Every football season throws up a few surprises. Supposed underdogs upset many applecarts to climb near the top of the table. We regularly see teams overachieve and exceed all expectations. While these teams might not have reached the heights of Leicester's Premier League win in 2015/16, they have crafted special stories nonetheless.
We mulled putting Leipzig and Atalanta in this as they are having great seasons, especially in the Champions League, but their success wasn't that unpredictable. There is also Hellas Verona who got promoted to the Serie A this season and are immediately chasing Europe. But here are the 5 teams that have surprised most people due to their performances this season.
To be honest, Lazio have been around the top 4 in recent years with largely the same group of players. It's just that somehow this season all the pieces have fallen together. They sit just 1 point adrift off Juventus who are first.
Lazio players also lead the goalscoring and assist charts. Ciro Immobile leads the race for the European Golden Boot and with 27 goals, it looks very likely that he will break the league record. Luis Alberto is enjoying a renaissance in his career and leads the assist charts with 12.
Other players like Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Lucas Leiva, Thomas Strakosha and Francesco Acerbi have been excellent too. A blip on their near perfect season might have been the early exit from the Europa League, but it has helped them focus on the Serie A. Simone Inzaghi's men also lifted the Supercoppa Italia this season.
Serie A surely doesn't seem out of the reckoning. If Lazio manage to pull it off, it will be the first time in 9 years that Juventus will have not won the league title.
Getafe were surprisingly good in the last two seasons too. They were promoted in 2017/18 and immediately finished 8th and then 5th in the last two seasons. However, their exploits have somehow escaped the attention of the world.
This season though, they firmly established themselves in the public eye when they eliminated last year's Champions League semifinalists Ajax from the Europa League in a rather convincing manner.
In the La Liga too, they have been excellent. They sit 5th joint on points with 4th placed Real Sociedad. Getafe are an extremely well-managed side, set in two solid banks of 4 while the forwards stay up to hound the opposition. Getafe also have the joint most clean sheets in the league, so it's clear that a solid defence is something that coach Jose Bordalas prioritises. Quality defenders like Djene and Damian Suarez help the cause. Up front, they have three experienced forwards in Jaime Mata, Angel Rodriguez and Jorge Molina who are expertly rotated by Bordalas.
#3 AZ Alkmaar
Teams who depend on youth often tend to become selling clubs. But sometimes a batch of excellent youngsters come through together and that results in the club having a great season. A prime example is Ajax from last season.
But the team we will talk about now have matched Ajax move for move this season. Although Ajax were first on goal difference, AZ Alkmaar will have felt the most hard done by when the Eredivisie got voided. While they have been in and around the top for a while, no one thought that they would be this close to winning the thing.
AZ also qualified for the Europa League knockouts but were eliminated by LASK. The best part of their season has been the emergence of top quality youngsters for the team. 19-year-old Myron Boadu, 21 year old Calvin Stengs, their 22-year-old captain Teun Koopmeiners and 20-year-old Owen Wijndal have all had a great year. The sad part is that there will surely be bigger clubs circling around these youngsters come the transfer window.
#2 Union Berlin
One of Berlin's regrets is that it doesn't possess a football club to rival the quality of other European capital cities. Hertha Berlin have tried but are no closer to success of that level. But in came another Berlin club this year and boy have they been good. Promoted this season from the second division, Union are 11th currently but not too far off the European places.
Being a club owned by the fans, the amount of support this club enjoys is off the charts. They also happen to be the first team from the erstwhile East Berlin to play in the Bundesliga. Their top players include former Dortmund defender Neven Subotic, midfielder Felix Kroos and striker Sebastian Andersson.
#1 Sheffield United
This is the one everyone knows about. Sheffield United, also promoted this season, are, incredibly, 7th in the Premier League. They are just two points behind United in 5th (keep in mind that 5th might be good enough to qualify for the Champions League depending on City's verdict).
Chris Wilder has done an absolutely phenomenal job with the Blades and is a contender for Manager of the Season. The side lacks any big names but that hasn't mattered.
The players have all stepped up as an when required. In January, they even managed to sign Sander Berge who was being targeted by the likes of Liverpool and Manchester United. The standout players have been goalkeeper Dean Henderson, the entire defence and the likes of Lyss Mousset and Fantasy Premier League legend John Lundstram.`