Chelsea aren’t alone – the other UEFA big boys struggling domestically

by Jordan Leaver

Sixteenth place with eight points from eight games. Whatever way you look at it, Chelsea’s start to the season has been a huge disaster for the club.

This season across the continent has thrown up some interesting scenarios domestically in which a considerable number of ‘big teams’ have found themselves languishing below mid-table after the first chunk of the season; from 7-1 defeats in Belgium, to being 19 points off top spot in Hungary after being crowned champions in May, here is a few of the teams struggling to get off the mark so far.

Juventus

The Serie A this season is certainly worth keeping an eye on with last season’s top three all having shaky starts to their domestic campaigns, not least the struggles Juventus have faced which you are probably already aware of. Having now played seven matches so far, Juventus are sitting in 12th position with only two wins, already 10 points off highflying Fiorentina in 1st.

 

The ‘Old Lady’ has already seen three defeats so far to Udinese, Roma and Napoli alongside disappointing home draws to Chievo and newly promoted Frosinone. Probably the most frustrating factor for Juve fans is their poor home form which in previous years has been notoriously indomitable.

Last season, they went undefeated at home with 16 wins from 19, and the season before that they famously won all their home games in the Serie A, so to only pick up a solitary win from their first four home games has caused much concern for their fans. They will however, be hoping that Juventus can emulate their impressive performances in their first two Champions League games to push on domestically.

Olympique de Marseille

Right from the first whistle Marseille haven’t found their feet this season in Ligue 1. The first game of the season at home to SM Caen should have been a relatively straightforward victory, instead they were beaten 1-0.

Incredibly, their coach at the time Marcel Bielsa resigned after their first game and since then they have only recorded two wins in the League with frustrating defeats against Guingamp and Angers, topped off with a home defeat to Czech side Slovan Liberec in the Europa League.

There are a few promising signs for Marseille, their performance against PSG was encouraging and their Belgian striker Michy Batshuayi has six goals so far this campaign, but their league form will need to improve if they are going to climb from 16th position heading into the October international break.

Borussia Mönchengladbach

Since Mönchengladbach’s previous coach, Lucien Favre, left his position as manager, Mönchengladbach have won their last three Bundesliga games including a 2-1 win against Wolfsburg. They’re now up to 13th in the table but there is no getting away from the fact that they lost their first five games of the season conceding a lacklustre 12 goals in the process.

 

They’ll be hoping they have turned the corner for now with some crucial fixtures coming up against the likes of Eintracht Frankfurt and Schalke, but so far their debut season in the UEFA Champions League has also gone down as a bit of a disappointment as they look to get their first points on the board.

Rubin Kazan

Good news for all of you Liverpool fans, Rubin Kazan have had a very weak start to their Russian Premier League campaign. Despite not winning the League since 2009, Rubin have had a relatively stable few years in Russia’s top-flight division even though tensions continue to increase between the fans and its owners.

Their tough start to this season though was cemented by some disappointing performances ultimately leading to six defeats in seven league games going into September. Then, a home win against Lokomotiv Moscow showed some optimistic signs but in their last three league games they have picked up just a single point positioning them in 13th place ahead of two tough away games against both Liverpool and Krasnodar.

Standard Liège

Once the biggest threat to Anderlecht’s dominance, Liège have had a rather sub-standard beginning to their Pro League campaign where they have recorded just two wins out of 10, conceding 23 goals in the process. It is probably best not to remind Standard Liège of exactly two years ago when – after 10 games into the season – Standard had a 100% start to the domestic season, yet somehow in May they managed to succumb to 2nd place after being caught by Anderlecht.

 

It’s been a bitterly disappointing start to the season this year which has already seen their manager Slavoljub Muslin lose his job after a horrifying 7-1 defeat to Club Brugge. They’re winless in eight but they have two crucial home games coming up against teams around the bottom which could be pivotal for them to kick-start their season.

