Another season beginning, or already begun in some league, and we look at four clubs that really really need a title this year. Why? Everybody needs one, and there are perennial contenders each season in each league, but there are a few other clubs that need to win one bad, more than others – Here are the clubs, from the English Premiership, French Ligue 1, Dutch Eredivise and the Portuguese Liga.
Back in 1990, after Liverpool won it’s 18th league title, Alex Ferguson was still without any titles with Manchester United, three years away from United’s first league title since 1967, and it seemed ages or eons away from tying Liverpool with 18 league titles. But here we are, August 2009, and Liverpool are still on 18, and Manchester United, after winning their 11th Premiership title, all under Alex Ferguson, are with 18 as well. Liverpool going through five managers in the last 20 years (not a lot by any standard) as opposed to Manchester United’s one being the answer to the Reds’ woe?
Last season Liverpool came the closest they have to winning a title, and finished four points behind United while beating them twice in the league. Can they do better this year? The pre-season hasn’t gone so well so far – between Gerrard’s trial that’s left him behind the rest in the season preparations, Xabi Alonso sold to Real Madrid, Javier Mascherano wanting out to Barcelona and Alberto Aquilani getting injured immediately after signing, for two months, Liverpool aren’t looking primed and ready to get number 19. But who knows? With Benitez on the sideline, and with a healthy Gerrard and Torres (for the whole season, hopefully), and a weakened Manchester United, there’s always hope. Right now? They look like a third place team.
Olympique de Marseille
17 Years since the last league title – a team that dominated the French league between 1988-1993, including winning the champions league in 1993. Then came the match fixing scandal and the financial irregularities involving then club president, Bernard Tapie. Then came the exile to lower leagues, but Marseille quickly bounced back. They even missed out on a championship in 1999, in a dramatic last week finish with Bordeaux, who eventually won. Kinda like last season. Marseille led the league going into the season final games, but a home defeat to Lyon while Bordeaux couldn’t stop winning meant the title again didn’t go Marseille’s way.
So is it this year? The club got Lucho Gonzales and Fernando Morientes in order to finish the deal this year – but Lyon haven’t exactly spent a quiet summer and Bordeaux are the same team they were last year, and their first game yesterday against Lens showed they’re picking up where they left off. My guess? No title for Marseille this year as well.
Unlike Liverpool and Marseille, Ajax have been without a league title for only five season. But that’s a lot in Ajax years, who have 29 league titles in the Dutch league and won five in 90’s, including the Champions League in 1995 (Patrick Kluivert, anyone?). And it’s not just the titles. It’s the dominance in the league. It’s been PSV ruling the Dutch league in the last decade, and Ajax need to regain that dominance back. Something in the Ajax way has gone bad in the past decade, or maybe it’s been more than that, ever since Van Gaal left for Barcelona in 1997. Maybe it’s the way the soccer world has gone, especially with transfers, that brought Ajax to where they are. Being a European Powerhouse for a team in a small European league in nearly impossible in todays financial climate and the system of the Champions League. But dominating Holland again? Why not. AZ’s championship last year won’t happen again in 2010, and PSV don’t look very good again. Ajax are winning it this year. What happens in the future? still too early to tell.
Same as Ajax, only their problem started a bit earlier. Benfica Lisbon haven’t won the Portuguese league title since 2005, but before that came an 11 year drought. Porto’s the team to blame this time, winning six league titles in the last decade (Sporting have two and even Boavista have one) and winning eight league titles in the 90’s. Dominance anyone? Like every few years, Porto do a garage sale of all their top players – this season it was Lisandro Lopez and Lucho Gonzales, but they always find new ones roaming in South America. Benfica? They’ve been pretty busy, spending over 20 million Euros on transfers, including Javier Saviola who’s trying to bring the life back in his career, Ramires from Cruzeiro and Javi Garcia from Real Madrid, to join Pablo Aimar and Angel Di Maria. Chances? I have a feeling that after four straight Porto league titles, it’s going back south to Lisbon, to the Benfica red. Like with the Dutch league, i’m not so sure it’s going way beyond the next season.