Most yellow playing cards, high scorers, relegation and extra

The 2022-23 European soccer season will quickly start, with groups nonetheless fine-tuning their squads throughout an thrilling switch window. From the two-horse race within the Premier League, a brand new attacking rivalry in El Clasico to the French champions, Paris Saint-Germain, in search of European glory, our insiders share their picks and predictions throughout Europe’s Large 5 leagues.

Which participant will win the Golden Boot? Which group will likely be topped champions of Europe? Who will rack up essentially the most yellow playing cards?

ESPN FC writers Rob Dawson, Gab Marcotti, Constantin Eckner, Julien Laurens and Alex Kirkland make their forecasts.

LaLiga

Prime 4

Barcelona’s summer season switch window has been ominously profitable, strengthening the group in each key space. Xavi’s first season as coach was promising, and now he has the instruments at his disposal to take Barca again to the highest. Actual Madrid will not be far-off, however a repeat of final yr’s near-perfect season feels unrealistic. Atletico Madrid must be extra constant this time round — particularly if Antoine Griezmann finds his kind — and Villarreal have sufficient high quality to take fourth, with out the distraction of Champions League soccer this time.

1st place: Barcelona
2nd place: Actual Madrid
third place: Atletico Madrid
4th place: Villarreal

Prime scorer

Robert Lewandowski. Eventually, some critical competitors for Karim Benzema! Actual Madrid’s captain high scored in LaLiga final yr with 27 objectives, 9 greater than closest rival Iago Aspas, however that is a league tally Lewandowski has topped in six of his final seven seasons at Bayern Munich. Benzema will not surrender his crown with out a combat, and their rivalry will likely be loads of enjoyable to observe: not fairly classic Messi vs. Ronaldo degree, however not far off.

Relegation

Cadiz, Actual Valladolid, Almeria. Cadiz solely survived by a single level final season — after an inconceivable escape on the ultimate day — and so they have not made any important enhancements to the squad this summer season. Of the promoted sides, Girona ought to rating sufficient objectives to remain up after including Taty Castellanos to an assault led by Cristhian Stuani, however Actual Valladolid look more likely to battle. Almeria have been lively out there but when they begin poorly, supervisor Rubi will come beneath instant stress.

Finest goalkeeper

Thibaut Courtois. Sevilla’s Bono received Spain’s Zamora trophy for the goalkeeper with the bottom goals-to-games ratio final season, however there is not any query that Courtois was the perfect keeper within the nation. His Champions League ultimate masterclass got here as no shock to these of us who’d watched him carry out miracles all yr. Actual Madrid’s defence ought to enhance with the incorporation of Antonio Rudiger, too.

Most yellow playing cards

The 2 dirtiest groups in LaLiga final season have been Valencia — then coached by Jose Bordalas — and his earlier facet, Getafe. Whereas Bordalas is now gone, his alternative at Mestalla Stadium, Gennaro Gattuso, has an identical win-at-all-costs mentality. If we’ll decide one participant, although, let’s go for Getafe’s Urugayan full-back Damian Suarez, who has been one in all LaLiga’s most comically fulfilling hard-men for years now.

Champions League winner

Similar to final yr, it is exhausting to look past the 2 greatest groups within the Premier League and Europe: Liverpool and Manchester Metropolis. Metropolis’s continued means to choke within the latter levels of this competitors is inexplicable given their high quality and depth, if now not shocking; Liverpool will really feel they have been the higher facet in defeat to Actual Madrid in final season’s ultimate. They’ve the expertise, and the coach in Jurgen Klopp, to go one step additional this time. — Kirkland

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2:18

Julien Laurens explains why proper now he has Chelsea ending sixth within the Premier League desk.

Premier League

Prime 4

It is exhausting to see both Manchester Metropolis or Liverpool dropping out of the highest 4, which leaves two spots for Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal, Manchester United and presumably Newcastle. Tottenham have spent nicely this summer season and have had the advantage of a full preseason beneath Antonio Conte, and Chelsea nonetheless look robust regardless of one thing of a chaotic offseason. Arsenal and Man United will run them shut, however Spurs and Chelsea will make up the highest 4 alongside Man Metropolis and Liverpool.

1st place: Manchester Metropolis
2nd place: Liverpool
third place: Spurs
4th place: Chelsea

Prime scorer

Harry Kane. He is a confirmed Premier League purpose scorer and Conte is a grasp at getting the perfect out of his centre forwards. Tottenham ought to have a superb season, which suggests loads of probabilities for Kane. The one subject will likely be whether or not or not he can keep match and the way a lot the World Cup in Qatar takes out of him forward of the second half of the season.

Relegation

Brentford, Bournemouth, Fulham. Brentford went by means of a poor spell final season when it appeared like they may get dragged into the relegation scrap, and so they’ve misplaced Christian Eriksen to Man United. As for Bournemouth and Fulham, it is all the time troublesome for newly promoted sides, and as issues stand, their summer season recruitment does not look ok to maintain them up.

