The 2013/14 season is now at its close, with just a few games remaining in most of the top European leagues, and some even finished already, such as Holland and Portugal. What has been even more refreshing is the return of some of the teams who have fallen by the wayside over the past few years.
In England, Leicester have been promoted, and are back in the Premier League for the first time in nearly 10 years. Despite the large investment from their owners, they have been solid from day 1 of this season and been in the promotion places from an early stage – and have not wasted money like QPR. Wolves have also been promoted back to the Championship – steadily winning games all season long, unlike Leyton Orient who went off like a rocket then ran out of steam midway through the season. Luton are back in the football league, despite a blip in form towards the end of the season – hopefully the fans who caused all the trouble when they were relegated have been banned.
In Germany, Cologne are back in the Bundesliga after a spell in the 2nd tier. They have been brilliant all season, and are deserving of their promotion. Paderborn could be set to join them, with just three games to go they are in prime position to take the 2nd automatic promotion place, a couple of points clear of Furth.
In France, in Monaco’s first season back in Ligue 1, have all but secured 2nd place, although their success has mainly been down to huge investment in players like Falcao, James Rodriguez and Lucas Ocampos. In the 2nd division, Metz sealed their return to the big time with a 1-0 win, and could be joined by Lens and Caen – both sleeping giants who have suffered financial problems and endured relegation and have spent time in the lower leagues – both are just a point off being promoted, so could do it this weekend!
In Italy, Palermo have dominated Serie B after being relegated last season, and with Beppe Iachini in charge and the mainframe of their squad still there, they could be back for good. Empoli could also return, but face a fight from Latina Calcio for 2nd place, although either could win the playoffs.
In Spain Deportivo, relegated last season, are currently top of the Segunda League – 7 points clear of the playoff teams with 5 games left. Just 2 wins could seal their ticket back to La Liga – and they have done well to come back so quickly!
In Portugal, it is more about a team in the Premier Division. Sporting Lisbon have been out of contention for honours and European places (bar the Europa League appearance this season) for a fair few seasons now but have beaten Porto to the 2nd Champions League place this season. They have acquired some top players and developed youth players, like they did with Ronaldo and Hugo Viana, to name just a few. The last time they finished so well was 09/10, when they finished 2nd. Their last title however was 01/02!
In Russia, Mordovia Saransk have gone back to the Premier League at the first time of asking – in stark contrast to the other side to get relegated last season, Alania, who are going into liquidation.
Its great to see these teams return to the top of the pyramid in their respective leagues, often enough it is the mismanagement that causes financial issues, and is very hard on the fans. But at the end of the day that is football these days!