The 2018/2019 European season is well underway, and some wholesome changes to the game have already been made. VAR was the talk of this summer’s World Cup and despite its concerns, leagues such as La Liga, Bundesliga, and Serie A have implemented it to help reduce the number of wrong calls made by referees. In addition, the transfer window has seen some signings that can potentially end Real Madrid’s dominance in Europe. Here are some talking points from around the continent in the month of August.
The main topic of conversation about the UEFA Champions League must be the lack of a single ‘Group of Death’. Group A sees 2017 runners-up Atletico Madrid face off against Borussia Dortmund and Monaco, two strong sides with experience in the latter stages of recent editions of the tournament. Led by World Cup winning talisman Antoine Griezmann, Los Colchoneros are expected to finish atop their group, but their task is by no means an easy one.
Elsewhere, Group B sees the return of Inter Milan after a 6-year absence. They will face a much-fancied Barcelona side looking to reclaim the European throne, a Spurs team hoping to reach the quarterfinals for the first time in seven seasons, and underdogs PSV looking to cause upsets.
Next is Group C which includes last season’s finalist Liverpool, a Napoli side that’s grabbed the attention of many fans through their attacking football and PSG, led by Kylian Mbappe and company. All three teams have a talented trio of attackers that can cause the strongest of defenses problems, thus many goals are expected to come from this group.
Finally, there’s Group F, consisting of fresh-faced and hungry Juventus FC, perennial English side Manchester United, and Spanish juggernauts Valencia, with Young Boys making up the numbers. This group will see the return of Cristiano Ronaldo to the Theatre of Dreams, while Paul Pogba will face off against La Vecchia Signora after making his name in Turin for 4 years. The absence of a sole ‘Group of Death’ will make the tournament more competitive and exciting to watch.
The 2018/2019 Premier League season may only be three weeks in, but it has already stirred up some debating points. For starters, what seemed like a winnable first three games for Manchester United has turned to a gut-wrenching reality-check. Jose Mourinho made it clear he wanted more signings in the summer transfer window and his wishes being unfulfilled has reportedly led to disarray between him and the board. The mounting off-field issues were followed up by sub par performances that leave The Red Devils with only one win in their first two games. In contrast, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, and Tottenham have started off the season on a bright note, with the latter receiving a boost from Harry Kane breaking his goal-scoring drought in the month of August.
With 9 goals scored in the first games, Manchester City keeps proving their dominance going forward. However, a draw away to newly-promoted Wolves revealed some frailties when facing well-organized defensive sides, and teams around the league should take note to ensure the champions don’t run away with the title early on like they did last season.
Now is the time for Atletico Madrid to take the La Liga crown and break the duopoly of Barcelona and Real Madrid. After a summer of speculation about their future, Cristiano Ronaldo’s move to Juventus (and the lack of a proper replacement) coincided with Antoine Griezmann’s ‘decision’ to remain in the Spanish capital. Madrid’s failure to replace CR7 can boost Atletico’s title chances and having two world class forwards in Griezmann and Diego Costa, gives them a slight edge over their rivals. Both Barcelona and Real Madrid have made winning starts to their season however, so knocking the two off their perch will not be an easy task.
Another hot topic in August was La Liga’s plan to host a regular season match in the United States, possibly to compete with the Premier League on a grander stage. This was met by disapproval, as well as a threat to strike by the renowned players of the league. The concept is attractive from a business point of view, but the extra travel will affect the players’ rest period and a final decision on the matter is yet to be made.
Notable signings from the Summer Transfer Window
- Gianluigi Buffon Juventus –> PSG
- Cristiano Ronaldo Real Madrid –> Juventus
- Gonzalo Higuain Juventus –> AC Milan
- Alisson Becker AS Roma –> Liverpool
- Thomas Lemar Monaco –> Atletico Madrid
- Arturo Vidal Bayern Munich –> FC Barcelona
- Radja Nainggolan AS Roma –> Inter Milan
- Douglas Costa Bayern Munich–> Juventus
- Thibaut Courtois Chelsea –> Real Madrid
- Kepa Arrizabalaga Athletic Bilbao –> Chelsea