season will inevitably see a few teachable moments and some ups and downs.
On the other hand, Inter have seen a meteoric rise since Antonio Conte was hired last season, and only look to keep going up. They heavily strengthened in the transfer window, adding to their already formidable team, creating a squad that is worthy of Europe’s elite. Conte dominated Serie A with Juventus a decade ago, and this year I think the animated Italian will add yet another Scudetto to his personal trophy cabinet.
Bundesliga (Germany) – Bayern Munich
In probably the most predictable league in Europe this year, it is extremely hard to not see Bayern steamroll all opposition and claim another Bundesliga title. Bayern Munich is by far the best team in the world, in fact, this squad is one of the best teams I have ever seen and they just came off a Treble winning season where they brushed aside all of Europe’s top sides. So to think they can’t do the same in Germany, against weaker opponents, is a dangerous wager to play. No one else in Germany looks like they can even touch the Bavarians.
Teams like Bayer Leverkusen, Wolfsburg and Borussia Moenchengladbach are decent but far too inconsistent. Borussia Dortmund have a surplus of young talent but the team lacks a winning mentality and collapses every time they face elite opponents. RB Leipzig is a great team, yet they just sold their best player in Timo Werner, to Chelsea. Even with Werner, Leipzig would still pale in comparison to Bayern. So, with that in mind, I think Bayern will waltz to their eighth consecutive Bundesliga title, probably with a lead-point gap in the double digits.
Ligue 1 (France) – Stade Rennais
Yep, you read that right. I predict that Rennes will win the 2020/21 Ligue 1 title. Of course, I could be like almost everyone else and predict PSG to win a consecutive fourth title, and while there is a good chance they could be right, that’s an exceptionally boring prediction, and I don’t like boring. Not only that, but there is also some credence to this claim. PSG have already started off very poorly in the league, and true, we are only a few matches into the season, but I think there is evidence that PSG’s loss in the Champions League Final may have had done major morale damage to a squad that has struggled with mentality problems in the past. We saw the same thing happen to Juventus after losing the 2017 Champions League Final, and, if not for a late push at the end of the season, Napoli would’ve beaten them to the title.
On the flip side, Rennes have a respectable squad with talented players like Steven Nzonzi, M’Baye Niang and Eduardo Camavinga, who is one of the most talented young players in the world. In fact, a large part of Rennes’ squad are youth players with great potential. At the time of writing this, Rennes sit joint-top of the Ligue 1 table. Yes, we are obviously only four matches into the season but so far, they have brushed aside some of the stronger opponents in France while playing some great football. Sure, Rennes isn’t bursting at the seams with world-class talent and all their players are unknown names, but so was Monaco at the beginning of the 2016/17 season and Montpellier at the beginning of 2011/12, and they both famously ended up as champions of France, (Yes, you have permission to call me a clown when the season ends and PSG won the title with a 25-point gap while Rennes finish 12th).
MLS Cup (USA & Canada) – Philadelphia Union
In a season that has been reformatted and mixed around a few times, I think this year will offer the Philadelphia Union their first chance at winning silverware. Jim Curtin has brought this team from a midtable mediocrity to title contenders and with a multifaceted attack headlined by Sergio Santos, Kacper Przybylko and others. With their continually competent midfield, tough defense and the ever-present savior, Andre Blake, in goal, I think Jim Curtain’s work will finally pay off this year. The Union are currently in a close second in both the Eastern Conference as well as in the overall MLS table. After a good showing at the MLS is Back Tournament, where they reached the Semifinals, I think the Union will be able to build off that good tournament performance and guide themselves to victory in the playoffs.
Champions League (Europe) – Manchester City
Tournaments like the Champions League are extremely hard to predict given that it’s a tournament that spans over the entirety of the season with massive gaps in between games. For example, a team could start the season very poorly, but due to favorable draw coupled with a good run of form at just the right moments, they could end up as champions (i.e. Real Madrid in 2016). As a result of this, these predictions tend to be very inaccurate. I mean who would’ve thought Bayern would end up as dominant champions back in August of 2019? But alas, I will still try my best. And my gut tells me that this is the year that Pep Guardiola finally gets everything right and wins his first Champions League trophy since his Barcelona days nearly a decade ago. In recent times, both Pep and Man City have been notoriously unlucky in this competition, but I think this will be the year everything goes right for them.
Europa League (Europe) – Benfica
Just as with the Champions League, the Europa League is hard to predict for those same reasons. But, the Europa League is arguably even harder to predict given that the third placed teams in the Champions League groups drop down into the knockout rounds of the Europa League. So a big portion of the title contenders may not even be in the competition yet. That being said, my pick for this season’s champions is Benfica, given that they do not qualify for the Champions League via playoffs, which looks likely they may not.
