The Away Strip’s Charlie Ginger looks at the 3 teams in Europe which have impressed fans and critics alike, and which are high up in their respective leagues, contrary to expectations.
Hail Roma! With 10 wins and 2 draws at the time of writing, Rudi Garcia’s men have ripped up the rule book and stormed to the summit of Serie A, becoming the first team in the history of the Italian top flight to win their first 10 games.
A rejuvenated Francesco Totti (3 goals, 6 assists) is proving that there is life in the 37 year old dog yet, expertly marshalling the likes of Gervinho, Alessandro Florenzi and Kevin Strootman through notable victories against Napoli, Inter and Lazio.
It has been a long time coming but the eternal city is once again alight with expectation. If Roma maintain their stunning form they could well be adding to another league title come May, a feat last achieved in 2000/01.
With two Europa League crowns and one Copa del Rey secured in the last 3 seasons, it could be argued that Atletico can no longer be cast in the role of the underdog. However, their domestic form deserves recognition, a scintillating run of 10 wins, one draw and a single defeat rocketing them into second place above inner city rival Real, so famously dispatched at the Bernabeau in a 1-0 victory.
In Diego Costa, the Brazilian so controversially turned Spaniard, Diego Simeone’s men have a ruthless striker in a rich vein of form who has so far accrued 13 goals. David Villa, a potent finisher of the same ilk lies second with 6.
Readily supplied by Koke (7 assists) and Turkish play-maker Arda Turan ( 2 assists), Atletico will provide a test for all comers, relying on Chelsea loanee Thibaut Courtois to organise his defence from goal, a back line that has consequently only leaked on 8 occasions.
Previously mocked as the best of Spain’s “lesser” outfits, Los Rojiblancos now harbour realistic dreams of challenging the established elite and snatching a once unreachable crown. No side has done so since Rafael Benitez’s Valencia of 2003/04.
Lille’s may not be a name synonymous with glory in French football’s hallowed history, but the Ligue 1 champions of 2010/11 seem to have regained the habit of ignoring the experts and dumbfounding the likes of PSG and now a nouveau-riche Monaco.
Currently in second spot with 8 wins, 3 draws and two defeats, Rene Girard’s Les Dogues (Great Danes) have seen off Monaco and Montpellier to name a few, netting 15 goals and conceding a measly four.
With little in the way of household names and nothing like the financial resources afforded to their lavish rivals, Lille are breathing new life into a stagnant league, aided greatly by Nolan Roux’s attacking prowess (5 goals).