The 2022/23 football season is drawing to a close, and there are a number of trophies still yet to be decided. Admittedly, a number of the biggest ones have been determined, and a certain Diego Maradona will be partying hard up in heaven. That’s because Lionel Messi led his beloved Argentina to a first FIFA World Cup success in 36 years, while Napoli have also lifted the Scudetto for the first time since their favourite adopted son made the beautiful Italian city his home.
Elsewhere, however, plenty of pieces of silverware are still up for grabs. Arsenal and Manchester City’s Premier League title race looks set to be going down to the wire, as does the fight between Der Klassiker rivals Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund over in Germany. Then, there’s the small matter of the UEFA Champions League.
Pep Guardiola’s Blues have been made -143 favorites to lift the famous big-eared trophy for the first time in the club’s history by sports betting platforms online. In order to secure their maiden European crown however, they will have to get past reigning champions Real Madrid in the semifinals, the same team that knocked them out of the competition at the same stage last season. Both Milan clubs meet in the other semifinal and that clash promises to be fireworks.
But as the current season draws to a close, we have decided that now is a perfect – albeit early – time to take a look ahead at next season. Here are our two predictions ahead of next season, feel free to head on over to SportsLibro and rub it in our faces if these forecasts are a million miles from actuality next summer.
This time last year, FC Barcelona were in turmoil. Their debt was estimated to be well over €1bn and the club was selling off assets left, right and centre in order to fund some big money arrivals. Superstars such as Robert Lewandowski, Jules Koundé and Raphinha all arrived for a combined €100m, while the likes of Franck Kessié, Andreas Christensen, Héctor Bellerín, and Marcos Alonso all signed big-money contracts with the club.
But despite the plethora of new arrivals, the Blaugrana were unable to progress from the group stage of the UEFA Champions League for the second consecutive season and once again dropped into the Europa League. They finished third in their group behind Bayern Munich and current semifinalists Inter Milan, before being eliminated in the first knockout round of the UEL by Manchester United. Domestically however it has been a completely different story.
The Catalonians are currently on course for their first La Liga crown in four years, and this is just the start of the return to the top of European football. They are expected to strengthen further in the summer, and the prodigal son known as Lionel Messi is expected to return to the Camo Nou upon the expiry of his Paris Saint-Germain contract. Despite turning 36 in June, he will be determined to lead his beloved Blaugrana back to the promised land, and while they may not win the Champions League next season, we expect them to reach the semifinals at the very least.
Do any supporters in all of sport know more pain and suffering than fans of English football? Well, English male football anyway. The Lionesses successfully ended England’s wait for a major trophy at UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 last summer, and we expect the men to follow in their footsteps next year.
Gareth Southgate has done a stellar job during his seven years in charge of the national team. He has ushered in a new generation of superstars and the results speak for themselves. In his first major tournament as manager, he led England to a first FIFA World Cup semifinal since Italia ‘90, before eventually being downed by Croatia’s Golden Generation in the semifinals. In 2021, he led the Three Lions to their first major final since 1966, before the dreaded penalty shootout reared its ugly head once again, with lady luck favouring Gianluigi Donnarumma and Italy in the European Championships final at Wembley.
In the recent FIFA World Cup, England looked to be contenders once again. They topped their group and dismantled Iran and Wales en route to the second round. There, they smashed African champions Senegal to set up a mouth-watering quarterfinal against reigning champions France.
In that last-eight clash, however, further penalty spot pain would await. Despite being the dominant force for long periods, England found themselves 2-1 down late on courtesy of goals from Aurélien Tchouaméni and Olivier Giroud. Then, they were awarded a late penalty, only for the usually reliable Harry Kane to blaze over and allow Les Bleus safe passage to yet another semifinal.
Next summer though, we can see that long-awaited trophy finally making its way to Wembley. Germany will host UEFA Euro 2024 next summer, and England are among the favourites for glory. With the likes of Jude Bellingham and Bukayo Saka coming of age at the perfect time, don’t be surprised to see football finally come home.