Whenever a mid-table team plays it heart out on the field and beats a top position team, it’s a sheer bliss that every football fan can relate to.
What Leicester City did in the 2015-16 season in the Premier League was nothing short of a fairy tale. Similarly, Iceland’s Euro 2016 heroics was another underdog story that lit up the whole footballing world.
Normally in the top five leagues in Europe, one would expect the European ‘elite’ clubs to occupy the top positions. However, this season, five clubs who normally wouldn’t be seen in the top-half have outperformed themselves and are punching well above their weight.
Surprisingly, these five comparatively average teams from Europe’s top five leagues has performed brilliantly so far and have started their domestic campaigns on a high note. Here, we take a look at five such mid-table clubs who have exceeded expectations this season:
1.) Burnley FC
Sean Dyche’s men earned promotion into the Premier League last season and finished 16th at the end of the campaign. This season though, they have been very impressive, winning five and drawing four out of the total 11 games played, losing just two games. The Turf Moor outfit has kept five clean sheets so far this term, and thus occupy the seventh position in the league table with 19 points.
The Clarets started this season with a bang by beating defending champions Chelsea in their first fixture of the campaign. They even managed to draw away at Tottenham Hotspurs and Liverpool.
The partnership of strikers Sam Vokes and Chris Wood has yielded six goals out of the ten, their whole team has managed so far. Defenders Ben Mee and James Tarkowski have been rock solid at the back and the whole team has been working together as a unit under Sean Dyche.
If Burnley can continue to perform over the course of the season, and manager Sean Dyche can rotate his squad to manage injuries and suspension, then the Clarets can surely compete for a Europa League playoff spot.
The fallen giants from Spain are back to where they belong, in the top four of the La Liga and challenging for the title this term. After two consecutive twelfth place finishes in two years, Los Che has had their fair share of misfortunes. Not anymore.
For a club with such rich history and heritage, it would have been very painful to finish in the bottom half of the league table for two consecutive years. However, Marcelino Garcia’s men have reinvented themselves this season and as they currently trail league leaders Barcelona by a margin of five points.
Marcelino himself sanctioned the acquisition of Goncalo Guedes and the 20-year-old has been in phenomenal form ever since donning Valencia’s colors. The Portuguese has notched three goals and five assists and has been pivotal in Valencia’s revival this season. Simone Zaza, Rodrigo Moreno and hometown lad Carlos Soler have all contributed up front to make life happier for their Spanish coach.
Valencia has been literally raised back from the dead by Marcelino and has made his team arguably one of Europe’s most entertaining team.
3.) S. S. Lazio
Under Simone Inzaghi’s watchful eyes, Lazio has won nine of the total 11 games played so far, collecting a total of 28 points. Serie A leaders Napoli only hold a four-point advantage over Lazio, which is not a big difference and the Eagles also have a game in hand over the Light Blues.
Last season’s Supercoppa Italiana winners, Lazio have won all of their away games so far this term, scoring 17 goals and conceding just six. The Eagles are in devastating form at the moment and the last time they failed to collect maximum points was back in Matchday 5 against Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli.
The Stadio Olimpico outfit boast a passing accuracy of 85.4% and have scored 31 goals in the Serie A at the rate of 2.8 goals per game courtesy of striker Ciro Immobile. The Italian is leading the top scorer’s tally with 14 goals so far this season, and further contributing 6 assists.
Simone Inzaghi’s men have really impressed everyone with their performances and if Lazio can continue their excellent work in front of the goal, then they could possibly challenge for a Champions League berth come may next year.
4.) TSG 1899 Hoffenheim
After securing a place in the Champions League play-off spot under manager Julian Nagelsmann last season, Hoffenheim had high hopes for this year. However, after a 6-3 drubbing at the hands of Liverpool, they were sent back to the Europa League. In the Bundesliga, though Hoffenheim has recorded five victories alongside four draws and sit pretty in the fifth position, with 19 points.
Under Nagelsmann, Hoffenheim has been playing decent football and last season’s fourth-place finish combined with a strong start this year justifies that. They even managed to beat Bayern Munich at home earlier in September to further highlighting their progress under the German coach.
The dynamic duo of German strikers Sandro Wagner and Mark Uth have contributed four and five goals each respectively, and if Hoffenheim can continue to play as bravely as they have been so far this year, they could give both Schalke and Dortmund a run for their money.
5.) FC Nantes
The team has been dubbed by pundits as the “French Leicester City” due to their coach Claudio Ranieri who masterminded the Foxes’ first ever Premier League title in 2015-16. He has done a commendable job with the Canaries so far, as they currently stand fifth in the league table.
The Green and Yellows have collected seven wins and two draws whilst also succumbing to three defeats from the 12 matches they have played in the Ligue 1. It has been a collective team effort from Ranieri’s men that has elevated them to a possible Europa League contention place. The French coach has a vast experience of management, therefore, he knows what needs to be done and how.
Nantes finished last season in the seventh place and they have certainly exceeded expectations this season too. It would be highly unlikely to say that this Ranieri side could repeat the feat that Leicester did, but in football, as we have seen, nothing is certain.