Eight LaLiga clubs in the top four
As the Premier League sticks to its traditional festive fixture list – even in the midst of an Omicron surge across the country – Europe’s other four big leagues are taking a well-deserved rest.
It has been a busy start to the season in action for La Liga, Serie A, Ligue 1 and Bundesliga, with some teams running away with the title while other divisions offer a fascinating competition between a handful of top teams. .
There are also some big name outfits struggling to make their way through the standings – Barcelona still finding their marks under new boss Xavi and Juventus well outside the pace in Italy.
Sportsmail provides the inventory and explains the main talking points in the four big European leagues.
It’s a new era in Spain’s top flight without Lionel Messi, and fans have certainly had some surprises with unlikely challengers for the top four places.
It was without doubt the Rayo Vallecano who produced the biggest shock, with coach Andoni Iraola who hoisted the Spanish minnows to fourth place, ahead of Atletico Madrid and Barcelona.
Real Betis, meanwhile, knocked on the door of the top four last season and now look serious about breaking it – they’re third with 33 points, but still five behind current runner-up Sevilla.
LaLiga fans are so used to seeing Barcelona challenge Real for the league crown, but it’s the six-time Europa League winners – coached by Julen Lopetegui – who are pushing them closest. Sevilla have lost only twice, with 11 wins, but remain eight points behind the pace, even with one game short.
Madrid appear to be the big favorites to win the trophy under new boss Carlo Ancelotti, whose team has lost just once, with 14 wins and a record 41 league goals.
But for their usual rivals Barca it looks like they face a battle just to get into the top four.
They are currently seventh with 28 points, with seven wins, seven draws and four losses. This is not the form of the title contenders, although they are still just two points behind fourth-placed Rayo, so they will be confident they can still qualify for the Champions League next season.
Right above them are Real Socieded at 29 and defending champions Atletico Madrid 5th – also at 29 – after a checkered season under Diego Simeone.
Incredibly, only six points separate Athletic Bilbao in tenth and Rayo Vallecano in fourth.
The image of relegation isn’t too surprising – with Alaves, Cadiz and Levante currently occupying the bottom three places.
Meanwhile, Inter, AC Milan, Napoli, Atalanta are the top four in SERIE A.
Most expected Inter Milan to struggle after losing Romelu Lukaku with the club in a difficult financial situation as well, but they stuck it out under new boss Simone Inzaghi and rose to the top. of the rank.
The Nerazurri have 46 points after edging home rivals AC Milan – 42 – who had led the way for most of the season before suffering a setback.
The two rivals couldn’t be separated in a 1-1 draw last month and it promises to be an exciting long-distance battle, with Milan chasing their first title since 2011.
After finishing as Inter finalists last season, they are hoping to get a better shot this time around.
Follow Napoli, who are three points behind Milan of 39. Luciano Spalletti’s men beat Milan 1-0 this month, but it was their only win in their last five games and will try to bounce back in January.
Atalanta have been constant challengers for the top four over the past few years, so it’s no shock to see them take fourth place as we enter the break.
But for Juventus it’s another turbulent year – and it looks like they have issues even Max Allegri can’t fix after bringing back their successful boss to replace ailing Andrea Pirlo. They are fifth with 34 points and the title already seems out of reach. The first four will be their priority.
And in sixth it’s Jose Mourinho’s Roma, who are 14 points clear and face a battle to earn a place in the Champions League – although an impressive 4-1 win at Atalanta has them. gave hope.
The last three in Serie A are Genoa, Cagliari and Salernitana.