Finest goalkeeper

Man Metropolis and Liverpool are each thrilling attacking groups, however they’re additionally superb defensively — primarily as a result of opposition groups hardly have the ball. It means Brazilians Ederson and Alisson are the 2 prime candidates for the Golden Glove, and with Metropolis set to be with out centre-back Aymeric Laporte till no less than September, Alisson appears a superb guess to assert the title.

Most yellow playing cards

Granit Xhaka. At 29 years outdated, the Switzerland midfielder is not going to vary the best way he performs now. Whether or not Mikel Arteta desires him to or not, he is nonetheless going to fly into tackles and get on the unsuitable facet of referees. Solely three gamers had extra bookings than Xhaka final season and he is a superb shout to high the listing this time round.

Champions League winner

Manchester Metropolis. Pep Guardiola has bought Man Metropolis recurrently reaching the latter levels of the Champions League and they’ll recover from the road sooner relatively than later. They’re too good a group to not. So much will rely on how rapidly Erling Haaland settles and whether or not he can affect the largest video games at such a younger age, however all of the elements are there for a primary Champions League triumph. — Dawson

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2:07

Arne Friedrich explains why Bayern Munich is hopeful that Sadio Mane can change a few of Robert Lewandowski’s manufacturing.

Bundesliga

Prime 4

Earlier than Sebastien Haller’s testicular tumour prognosis, I’d have confidently picked Borussia Dortmund to win the championship. Nonetheless, with their new first-string striker lacking giant chunks of the season, Dortmund drop again to 2 in my energy rating. This leaves Bayern Munich as the one logical option to win the league, and for an eleventh time in a row, with Dortmund ending second. Behind the 2 powerhouses, issues grow to be unpredictable, as each RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen have robust squads however could battle within the first half of the season.

Leverkusen ought to get better from early setbacks faster, as Florian Wirtz will come again from his knee damage sooner or later and assist them attain third place. Fourth goes to VfL Wolfsburg — not essentially essentially the most thrilling facet within the league however one which will get the job completed beneath former Bayern boss Niko Kovac.

1st place: Bayern Munich
2nd place: Borussia Dortmund
third place: Bayer Leverkusen
4th place: VfL Wolfsburg

Relegated groups

This season might be the season by which Augsburg lastly go down. The small membership situated 40 miles northwest of Munich has been within the Bundesliga since 2011 and out of doors of 1 or two outlier seasons, Augsburg have often been in survival mode. Enrico Maassen, their new supervisor, has no top-flight expertise, as he coached Dortmund’s reserve group most just lately and semi-professional sides earlier than that. Whereas Maassen is undoubtedly proficient, retaining Augsburg within the league may grow to be an inconceivable job.

The second group that will likely be relegated is Werder Bremen, who’ve made good signings following their promotion, however nonetheless do not possess sufficient high quality to complete above the relegation zone.

Prime scorer

If Patrik Schick might keep wholesome, he might simply be one in all Europe’s elite strikers. Ankle points and different accidents have impacted the Czech’s profession fairly considerably, but if he’s match, he turns into an nearly unstoppable purpose scorer. Schick is tall and technical, agile and astute — in brief, he has all of it. With first rate distribution from his teammates at Bayer Leverkusen, he ought to be capable of rating 25 objectives.

Finest goalkeeper

This might grow to be a detailed race between Bayern’s Manuel Neuer and Dortmund’s Gregor Kobel, on condition that these two will work behind secure defences and barely make any errors. Whereas Neuer has been among the many greatest goalkeepers on the earth for a decade, Kobel had his breakthrough relatively just lately. Nonetheless, it appears nothing can actually rattle the 24-year-old Swiss. He’ll put up an excellent combat towards Neuer, however has to yield to Germany’s no. 1 another time.

Most yellow playing cards

This might be a detailed contest, as a result of a few gamers within the league have made a behavior out of choosing up yellow playing cards. Even the extremely gifted English worldwide Jude Bellingham will get within the books each different weekend, though he appears head and shoulders above most of his opponents. Be that as it might, I decide Mainz’s Stefan Bell to obtain essentially the most yellow playing cards. The 30-year-old is just a bit bit too sluggish and, on the similar time, fairly old-school in his method to defending. Some mistimed tackles and tactical fouls will get him to no less than 10 bookings this yr.

Champions League winner

We should always by no means get carried away by early-season outcomes, however Bayern Munich’s efficiency towards RB Leipzig within the German Supercup final weekend makes you assume that this facet is likely to be higher now than earlier than Robert Lewandowski left. And not using a conventional goal participant up entrance, supervisor Julian Nagelsmann will exploit a number of the tactical concepts which have been behind his thoughts since he arrived in Munich. If Bayern maintain their group wholesome, they’re my decide to win the cup subsequent June. — Eckner

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Paulo Dybala receives a hero’s welcome as he’s unveiled as a Roma participant.

Serie A

Prime 4

I write this with a large caveat. The window does not shut till the tip of the month and Serie A squads, for quite a few causes, are more likely to see main overhauls between every now and then. So I reserve the suitable to make totally different predictions come Sept 1. That mentioned, I feel we’re one other Milanese derby for the title, with the arrival of Romelu Lukaku and Henrikh Mkhitaryan shifting the needle in direction of Inter (although “Prince” Charles de Ketelaere” is a fascinating boost for Milan).

