Most of the European seasons have already ended and the ones that haven’t – France and Italy, for instance – only have one match left on their respective schedules. This means it’s time for balance.
Now we will look at teams that impressed throughout the season. Either due to their play or their finishing position on the standings, here are three sides that turned heads during the 2018-19 European campaign.
Undoubtedly, Atalanta have been the most surprising side during the 2018-19 Serie A season. They had been flirting with a top status in past season, but they’ve made the jump this season. And being honest, they’re not going to leave that status any time soon. If we look at things closely, we can see Atalanta have built a team to compete for a long period of time. Led by Alejandro ‘Papu’ Gomez (10 assists) and striker Duvan Zapata (22 goals), Atalanta currently sit third in the Serie A standings with one match left on the schedule. If the season ended today, they would earn a spot in the 2019-20 UEFA Champions League group stage.
Their Champions League berth is far from confirmed, though. They’re ahead of fourth-placed Inter Milan solely on goal differential, and own a slim lead over fifth-placed AC Milan (one point) and sixth-placed AS Roma (three points). Their worst-case scenario represents a UEFA Europa League group stage spot, but they should be able to clinch a Champions League spot given their final match is at home against Sassuolo this next Sunday.
Lille spent most of the 2017-18 season struggling with relegation and had lots of problems ever since they appointed Marcelo Bielsa. Fast forward for one year, and Lille have already secured a spot in the upcoming UEFA Champions League with one match left in the schedule. In fact, Lille have settled themselves in second place of the standings, well ahead of more prominent sides such as Lyon, Marseille and Saint-Étienne, just to mention a few.
Bar PSG, no side has lost fewer games (six), won more matches (22) and scored more goals (67), while owning the league’s best defence (30 goals conceded). Led by a stellar player in Nicolas Pepe (22 goals, 11 assists) and surrounded by a solid supporting cast, Lille have returned to the premier positions of the Ligue 1. It’s been quite an impressive turnaround since they were so close to relegation roughly 12 months ago.
Last but not least, we have Getafe. Los Azulones spent several weeks in Champions League qualification zone, but they faltered in the final week of the campaign. Nonetheless, they ended the year in fifth place after stumbling to a 2-2 draw against Villarreal in the final week of the 2018-19 campaign. But let’s be honest. Who would’ve thought Getafe would be in the mix for a European berth in the final week of the season? Not even the most optimistic supporters were waiting this kind of campaign. The play of strikers Jorge Molina and Jaime Mata – each scored 14 goals during La Liga – was instrumental to the team’s success.
Getafe were tipped by most to be a mid-table side, and their best scenario would’ve been to be in contention for a Europa League berth. While they’ll still play in the group stage of that competition next season, the fact that they were close to clinching a Champions League spot was amazing on their own right. Especially since they finished above more competitive sides such as Betis, Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao, just to name a few.
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