Vitória de Guimarães

How times can change in 12 months. Last year, Guimarães had recorded their best ever start to a Portuguese season after they romped away with eight wins from their first 11 games. Guimarães were never going to challenge for the title but they were up with Portugal’s ‘big three’ for a considerable period last autumn.

Eventually, the honeymoon period ended in the new year as they slowly dipped in form as well as losing ground to their biggest competitors and most bitter rivals Braga, but Guimarães did remain solid, finishing the season in a very respectable 5th position. This season has been a stark contrast. Having only managed a solitary win in their first seven matches, they are hovering in 15th position after a sour 1-0 defeat to Braga who are already seven points up on Guimarães.

FC Zürich

The last team to disrupt FC Basel’s dominant spell at the helm of Swiss Football in 2009, Zürich are struggling to get going this season with a dismal eight points after 11 games with just a sole victory against St. Gallen to their name. A familiar name in Sami Hyypiä remains Zürich’s manager although he is under pressure after their slow start to proceedings.

 

After last year’s impressive 3rd place above city rivals Grasshoppers, Zürich are situated in 8th place and it looks like once again Zürich fans must painfully accept Grasshoppers as Basel’s probable biggest competitors for the Swiss Super League.

Lech Poznań

If you though Chelsea’s fall from grace was big, spare a though for poor Lech Poznań. Having been crowned Polish champions for the first time in five years in May, Lech have had a harrowing start to the season. Defeats in eight of their 11 games so far have seen them dive bomb to last position in the Ekstraklasa with a point’s tally of just five.

Credit to Lech Poznań’s board who seem to be allowing the title-winning manager, Maciej Skorza to remain as manager to try and get them out of this rut they find themselves in. A huge home match against fellow-strugglers Ruch Chorzów before a trip to Fiorentina in the Europa League accompanied by an away trip to rivals Legia Warsaw three days later – the next few weeks could be crucial in determining the rest of Lech’s season.

If only Chelsea were bottom in the Premier League then the article’s title could have been “Chelsea doing the Poznań”.

Videoton

The next alarming fall from grace is for Hungarian champions Videoton. They sit in 7th position with seven defeats from 11 games just five months after winning the title for the first time since 2011.

Their disappointing start is worsened when looking at last season’s start – 10 straight wins from their first 10 games saw them run away from their rivals in November where they were able to hold out to claim the Hungarian crown.

 

The coin seems to have flipped this season with Budapest giants – Ferencváros winning 10 of their first 11 games, 13 points clear of 2nd place already and an astonishing 19 points clear of Videoton.

Current caretaker manager Tamás Pető has been able to regain some stability to Videoton recently with three straight home wins although their incredibly influential striker in recent years, Nemanja Nikolić, has been sold to Legia in Poland and the scars from his exit have been plain to see.

Maccabi Haifa

One of Israel’s most successful clubs, Maccabi Haifa have struggled to maintain the levels of dominance from the Tel-Aviv duo in the last five years but not as much as this season. After six games, they bagged their first win at the weekend against Bnei Sakhnin which was also the first game where they managed to score a goal.

This disappointing start has seen Maccabi Haifa occupy last place in the Israeli League alongside newly-promoted Hapoel Kfar-Saba. Their current manager, Ronny Levy is a Haifa legend spending 5 years as a player there as well as guiding them to three consecutive Israeli titles at the start of the century.

Back for his 2nd spell as manager, he is finding it much tougher this time around as Maccabi Haifa look to claw themselves out of the relegation zone and into the top half of the table.

 

Partizan Belgrade, Sevilla, Trabzonspor, the list goes on of teams failing to pull their weight in Europe’s leagues this season seemingly more so than other years. Obviously, a number of factors could be the result of this – more competitive leagues, teams entering transition periods etc.

For now, all we can do is continue to be fascinated by the footballing spectacle that takes place around Europe as the dynamism continues to spring an array of intriguing surprises.

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