Thanks to Eden Hazard’s missed penalty kick (and subsequent put-back), Chelsea has completed the inevitable, clinching the club’s fourth English Premier League title. Coming after Juventus did the same in Italy yesterday, we’re quickly running out of competitive races in Europe. If only the world’s best leagues embraced Major League Soccer’s doctrine of parity-based, salary cap goodness.
With Germany also settled, we’re left with real races in only two of Europe’s top-five leagues. But that’s not to say the last month of the season will lack drama. With all but Spain and France’s leagues decided, the stage is cleared for this month’s cup finals to absorb the spotlight. And, of course, there’s that one game on June 6 in Berlin that everybody’s looking forward to.
Here’s what’s left to play for this season in Europe:
Premier League: With today’s 1-0 win over Crystal Palace, Chelsea is 16 points ahead of second place Manchester City. Unfortunately for City, the club only has four games left on its schedule. For the third time, José Mourinho has led his team to the Premier League summit.
Cups: The League Cup has already been settled – another trophy that ended up on the hands of Mourinho. England’s other cup competition, the FA Cup, sees Arsenal and Aston Villa face off in the final on May 30. Arsenal will be favored to keep the trophy it won last season.
Ligue 1: Alexandre Lacazette (above) and Nabil Fekir have led a resurgence at Lyon. With three weekends left in the season, OL currently sit first in France, albeit with one huge caveat: when the two-time defending champions, Paris Saint-Germain, play today, the goal difference-edge Lyon has at the top will likely be rendered irrelevant. With a win at 11th place Nantes, PSG will go three points clear at the top.
Cups: PSG already claimed the Coupe de la Ligue with a 4-0 thumping of Bastia in April. On May 30, the club gets a chance at what it hopes will be a third trophy this season, facing second-tier Auxerre in the Coupe de France final.
Bundesliga: Even after yesterday’s loss at Bayer Leverkusen, Bayern Munich has a 14-point lead with three games to play. Conceding only 15 goals this season, FCB clinched its third straight title with a month to play, allowing the team to focus on the Champions League and German Cup.
Cups: Unfortunately for Bayern, that focus didn’t translate to success in the DFB-Pokal semifinals. On Tuesday, Borussia Dortmund came back from one goal down to eliminate the defending champions on penalty kicks. In what will be head coach Jurgen Klopp’s final game in charge, BVB will face Wolfsburg on June 30 in Berlin for the cup.
Serie A: Midway through the season, Roma appeared intent on making this race competitive, but after Juventus’s win at Sampdoria yesterday, the Old Lady had an 18-point lead on the giallorossi. Roma closed that gap to 15 with a win this morning over Genoa, but with only four rounds to play, Juventus has clinched its fourth straight title.
Cups: The dream scenario for Juventus: Duplicate the three-trophy haul Inter Milan accomplished in 2009-10 under Mourinho. Scudetto? Check. Champions League? It’s a long shot, but the team is alive and in the final four. And in the Coppa Italia, Juventus is scheduled to face Lazio in the final on June 7, a date that will have to change if Juve makes the Champions League final.
La Liga: This is the best race in Europe, if only for the two teams involved. After an 8-0 win this weekend over Córdoba, Barcelona maintains a two-point lead at the top of the Primera División. However, after Real Madrid won yesterday at Sevilla, Carlo Ancelotti’s team has cleared one of the two major obstacles on its May league calendar. Valencia awaits next weekend, while Barcelona still has to face Atlético Madrid.
Cups: Like Juventus, Barcelona can still finish the season with a league, cup, Europe treble. In the May 30 Copa del Rey final, the club will be a heavy favorite to defeat Athletic Club and claim the trophy it lost to El Real last season.
The lack of league races would have been more lamentable in the past, when the European Cup was a distant novelty for which only league champions qualified. Increasingly (and expansively), the tournament is becoming Europe’s main competition. With Barça, Bayern, Juve, and Madrid in the tournament’s final four, fans are guaranteed five marquee matches between now and the June 6 final.