Exit the underdog
What more can be written about Leicester City's title challenge? It's truly an incredible, Hollywood-esque narrative – particularly when set against the background of a PL top four hegemony that has seen only five different teams win the title since the competition was rebranded in 1992. However, the lesson from the football world is that we shouldn't get used to underdog stories like this one.
At the time of writing Leicester are seven points clear of Spurs in second, but they haven't won the title yet. Even if they do see it through they'll sound but a single note of discord in a football landscape where four out of the five top European leagues seem destined to be topped by the overwhelming preseason favourites and 2014/15 title holders.
Lets start with Ligue 1. Paris Saint Germain – backed by Middle Eastern petrobillions at a time when every other team in the league must sell their best players to stay afloat – strolled to the league title in mid-March. In Spain the fat lady is yet to warm her vocal chords, but only a fool would bet against a Barcelona side containing the most lavishly assembled forward line in history seeing out their three-point advantage from here. In Italy's Serie A, even a truly disastrous start to the season was not enough to prevent Juventus from building a six-point cushion on second-placed Napoli by early April. And in Germany, despite the best efforts of Thomas Tuchel's excellent Dortmund side, Bayern Munich seem destined to win a fourth consecutive Bundesliga title.
For fans of variety and unpredictability, this all makes for rather depressing reading. This year's champions of the German, French, Spanish and Italian leagues are likely to be the same as last year's champions. Dig a little deeper and the picture is even less encouraging. You have to go back 15 years to find a Portuguese Primeira Liga winner other than Benfica or Porto. Benfica are currently top of the league , hoping to make it three domestic titles on the bounce. In Greece, Olympiakos have claimed their 18th Greek Super League title in 20 years – bagging the domestic gong even quicker than PSG. Even the FA Cup – last bastion of the 'cupset' – has seen a Premier League side lift the trophy every year for the best part of three decades.
These leagues are the six highest-rated UEFA Member Associations, and of the six only the Premier League looks to pose an original challenge to trophy engravers this year. The point I'm making – and I'm aware I may be labouring it slightly – is that Leicester City-style underdog stories are serious aberrations in the wider football world. On their day anyone can beat anyone in the Premier League, but Man Utd, Man City, Chelsea and Arsenal seem to have their day an awful lot more often than everyone else.
We love the Premier League here at Glory. We love European club football and we love the Champions League. God help us, we even love the Europa League. But we can't be alone in thinking that the heart and soul of football is found beyond these major competitions where – as much as we may kid ourselves to the contrary – the result is a foregone conclusion nine times out of every ten.
– Louis Rossi