I have Juventus at third, though Paul Pogba’s injury situation needs to be closely monitored. And Jose Mourinho’s Roma, with the addition of Paulo Dybala, look well placed to pip the Kalidou Koulibaly-less Napoli to fourth.

1st place: Inter
2nd place: AC Milan
3rd place: Juventus
4th place: Napoli

Top Scorer

I think it’s a three-way race between Lukaku, Lazio’s Ciro Immobile (hey, he’s already won it four times) and Juventus’ Dusan Vlahovic. I’m picking Lukaku because I think Simone Inzaghi will tweak the attack to make it more centre-forward focused, while Immobile is a year older and Juve still have unanswered supply chain questions for Vlahovic (How will Chiesa bounce back from his injury? How fit will Pogba be? What condition is Angel Di Maria in?)

Relegation

Sampdoria, Salernitana, Cremonese. I have a soft spot for Cremonese, but they lost four key contributors to their promotion run who returned to their parent clubs on loan (Marco Carnesecchi, Gianluca Gaetano, Nicolo Fagioli and Caleb Okoli). Salernitana pulled off a miracle last year, but lightning rarely strikes twice. Sampdoria are a mess financially and are operating on a shoestring: it’s down to them and Lecce, and I’m backing Lecce to stay up.

Best goalkeeper

Mike Maignan. He conceded the fewest goals in Serie A last season and defensively Milan remain very strong. Inter should run them close, but it’s not clear to me who their starting keeper will be, so Maignan is the safer bet.

Most yellow cards

Gianluca Mancini of Roma. He led the league last season and Roma are likely to be fired up again this year. Roma as a team had the second-most yellow cards last season and Venezia have been relegated, so they look well-placed to take the crown here. Maybe it’s a natural consequence of Jose Mourinho’s intensity causing you to take more risks than you normally would.

Champions League winner

Manchester City. I really don’t know, and may well change my mind many times between now and the start of the season. I feel that Pep Guardiola is due and, bearing in mind how difficult it is to repeat, how last season took so much out of Liverpool, how Bayern have unanswered questions, how Paris Saint-Germain have a new coach, how Kylian Mbappe didn’t join Real Madrid and how Erling Haaland’s season won’t be affected by the World Cup, I’ll say City. — Marcotti

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Frank Leboeuf reacts to Thiago Silva’s comments about wanting Neymar to join him at Chelsea.

Ligue 1

Top Four

Paris will be too strong for Ligue 1 once more. New manager Christophe Galtier can’t mess it up and the team played well in the Trophée des Champions with Lionel Messi and Neymar looking sharp. It is far more interesting to look behind PSG at who can finish in the top four. Lyon have done an impressive recruitment (Lacazette, Tolisso, Tagliafico). Monaco will compete, Lucien Favre can do good things at Nice who recruited well. Marseille, who are already going through a crisis with new manager Igor Tudor, will miss out.

1st place: PSG
2nd place: Lyon
3rd place: Monaco
4th place: Nice

Top scorer

Kylian Mbappe. He finished with 28 goals last season, 27 the year before, and 18 prior to that. So it is three seasons not going over the 30 goals a season mark, like he did in 2018-2019 with 33 and this is the year when he will get over 30 again. After extending his contract at PSG and having more responsibilities, he will be even stronger on the pitch. With Messi and Neymar looking sharp already, and Paris’ good recruitment this summer (Vitinha, Ekitike, Sanches, Mukiele), Mbappe will star even more than usual.

Relegation

Auxerre, Clermont, Lorient, Troyes. This season, four teams are going down as Ligue 1 is moving back to an 18-club league instead of 20 so it is vital to stay up. It is a battle between six clubs: the two promoted sides, Auxerre and Toulouse as well as Brest, Lorient, Clermont and Troyes. Toulouse have been smart this summer and their project is promising. For Auxerre, it will be tough. Same for Lorient and their new manager Regis Le Bris. Clermont lost their best player Mohamed Bayo, while there are tensions between players and manager already at Troyes.

Best goalkeeper

Walter Benitez won it with 14 clean sheets last season. He since left for PSV Eindhoven and has been replaced by Kasper Schmeichel. My winner for this season is Donnarumma. The PSG defence will be stronger with a back 3 and Galtier has chosen the Italian as his number one so he will play every league game unlike last season, and will keep many clean sheets. Alexander Nubel and Monaco could be up there too, alongside Patrick Pentz at Reims.

Most yellow cards

Facundo Medina. There are a few contenders. Marco Verratti “received” this award last season with 12, ahead of Lille’s Benjamin André and Lens’ Facundo Medina with 11. Medina was also 3rd the season before with 11 again. I think he should be top this season. He is an aggressive defender in a team which presses a lot. So it is the right fit!

Champions League winner

PSG, finally, this is their year (I write this every summer). The squad is much better than last year, more balanced, younger and more French, even. New manager Christophe Galtier will make this squad click and the magic of Messi, Neymar and Mbappé, as well as the leadership of Sergio Ramos, will do the rest. “Paris, Champion of Europe” sounds nice. — Laurens