Time for change at the top across Europe?

Whilst the Premier League had its first consecutive winner last season for the first time in a decade, the uncertainty over who will end the campaign on top has not been evident in other European leagues.

Could that be about to change this year? We take a look at three of the longest winning streaks in Europe and access the champion’s chances.

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Italy

Juventus have reigned supreme in the Serie A for the last eight years now, seeing off the challenges of Roma and Napoli with ease.

The closest anyone has come to toppling the Old Lady was the Neapolitans in 2017/18 who finished just four points behind the Turin club with an impressive tally of 91.

They threw away any chances of being crowned champions, however, after dropping points away at Fiorentina and at home to Torino despite securing an impressive victory at the Juventus Stadium with just a few weeks left to play.

The man who ran Napoli so close, Maurizio Sarri, is now at the helm in Turin after a mixed year away from Italian football at Chelsea.

Despite leading the club to a third placed finish and Europa league victory he failed to win over the fans with his playing style and stubbornness to adapt.

Whilst the 34 time Serie A champions will undoubtedly start the new campaign as favourites, boasting the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Giorgio Chiellini in their ranks, it is a time of uncertainty and change in Turin and that could present an opportunity to their nearest rivals.

There have been big changes in personal at Juventus with the likes of Joao Cancelo and Moise Kean departing and Pablo Dybala expected to join them, whilst Aaron Ramsey, Adrien Rabiot and Matthijs De Ligt have bolstered their ranks, not to mention the returning hero Gianluigi Buffon.

Whilst the new additions look astute, they may take time to settle into a new league, language and culture and with the ever successful Massimiliano Allegri being replaced by Maurizio Sarri, who only has last season’s Europa League victory to his name in terms of silverware, now could be the time for change at the top in Serie A.

Last year’s nearest challengers, Napoli, will be hoping continuity and their experienced, highly regarded coach, Carlo Ancelotti can guide them closer to Juventus this time around.

Despite being the closest competitors they still finished eleven points behind the two times European Cup winners.

Ancelotti has managed to keep his main stars though, including Lorenzo Insigne, Kalidou Koulibaly and Allan, as well as adding the much sought after central defender, Kostas Manolas from rivals Roma.

Inter Milan finished fourth last year but have new hope with the addition of Antonio Conte as manager.

The former Italy and Chelsea boss was the man who started Juventus’ winning run in Serie A and he could be the man to stop it.

He’s a serial winner as he proved in his time in England winning the league and FA cup in his two years in London.

With the additions of £75 million striker Romelu Lukaku, experienced rock at the back Diego Godin and the Italian midfield wonder kid Nicolo Barella joining from Cagliari, the blue half of Milan will believe they can claim a first title since 2009/10.

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Germany

The German Bundesliga has been dominated by Bayern Munich for the last seven years now, despite four different managers being in charge.

Germany was treated to a rare title race last season with old foes Borussia Dortmund running them extremely close, eventually falling sort by just two points.

Munich appointed young Croatian coach, Niko Kovac last year and some doubted his ability after their early Champions League exit and collection of disappointing domestic results including a 3-0 defeat at home to Borussia Monchengladbach in October.

Whilst results eventually picked up for the Bavarian club leading them to a domestic double, there is still an air of uncertainty surrounding the upcoming campaign, especially after the opening day 2-2 draw with Hertha Berlin at the Allianz Arena.

Last year was a time of change regarding the manager and coaching staff at Bayern and this year has been a time of upheaval in relation to the players.

Key members of the old guard, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery have departed Germany.

The two iconic wingers were pivotal clogs over the last decade, overseeing one of the most successful eras in the clubs history.

Mats Hummels joined them through the exit door after three trophy laden years in red, leaving the incoming Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez left to fight for a place alongside Nicolas Sule at the heart of the defence.

The retired Robben and released Ribery have finally been replaced by Ivan Perisic and Philippe Coutinho who offer quality and experience but the changing of personal coupled with the strengthening of their closest rivals could spell trouble in Germany for the club nicknamed Hollywood.

Those nearest rivals will surely be Dortmund once again as former Nice manager Lucien Favre has added astutely to his squad whilst keeping most of his key assets.

As Bayern have lost key men, Dortmund have kept the likes of Jadon Sancho, Marco Reus and Paco Alcacer and added Julien Brandt, Thorgan Hazard, Nico Shulz along with the returning Mats Hummels from the champions.

The attacking threat on offer at the Signal Iduna park is frightening to any team across Europe with the youthful pace and skill of Sancho and Brandt being able to combine with the experience and technical quality of the likes of Reus, Hazard and Mario Gotze, all joining together to make former Barcelona poacher Alcacer’s job one of the easiest in football.

The Munich hierarchy may regret letting Hummels rejoin Dortmund if he can be the steadying presence at the back those in the yellow wall hope he can be and help guide this young free flowing team to Bundesliga victory, breaking Bayern’s incredible run.

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Scotland

Whilst Scottish football may be a far cry from the riches on offer elsewhere in Europe, the rivalry and excitement now provided with the return of competitive Old Firm derbies is something hard to find anywhere else in the world.

Celtic have won the last eight league titles in a row, including a domestic treble treble.

The 1966 European Cup winners have blown the opposition away north of the border in recent times after Rangers’ demotion to the fourth division after financial difficulties.

Brendan Rodgers had The Bhoys playing some scintillating stuff at times, going the whole season unbeaten in his first year, qualifying for the Champions League twice and reaching the last 32 of the Europa league a couple of occasions as well.

The lure of trophies and European competition couldn’t keep Celtic’s highly rated manager though as the call of Leicester City and Premier League football proved too much for the former Liverpool man.

Neil Lennon, the man who started Celtics domestic domination, has returned to the east end of Glasgow and guided Celtic home in the run in at the end of the last season and to cup glory which ultimately secured his job on a permanent basis.

Although Lennon is well remembered by the Celtic faithful for this time their previously as a player and manager, many fear he is a step down in terms of quality from his predecessor and the clubs exit from the Champions League in the qualifying rounds to CFR Cluj will have done nothing to dampen their concerns.

Rangers made giant strides under Steven Gerrard last season, ending Aberdeen’s four year spell as Scotland’s second best team, despite the dons dumping them out of both domestic cups.

Under Pedro Caixinha the Gers were humiliated by Luxembourg part-time side Progres Niederkorn who saw them off 2-1 on aggregate in the Europa league qualifying stages in the 2017/18 season.

The blue half of Glasgow had no such trouble in Europe under the former England ace as he led them to the group stages where they pulled off an impressive string of performances, including a 2-2 draw away at Villareal, eventually just missing out on a place in the next round.

Gerrard has rung the changes at Rangers, bringing in 10 new recruits this summer, including the likes of Joe Aribo and £3.5 million centre-half Filip Helander.

Despite not being able to secure the return of last year’s star man Ryan Kent, who was on loan at Ibrox last season, the Gers are in a far better place to challenge and many inside and out of the club will feel confident they can once again be the kings of Scotland.

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George Cannon

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