The Portuguese giants have silently won this year’s summer transfer window, bringing in a plethora of talent for mostly low prices. Benfica already had a good squad beforehand but now they quietly are one of the best teams in Europe after bringing in the likes of Everton, Jan Vertonghen and Pedrinho while still possessing very good but relatively unknown players such as Pizzi, Rafa Silva and Alex Grimaldo. However, the best move they made may not even be a player but instead their new coach, Jorge Jesus, who just recently conquered Brazil and the rest of South America with Flamengo. Benfica is a team to watch out for this year and I think they have it in them to win some major silverware.
Copa Libertadores (South America) – Palmeiras
Due to the aforementioned departure of Jorge Jesus, I do not think Flamengo will be able to retain their title after their dominant win in 2019. But that isn’t a slight against the Rio-based club, given that no team has been able to successfully defend a Copa Libertadores title in over 20 years. However, I do believe that the trophy will remain in Brazil, with this season’s champions being Palmeiras. The Periquitos are not fancied by many to win the tournament, but I think that they possess a solid enough squad with good balance and depth that can survive the year.
In the middle of the park, they have a resolute midfield with the likes of Ramires, Lucas Lima and the tough captain, Felipe Melo; and in goal they have the reliable Weverton occupying the sticks. Up top, Luiz Adriano will prove to be highly prolific and his goals will propel them to victories. In fact, he already has 11 goals in all competitions this season, including four in the Copa Libertadores, making him the second top goal scorer. Palmeiras may not be the most popular team, nor do they have a plethora of superstars but they have a hard-working and determined team, which in my opinion, is enough to see them crowned champions of South America.
In this section, I will go through a few random predictions for the season. There really is no structure or order to these picks, they are just some things I think will happen in 2020/21, and some may be a little less serious than others.
One particular prediction for this year is who will be the young breakout star. Last year, Erling Haland lit up the stage, becoming one of the most sought after players in the world. The year before it was Jadon Sancho. However, this year I think the breakout star will be Everton Soares, otherwise known as Everton Cebolinha for his onion-shaped head. The Brazilian winger was arguably the best player outside of Europe over the past 18 months and he finally got his transfer to Europe as Benfica bought him from Gremio last month, where he won the Copa Libertadores as well several major trophies in Brazil. The only surprise is that Everton didn’t get a European move sooner. After Neymar Jr. was ruled out of the 2019 Copa America with injury, Everton slotted into his spot on the left wing and gave one of the best individual tournament performances I’ve ever seen as Brazil won the tournament on home soil. Very few players can step in for Neymar and match his ability, so if Everton can replicate that form in Europe, he can easily take his career to an even higher level.
My next prediction may be a little out there, but I think there is a lot of value behind the statement, “go big or go home,” so just hear me out. In the last two Champions League seasons, the reigning champions have been eliminated in the Round of 16 by an unfancied opponent. In 2019, Real Madrid got absolutely torn to shreds by Ajax. Sure Ajax is a good team, but no one was expecting them to be that good. In the 2020 season, Atletico Madrid pulled the rug out from underneath Liverpool, and while Atletico Madrid have been one of the best teams in the world as of late, last season was a transition year for them and no one expected them to beat Liverpool in the way they did. So for this season, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that Bayern Munich will be eliminated in the 2021 Champions League Round of 16 by Chelsea. Yes, I know I just went on a tirade talking about how scary Bayern is and how they crush teams for fun, but even great teams have bad days or poor runs of form. Just look at Barcelona’s Champions League elimination in 2016 or even Liverpool last season. And Chelsea have done some major business in the transfer window, strengthening in almost every area of the squad. While I do not think it will be enough to win the Premier League, they are primed and ready for a deep run in the Champions League.
For my final prediction, I am going to talk about the Ballon d’Or which was unfortunately canceled for 2020. Even though every major league in Europe was able to finish or wrap up their league campaigns in some way or form, France Football decided to cancel the 2020 Ballon d’Or for some strange reason, to the outcry of thousands of fans. However, if the Ballon d’Or wasn’t canceled, I would think that this year it would’ve gone to Robert Lewandowski with Lionel Messi coming in second and Cristiano Ronaldo in third. The Polish striker starred for Bayern Munich as they won a historical treble but individually, Lewandowski had a gargantuan year, scoring 55 goals in only 47 games in all competitions as well recording nine assists in what was no doubt his best-ever season. While Lewandowski is obviously a world-class player, he lives within the Messi-Ronaldo era and this was probably his only chance to win the Ballon d’Or and, unfortunately, he will not have the chance to do so. In my opinion, he is the only player not named Lionel or Cristiano that was deserving of the Ballon d’Or since Kaka all the way back in 2007.
So all in all, these are my predictions for the 2020/21 season. I have no doubt that at least half of these will be wrong, some I bet, will have completely missed the mark. But that is perfectly okay, football can be very unpredictable at times, but this is one of the reasons we love it so much. And as a disclaimer, given the availability of channels here in the U.S., I am not able to watch as much Copa Libertadores. And while I am a proud American, I don’t really follow the MLS as much as I really should. So if those predictions are obscenely wrong that is the reason why. So anyway, I am very excited for the 2020/21 season, and it will definitely be very interesting to go back and look at all these predictions when its all said and done to see if the season ended up as we thought it would.