5 teams that can mount a surprise title challenge this season

Could this be Sevilla's year?
Could this be Sevilla's year?
Shambhu Ajith

Transfer windows help teams get a facelift and we can never be sure which club did the best business until they kick off their new campaigns. We have seen some underdogs upset the odds and go on to win titles over the last 5 years in Europe.

Leicester City's Premier League title-winning 2015-16 season and AS Monaco's Ligue 1 triumph in the 2016/17 season are both examples of gifted sides surprising us with the underappreciated talent that they pack.

We are going through an unprecedented phase with the new season starting sans a prolonged break and clubs having to be a lot more cautious with their summer expenditure in the Covid scenario. So there's reason enough for us to expect the unexpected this time around.

Without further ado, let's take a look at five teams that can mount a surprise title challenge this season.

#5 AC Milan (Serie A)

SS Lazio v AC Milan - Serie A
SS Lazio v AC Milan - Serie A

AC Milan's resurgent form in the second half of the 2019-20 season after being galvanized by the arrival of Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been nothing short of exhilarating. A group of players who were tagged sub-par came a long way and finished sixth on the table after languishing in mid-table for the greater part of the season.

After winning four of their last five games, the Rossoneri will be desperate to kick on in the same vein in the upcoming campaign and this is easily the most promising phase that they have gone through over the past decade or so.

The likes of Ante Rebic, Hakan Calhanoglu, Andrea Conti and Frank Kessie have all shown signs of coming through after failing to impress in their initial days. They have now added young midfielder Sandro Tonali from Brescia to the mix.

If you've followed them closely, you'd see there has been a drastic improvement in almost every aspect over the past few months and AC Milan will further intensify the competition at the top after Inter Milan, Atalanta and Lazio all gave Juventus a run for their money in the Serie A last season.

#4 RB Leipzig (Bundesliga)

SL Benfica v RB Leipzig: Group G - UEFA Champions League
SL Benfica v RB Leipzig: Group G - UEFA Champions League

Though the way the exited the UEFA Champions League was nothing to write home about, their exciting run to the semi-finals was both admirable and surprising in equal measure.

Julian Nagelsmann has assembled a top quality side that contains no player that cost over £20 million. That is almost inconceivable in today's football landscape. They have consistently roped in young, hungry players and have religiously stuck to their project of developing young stars for the future.

They finished third in the Bundesliga last season behind Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. They have an abundance of exciting talent on their payroll which includes the likes of Dayot Upamecano, Marcel Sabitzer and Emil Forsberg. Though they have now sold Timo Werner, their performances in the final stages of the Champions League in his absence have been encouraging.

Having finished just 3 points behind Borussia Dortmund and having made it to the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League, they will definitely be looking to mount a title challenge on all fronts in the 2020-21 season.

#3 Olympique Lyon (Ligue 1)

Manchester City v Lyon - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final
Manchester City v Lyon - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final

The start of Lyon's 2020-21 season was delayed due to their run to the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League. They had a forgettable domestic league campaign last time around, finishing seventh on the Ligue 1 table- a major letdown after finishing third in the 2018/19 season.

However, Lyon did pretty well elsewhere. They knocked out European giants Juventus and Manchester City in their exciting run to the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League. They also reached the finals of the Coupe de la Ligue, losing on penalties to Paris Saint-Germain.

If they can replicate their form from other competitions, Lyon could pose a serious threat to Paris Saint-Germain next season. Lyon have an array of talented players and the likes of Memphis Depay, Moussa Dembele, Houssem Aouar, Jason Denayer etc. have been exciting to follow.

They had the third best goalscoring record in the Ligue 1 last season. What could oddly work in Lyon's favour this time around is their absence in Europe. With more time to focus on the league and way less fatigue to negotiate, Lyon could really go on to upset the odds this time around.

#2 Sevilla (La Liga)

Seville v FC Internazionale - UEFA Europa League Final
Seville v FC Internazionale - UEFA Europa League Final

Sevilla have been one of the most consistent teams across Europe with respect to their performance in the league and trophy haul. Sevilla booked a spot in the UEFA Champions League for the 2020-21 season after finishing 4th in the 2019-20 La Liga season in addition to winning the UEFA Europa League.

Under Julen Lopetegui, Sevilla have improved greatly and earned 11 more points in the 2019-20 season than they did in 2018-19. There has been a marked improvement in defence that has come in sync with an improvement in results all around.

Monchi's return as the Director of Football has also gone a long way towards Sevilla's current form. They conducted some great business last transfer window, signing Lucas Ocampos from Marseille for just €15 million. They also signed the likes of Jules Kounde and Diego Carlos for a combined sum of €40 million.

Kounde and Carlos have helped Sevilla become rock-solid at the back while Lucas Ocampos has been their standout performer on the other side of the pitch, scoring 14 goals and providing 3 assists from 31 starts in the league.

Jesus Navas, Sergio Reguilon and Fernando were all outstanding. Though Reguilon might not return, Sevilla now have a well-balanced squad that can give any team a run for their money. To make things even better, Sevilla have now added the likes of Suso, Oscar Rodriguez and Ivan Rakitic to their side.

Maybe it is finally time for a new entrant into the elite realm of Spanish football presently occupied by Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.

#1 Chelsea (Premier League)

Chelsea FC v Norwich City - Premier League
Chelsea FC v Norwich City - Premier League

Frank Lampard had quite an impressive debut season at Chelsea after taking over from Maurizio Sarri in the summer of 2019. After inheriting a young side reeling from the departure of Eden Hazard, Lampard guided them to a 4th place finish in the Premier League.

If there were any doubts about whether the club legend would be backed in the transfer window as the teams wound up their 2019-20 campaigns, there is none remaining any more. Chelsea have broke the bank and then some, in order to bolster their squad.

Chelsea have signed Kai Havertz, Timo Werner, Ben Chilwell, Hakim Ziyech, Malang Sarr and Thiago Silva. They have recruited quite wisely and now look powerful in all areas on the pitch.

Given how most of their rivals have struggled under the financial strain caused by the Covid pandemic, Chelsea seem to have aced their transfer business. Of course these players will take a while to settle down but now that they have such incredible squad depth, anything short of a title-challenge could be deemed underwhelming.

Edited by Shambhu Ajith


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