As European soccer leagues start unprecedented seasons, title predictions remain familiar

·7 min read

The English Premier League, German Bundesliga and French Ligue 1 begin this Friday, Aug. 5.

Spain’s La Liga begins Aug. 12, and Italy’s Serie A starts Aug. 13.

Never before have Europe’s preeminent soccer leagues collectively kicked off this early — because never before have they had to devise schedules quite like their 2022-23 ones.

They’ll also end later than usual, because they’ll break for over a month in mid-November to squeeze in the 2022 World Cup, the first men’s World Cup held outside its traditional summer window. FIFA moved it to late-autumn to accommodate Qatar’s menacing heat.

So the leagues reluctantly revised their calendars. Even the Champions League group stage will start earlier than ever before. Already-packed schedules will be further compressed. The cadence of the season will feel different.

But the league tables?

They, surely, will look as they almost always look, with a select few superclubs rising to the top and European soccer’s growing inequality laid bare.

There has been speculation among pundits and fans that the World Cup, which will exacerbate workloads for top players while giving others a welcome reprieve, could advantage the middling clubs that send fewer players to Qatar.

But Bayern Munich is still a runaway favorite (-500 with BetMGM) in Germany.

PSG is -1000 in France.

Juventus and the two Milan clubs sit atop the list of favorites in Italy.

In England and Spain, two duopolies — Liverpool-Manchester City and Barcelona-Real Madrid — are expected to reign (or, in Barca’s case, return to power).

In other words, no matter how different the fall of 2022 feels, the spring of 2023 should feel familiar. Here's a rundown of the basic as seasons get set to begin.

When do EPL, European leagues start and end?

With Erling Haaland on board, Manchester City is the favorite to win the Premier League yet again. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
With Erling Haaland on board, Manchester City is the favorite to win the Premier League yet again. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

The dates for the big five leagues are:

Bundesliga: Aug. 5-May 27
Premier League: Aug. 5-May 28
Ligue 1: Aug. 5-June 3
La Liga: Aug. 12-June 4
Serie A: Aug. 13-June 4

When do World Cup breaks start and end?

Clubs worldwide are required to release their players to national teams by Monday, Nov. 14, a week before the World Cup opener.

Most major leagues, therefore, will play through the weekend of Saturday, Nov. 12, then pause for at least six weeks. Two minor exceptions are La Liga, which will play its second-week-of-November fixtures on Wednesday rather than the weekend, allowing Spanish players (and others) to report for World Cup duty a few days early; and the second-tier English Championship, which resumes on Dec. 10, with the World Cup knockout stages still ongoing.

The Premier League resumes on Boxing Day, Dec. 26, eight days after the World Cup final. The rest return soon thereafter:

Ligue 1: Dec. 28
La Liga: Dec. 31
Serie A: Jan. 4
Bundesliga: Jan. 21

What about the 2022-23 Champions League?

In a typical year, the Champions League group stage’s final two matchdays would be in late November and early-mid December.

In 2022, the round-robin phase will wrap up on Nov. 2. It begins on Sept. 6. Games remain on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, they’ve just been shifted forward. Here’s the full schedule:

Qualifying playoffs: Aug. 16-17 and Aug. 23-24
Matchday 1: Sept. 6-7
Matchday 2: Sept. 13-14
Matchday 3: Oct. 4-5
Matchday 4: Oct. 11-12
Matchday 5: Oct. 25-26
Matchday 6: Nov. 1-2

The Round of 16 will fall in the same February-March windows as last year. But the quarterfinal legs have each been pushed back a week, and the semifinals a further week. The Champions League final is slated for June 10, the latest scheduled date since the inaugural European Cup final on June 13, 1956.

Who are the favorites?

Liverpool and Man City are the two best teams in Europe. They were for much of last season, too, until City choked away a Champions League semifinal to Real Madrid. Both have since reloaded for another run at domestic and continental glory. (More on transfers below.)

PSG and Bayern Munich are their top challengers on the continent. The rest of the contenders are the usual suspects — Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea, Juventus, Inter Milan, AC Milan, Atletico Madrid — minus Manchester United, which failed to qualify for the second time in four seasons.

The club most capable up upsetting their dual hegemony in England, meanwhile, might be Tottenham. Antonio Conte has now had a full offseason to mold Spurs to his liking — and in the past, a full Conte offseason has been a pretty good recipe for success. He won leagues titles in his first full seasons at Bari (in the Italian second tier), Juventus and Chelsea, and in his second at Inter Milan, he ended Juve's run of nine straight Scudettos.

