It feels like European soccer took a brief vacation of a few weeks and decided to start up again. Such is life when the pandemic wrecks the normal sports schedule that we were used to following.
The good news is all of the schedules will be back to where they were pre-pandemic in terms of dates, but the schedule congestion is there forever and always.
That is what makes the big picture projections for most of the clubs so difficult. We know Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City have the depth and talent to absorb a few injuries and a ton of games in a close window, but after that, squad depth can be an issue at some clubs. That is why depth is key for breaking down a few futures picks.
Even before PSG were set to sign Lionel Messi, it was probably going to run away with Ligue 1. The club’s ownership took a major ego blow when Lille won the French league last season and the spending spree that followed should ensure a few domestic trophies and a deep run in the UEFA Champions League.
Bayern Munich experienced turnover on the bench, with Julian Naglesmann replacing Hansi Flick. That move did not affect the club’s Bundesliga title odds. It is an overwhelming favorite to beat out Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig.
Manchester City is a smaller favorite to win the English Premier League at -165, but Chelsea is the closest team to it at +500.
La Liga is viewed as more wide open, but only three clubs appear to have a shot at winning the title. Real Madrid and Barcelona are going through some roster issues right now, but they should still be in the top three with reigning champion Atletico Madrid once the transfer dust settles.
Even though Atleti topped the table last season, it has the longest odds to win La Liga of the three big clubs.
That’s where the season futures predictions start
Atletico Madrid to Win La Liga (+275)
My favorite futures bet on the board involves the most stable of the three major La Liga clubs.
Diego Simeone has built a model of consistency in the Spanish top flight while Barca and Real Madrid continue to tinker with their super teams and fail to live up to sky high expectations in certain years.
Atleti had the best summer transfer window of the three Spanish powers. Promising young talents Rodrigo De Paul and Marcos Paulo joined a roster that did not experience much turnover.
Luis Suarez, Joao Felix and Marcos Llorente lead a deep attacking unit. Suarez and Llorente both went into double figures on league goals last season.
Additionally, Atletico Madrid returns most of the defensive unit that conceded a league-best 25 goals.
Across town, Real Madrid lost Sergio Ramos to PSG and Raphael Varane to Manchester United. David Alaba came in on a free transfer from Bayern Munich, but that’s only one high-quality international replacement to put in the defensive rotation.
Barcelona is in shambles from the Lionel Messi transfer and that is going to take a large emotional toll on the club on top of the on-field hole it will leave
Oh and by the way, Barca’s midfield engine Pedri just played the entire summer for Spain’s first-team at Euro 2020 and the under-23 squad at the Tokyo Olympics. And now Sergio Aguero is out for two months with an injury. That will take a toll on the team’s entire setup.
Atleti is the least affected squad by major transfers and it has been nothing but consistent under Simeone. I’m more than willing to take the risk on Atleti to win as the third favorite in La Liga.
Borussia Monchengladbach To Finish In Bundesliga Top 4 (+200)
In my eyes, this is the toughest prop on the board for any of Europe’s major leagues.
Wolfsburg, Borussia Monchengladbach and Bayer Leverkusen will be the main contenders to finish inside the top four alongside Bayern, Dortmund and Leipzig.
Eintracht Frankfurt will be a player in the top half of the table as well, but the sale of Andre Silva to RB Leipzig will affect its production up top to start.
Of the four teams, Gladbach is the only club with no European soccer on its schedule this season. The Foals’ main focus will be finishing inside the top four to get back to the UEFA Champions League.
Gladbach was part of the Bundesliga managerial musical chairs circle, as it brought in Adi Hutter from Eintracht. Marco Rose went from Gladbach to Dortmund. If that was not confusing enough, Oliver Glasner went to Eintracht and was replaced by Mark van Bommel at Wolfsburg. Nagelsmann was replaced at RB Leipzig by American manager Jesse Marsch.
Gladbach’s biggest issue in comparison to the other top four contenders last season was its defensive concessions. It finished the season with a +8 goal differential. Each team in the top six was at +14 or higher.
Gladbach was affected by the early news of Rose’s departure to Dortmund that came in the same one-month span as the club’s UCL knockout round exit.
Hutter has one of the league’s deepest attacks at his disposal. Lars Stindl had 14 Bundesliga goals to lead the team last season. Marcus Thuram, Florian Neuhaus, Jonas Hoffmann and Alassane Plea combined to score 26 times. Each member of that group had at least six league tallies.
Wolfsburg has the most lethal finisher in Wout Weghorst, but there is not an extensive amount of depth around him. Eintracht may take some time to fill Silva’s scoring void. Frankfurt and Bayer Leverkusen have to go through the rigors of Thursday night play in the UEFA Europa League.
Gladbach’s sole focus is domestic success and it should find an advantage over the other top-four contenders through its deep attack.
Aston Villa Over 48.5 Points & Top 10 Premier League Finish
I need to be honest here.
I love what Aston Villa did in the transfer window.
Make no mistake, the Villains will miss Jack Grealish after his move to Manchester City, but the reinforcements they brought in should combine to replace the Englishman’s impact.
Villa made a shrewd move to bring in Leon Bailey from Bayer Leverkusen and added to its forward corps with Emi Buendia and Danny Ings.
Buendia is the most notable player of that group when it comes to scoring goals. If he reaches the double-digit mark and then Ings and Ollie Watkins perform well, Villa should easily finish in the top half of the English Premier League table.
Last season, the Villains produced 55 points to finish in 11th place. I think their Over/Under of 48.5 points is low-balling the team’s talent, especially in the back.
Emiliano Martinez is one of the best goalkeepers in the EPL and the Villa defense tied Brighton and Hove Albion for the seventh-fewest concessions with 46.
If Villa eclipse the 50-point mark again, it will likely land in the top 10, which is why I think the two bets go hand-in-hand.
The riskiest prop of them all for Villa is to finish inside the top six at +600. There’s a reason that number is high, but a 10-point increase is not out of the question if the Villains improve. If West Ham could crack the top six last year, why not Villa, right? I’ll stay away from that prop, but it’s juicy to say the least.