Picking out the teams to join PSG in your European leagues acca

You can't look past Paris Saint-Germain for Ligue 1 thanks to the addition of Lionel Messi but the next Serie A, La Liga and Bundesliga champions are not so clear-cut.

Away from the Premier League, European soccer's top leagues were as competitive as they had been in a very long time last season.

In Italy, Juventus's Serie A dominance was brought to an end by Inter Milan. In Spain, Atletico Madrid pipped their city rivals Real to the La Liga title. In France, Lille stopped PSG winning their eighth Ligue 1 in nine years, and fourth in a row.

Germany was something of an outlier, as Bayern Munich kept a firm hold on the Bundesliga with their ninth in a row, but overall, it was a season of surprises.

The last time a season ended with not a single one of Real Madrid, Barcelona, JuventusAC Milan or PSG winning their respective domestic league titles was back in 2000.

That sets up some very intriguing storylines heading into the new season in Europe's powerhouses. Can the underdogs retain their titles, or will the giants hit back?

Planet Sport takes a look at who may emerge victorious across the continent.

La Liga

Jan Oblak and Diego Simeone embrace Atletico Madrid May21

Atletico built their 11th La Liga title triumph last season on Diego Simeone's deeply unaesthetic, but highly effective, defensive tactics. Featuring La Liga Player of the Season Jan Oblak in goal and Stefan Savic in central defence, they conceded just 25 goals, while at the other end of the pitch, top scorer Luis Suarez hit 21.

They have beefed up their already-impressive midfield with the arrival of Rodrigo De Paul from Udinese, and retain every member of that title-winning squad from last season. They will remain genuine contenders to keep the title away from the El Clasico pair for another year yet.

Barcelona have lost Lionel Messi in one of the most high-profile free transfers of all time, and no one comes close to replacing the Argentine. Their well-documented financial situation means they are hamstrung when it comes to the transfer market, and they look a shadow of a side able to challenge for the title even taking for the arrivals of Memphis DepaySergio Aguero and return of Emerson.

David Alaba Real Madrid Aug21

In a similar situation are Real Madrid, who have also signed just one player, former Bayern Munich defender David Alaba arriving on a free. They don't quite have the crippling monetary instability that Barcelona do, but the departures of Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos leave the centre of their defence severely weakened.

It is a team in transition and with Zinedine Zidane also gone, new coach Carlo Ancelotti will have his work cut out to hang on to the coat-tails of the champions.

Bundesliga

The one division that failed to shock last season was the Bundesliga, as Hansi Flick's Bayern comfortably wrapped up their ninth title in a row by finishing a colossal 13 points clear of RB Leipzig.

Perhaps the only real surprise in the league occurred further down the table, with Union Berlin finishing seventh, 15 points above city rivals Hertha.

Bayern lost just four games all season, as Robert Lewandowski again terrified defences with 41 league goals. Their defence was perhaps a little leakier than they would have liked, but with the €42.5million signing of Dayot Upamecano from Leipzig, they have both strengthened themselves and weakened a rival in one fell swoop.

Julian Nagelsmann started his reign as Bayern Munich boss in the 2021/22 Bundesliga season by sharing a point with Borussia Monchengladbach at Borussia Park.

Monchengladbach took the lead thanks to Alassane Plea in the 10th minute but by the end of half-time it was level with Lewandowski on the scoresheet for Bayern. It was an entertaining game for the neutral as fans returned to North Rhine-Westphalia for the first time since March 2020.

Robert Lewandowski Bayern Munich Aug21

The most likely side to have a shot at ending Bayern's dominance are Borussia Dortmund. Even with new manager Marco Rose, they have continued their focus on developing youth, as following the sale of Jadon Sancho, they have signed Dutchman Donyell Malen. However, competing with the Bayern juggernaut is onerous.

It is unlikely Leipzig will challenge either, although they have splashed out €92million on new signings in an effort to cut the gap to Bayern.

Their problem, however, is that Upamecano was so crucial to their side. However much they spend now, allowing him to leave halts any progress the new men can offer.

Serie A

A stunning season for Inter Milan under former Chelsea boss Antonio Conte saw them rack up 91 points to finish 12 clear of city rivals AC. But much like Barcelona, they now find their hopes of success this year fizzling out on account of off-field financial issues.

Said issues have forced them to part with Conte, who was reportedly unhappy with budget cuts, as well as raise funds by selling Achraf Hakimi to PSG and Romelu Lukaku to Chelsea. However, they should still be in the conversation with another top-four finish, provided Lukaku's strike partner Lautaro Martinez stays put.

Serie A feels like the most competitive league on the continent, with at least four clubs having realistic opportunities to win the title.

Cristiano Ronaldo Juventus Aug21

Juventus have to be considered worthy favourites thanks to the continued brilliance of Cristiano Ronaldo, but Massimiliano Allegri will need to resolve their tendency to slip up in the important games.

Electrifying Atalanta could finally make this year their year with one of the most feared attacks in Italy. With the loan signing of Merih Demiral at the back to go with Colombian attacking pair Luis Muriel and Duvan Zapata, they seem to be listening to Sir Alex Ferguson's words that "attack wins you games, defence wins you titles".

AC Milan will also fancy their chances of keeping the title at the San Siro, but in their red hands rather than the blue of Inter's. However, they do look weaker than last season, especially with the departures of Gianluigi Donnarumma and Hakan Calhanoglu. Signing 34-year-old Olivier Giroud feels like window dressing, too.

Ligue 1

If titles were won on paper, the rest of Ligue 1 would stand little chance, as a smarting PSG have gone all out in the market.

Remarkably, however, they have taken advantage of a glut of contracts running out to pick up four top-level players, including the living legend that is Lionel Messi, on free transfers.

Lionel Messi and Neymar, PSG training Aug21

Their other free acquisitions are Donnarumma from AC Milan, Georginio Wijnaldum from Liverpool and Sergio Ramos from Real Madrid, alongside spending €60million on Inter Milan's Hakimi. If anyone manages to keep them away from the title this season, it might just be the biggest surprise in European soccer history.

However, that said, it was a surprise when Lille managed it last season, usurping the Parisians by a solitary point. And although they have next to no expectation, the pressure will of course make things difficult. They have suffered several key departures, including goalkeeper Mike Maignan, making their task very tough indeed.

The other challengers could be Olympique Lyonnais, who finished fourth last season, and perhaps Monaco, who were third. However, the former's transfer activity has been minimal, meaning their squad feels too predictable, while the latter has the opposite problem with too many moves, posing the issue of players struggling to gel.

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