With so much focus on the Premier League, it’s easy to lose focus on what’s going on around Europe. Here are five facts you may not know from the top five leagues this season…
France: Nice – Europe’s most victorious side this season
Table toppers in France having taken 23 points from 27 available, Mario Balotelli’s Nice look like being the most serious threat to PSG’s long-term Ligue 1 dominance this season.
With seven Ligue 1 victories already this season – the most in ANY of Europe’s top five leagues – they’re currently four points clear of PSG and are already being tipped to emulate the English success story of last season in Leicester.
It’s not just Balotelli catching the eye either: the likes of Ricardo Pereira and Alassane Pléa are also earning rave reviews. But like Leicester before them, the real strength at Nice is the team spirit and team unit; the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.
Maybe Balotelli knew what he was doing all along….
Spain: Golden oldie breaching Barca, Real, Atletico dominance
Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid have dominated in Spain for a number of years and it seems few will be able to outlast their challenge this time around….
In fact, according to whoscored.com’s statistics, the three sides currently boast nine of the 10 best players in Spain – with only Athletic Club’s Aduriz (in ninth) breaking the mould.
Much like Zlatan at United, Aduriz, now 35 years of age, has seemingly got better with age. Having enjoyed his best ever goalscoring season last time around with 36 goals in 55 appearances, he’s again off to a flyer this term by netting five in his first 10 starts.
Known for his aerial ability, Real’s defence will have to be on their guard this Sunday as they put their unbeaten record on the line against the player, whose aerial presence is sure to be a real threat.
England: Sadio Mane – statisticaly speaking, Europe’s best signing of the summer
With an average rating of 7.74 so far this season on whoscored.com (it was 8.02 before his relatively-sedate outng against Manchester United on Monday), Sadio Mane has hit the ground running at Liverpool.
So much so, that the player has the best rating out of any new permanent signing in any of Europe’s top five leagues this season.
Averaging either a goal or an assist in every other game so far (eight games, one assist, three goals) doubts were raised about the wisdom of Jurgen Klopp spending £34million on the Senegalese flyer. But that’s soon been forgotten – with the player furthering endearing himself to the Anfield faithful by revealing he’d snubbed a move to their deadliest rivals.
Italy: Edin Dzeko’s revival as a regular goalscorer
He was, at times, a figure of ridicule during his time with Manchester City, but he still managed to leave the Etihad with an impressive tally of 72 goals from 189 appearances – and bearing his inability to command a regular starting spot, that was no mean feat.
His first season in Italy was OK – 10 goals in 39 appearances – but it seemed he’d forever by plagued by this miss, catalogued here in our list of worst open-goal howlers ever seen.
This season, however, has seen Dzeko reborn: He’s the top scorer in Serie A with seven goals so far – that’s one ahead of Carlos Bacca, Mauro Icardi and Gonzalo Higuain – and he’s averaging an impressive 5.8 shots per game to underline a clear and present danger to Italian defences everywhere.
Germany: Blackburn loan flop tops goalscoring charts
Top scorer in the Bundesliga this season, anyone? Lewandowki? Aubameyang? Chicharito? No, FC Koln’s Anthony Modeste has currently outscored them all, with seven goals so far pitching him one ahead of his better-known rivals.
The Frenchman spent part of the 2011/12 season on loan in the Premier League, where in five inglorious games for Blackburn the most notable thing he did was get sent off as Rovers failed in their fight to secure survival.
Since then, a loan at Bastia and then a permanent move to Hoffenheim has seen Modeste’s career really take off.
But it’s his record at Cologne which is most impressive; the player notching 22 goals in just 41 games for the club. A France call-up has been mooted – but at 28, might it be too late for the 16-times capped France Under-21 star?