With league campaigns drawing to a close across Europe, here are some of the teams that have surprised us this season in Europe’s top five leagues.
RB Leipzig have enjoyed a decent debut Bundesliga campaign given their young squad has taken the top flight by storm. They’re now poised to go toe-to-toe with the best teams in Europe next season.
With the midfield dominance of Naby Keita, the pace and power of striker Timo Werner and their star Swede Emil Forsberg, only Bayern Munich have outperformed Leipzig this season.
Forsberg in particular, with eight goals and fifteen assists, has shone brightly this season. His remarkable rise from being one of the best players in the 2bundesliga to one of the best in the German top flight has mirrored his side’s incredible performance this season.
Bayern have now secured the league title, but Leipzig’s efforts to win it at the first time of asking are commendable.
Alongside Leipzig, Hoffenheim’s season has been quite intriguing, to say the least.
Managed by 29-year-old Julian Nagelsmann, the club from a small German town have been making a big splash this season having harboured clear intentions to play in Europe next season.
Nagelsmann became made the youngest coach in the Bundesliga when he took over at Hoffenheim last season. When appointed, his side were stuck in the relegation zone seven points from safety.
Since then he has taken Hoffenheim on a remarkable run up the table. He first steered them to safety and then this season has led to a place in next season’s Champions League.
Die Kraichgauer even went unbeaten for the first half of the season before falling, ironically, to Leipzig. They currently sit in 3rd-place with a one-point lead over fourth-placed Borussia Dortmund.
Monaco might have been expected to have given PSG a bit of bother as the Parisian’s aimed for another Ligue 1 title but Monaco have not only pushed them but surpassed them.
Scoring a scarcely believable 95 goals in 34 games, the Monegasques lead PSG on goal difference with a game in hand.
The attacking firepower of Radamel Falcao and Kylian Mbappe has blended well with the solid defence of Kamil Glik and Jemerson. With five games left they will hope to add an eighth French title to their collection.
Nice are also having a rather special season under Lucien Favre, and after just missing out on the Champions League places last year they’ll be delighted to have moved up a place in the league table and secured a spot in the Champions League.
While moving from fourth to third is not such a big surprise, it was Nice’s early season form that saw them described as a surprise package.
They led the table for a large chunk of the season and seemed to be mounting a genuine title campaign.
Led by a rejuvenated Mario Balotelli, Nice couldn’t quite sustain the pressure. But the fact they sit 20 points above fourth-placed Lyon shows just how strong they have been this season.
The Basque side from a tiny city in Spain are perceived to be punching above their weight just to be in the Spanish top flight, thus, to have been embroiled in a battle for a Europa League spot in the past few months is a great achievement in itself.
Sevilla have also had an excellent season. In February they were being talked about as possible title challengers to Real Madrid and Barcelona.
A poor run of form has seen them drop out the title race but they are level on points with Atletico Madrid in the race for third and finishing there would still be an excellent achievement for Sevilla.
The Premier League has not thrown up all that many surprises, especially when compared to last year when Leicester unexpectedly romped to the title.
However, Tony Pulis’s West Brom have proven to be a bit of surprise package. The Midlands side usually are involved, at least to some extent, in a relegation battle, but Pulis seems to have steered them towards a top half finish.
They have already reached the 40 points mark in March this year and look set to match their eighth-placed finish from the 2012-13 season – their highest ever Premier League finish.
Italy, on the other hand, has had a real surprise package in shape of Atalanta, La Dea finished 13th last season and expected another season of mid-table mediocrity but under the stewardship of Gian Piero Gasperini have mounted a challenge for a European place.
They currently lie 5th in the table and drew with runaway leaders Juventus on Friday night to go level on points with 4th placed Lazio.
The Northern Italian side will be hoping that their five-point lead over AC Milan will stay intact and give them an automatic place in next year’s Europa League.
They will also be hoping they don’t lose too many of their players to bigger clubs next season, with influential midfielder Franck Kessie, and right back Andrea Conti particularly attracting attention.
Atalanta have only finished in the top ten of the Serie A once in the past decade so to be challenging for a Europa League place certainly indicates that they have done something very special.