What have been the summer’s biggest transfers?

A very incomplete list of the biggest moves of an already very busy transfer window, which doesn’t close until Sept. 1:

Robert Lewandowski | Bayern Munich —> Barcelona
Erling Haaland | Borussia Dortmund —> Manchester City

Sadio Mane | Liverpool —> Bayern Munich
Darwin Nuñez | Benfica —> Liverpool
Romelu Lukaku | Chelsea —> Inter Milan (loan)

Raheem Sterling | Manchester City —> Chelsea
Gabriel Jesus | Manchester City —> Arsenal
Matthijs de Ligt | Juventus —> Bayern Munich
Aurelien Tchouameni | Monaco —> Real Madrid
Antonio Rudiger | Chelsea —> Real Madrid
Raphinha | Leeds —> Barcelona
Jules Kounde | Sevilla —> Barcelona
Lisandro Martinez | Ajax —> Manchester United
Paul Pogba | Manchester United —> Juventus
Kalidou Koulibaly | Napoli —> Chelsea
Angel Di Maria | PSG —> Juventus
Franck Kessie | AC Milan —> Barcelona
Ryan Gravenberch | Ajax —> Bayern Munich
Niklas Sule | Bayern Munich —> Borussia Dortmund
Richarlison | Everton —> Tottenham
Kalvin Phillips | Leeds —> Manchester City
Oleksandr Zinchenko | Manchester City —> Arsenal
Christian Eriksen | Brentford —> Manchester United
Paulo Dybala | Juventus —> Roma
Ivan Perisic | Inter Milan —> Tottenham
Boubacar Kamara | Marseille —> Aston Villa
Nico Schlotterbeck | Freiburg —> Borussia Dortmund
Karim Adeyemi | RB Salzburg —> Borussia Dortmund
Gleison Bremer | Torino —> Juventus
Nordi Mukiele | RB Leipzig —> PSG
Vitinha | Porto —> PSG
Fabio Vieira | Porto —> Arsenal
Sven Botman | Lille —> Newcastle
Gianluca Scamacca | Sassuolo —> West Ham
Brenden Aaronson | RB Salzburg —> Leeds
Tyler Adams | RB Leipzig —> Leeds

What big transfers could still happen?

The big name to watch is Cristiano Ronaldo. In short: He wants to leave Manchester United, but none of the Champions League clubs he wants to play for seem to want him.

Where are the top American players this season?

For a decade, American players had drifted out of the Premier League. Suddenly, they’re back in numbers. Here’s a full roundup of all the relevant U.S. men’s national team players in Europe.

What, and who, else is new?

Manchester United has a new manager, Erik ten Hag, who it poached from Ajax. So does PSG in Christophe Galtier.

Chelsea has a new ownership group, led by American Todd Boehly, who has taken control of the club’s operations and overseen one of the most incoherent summer transfer strategies in recent memory.

English Premier League predictions

1. Manchester City
2. Liverpool
3. Tottenham
4. Arsenal
—————
5. Chelsea
6. Manchester United
—————
7. Crystal Palace
—————
8. Newcastle
9. West Ham
10. Leicester City
11. Aston Villa
12. Leeds
13. Brighton
14. Wolves
15. Brentford
16. Everton
17. Nottingham Forest
18. Southampton
19. Fulham
20. Bournemouth

German Bundesliga predictions

1. Bayern Munich
2. Borussia Dortmund
3. Bayer Leverkusen
4. RB Leipzig
—————
5. Wolfsburg
6. Borussia Mönchengladbach
—————
7. Mainz

La Liga predictions

1. Barcelona
2. Real Madrid
3. Atletico Madrid
4. Villareal
—————
5. Real Sociedad
6. Real Betis
—————
7. Sevilla

Serie A predictions

1. Inter Milan
2. Roma
3. AC Milan
4. Napoli
—————
5. Juventus
6. Atalanta
—————
7. Lazio

How can I watch the top European leagues?

The Premier League is on NBC networks — mostly USA and the streaming service Peacock in English, and Telemundo in Spanish. The first game, Crystal Palace v. Arsenal, is Friday at 3 p.m. ET on USA and online.

The Bundesliga and La Liga are on ESPN+ (and very occasionally ESPN or ABC). Some English Championship games are also on ESPN+.

Serie A and all UEFA competitions — the Champions League, Europa League and Conference League — are on CBS Sports Network and Paramount+. (So is the Scottish Premiership.)

Ligue 1 is on beIN Sports and beIN Sports Connect.