Teams to Watch Across the Continent in 2022

Teams to watch
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2022 is upon us and following on from our players’ to watch article, here are some teams to watch across the continent throughout the year. Whether it be a side underperforming or one that are massively exceeding expectations, from West Bromwich Albion to Rayo Vallecano.

Teams to Watch: 2022

Napoli

Starting first in Italy and the battle at the top of the tree is truly fascinating. Going into 2022, current holders Inter Milan lead the way. That being said, their city rivals AC Milan, as well as Atalanta, are still firmly in the mix. But are Napoli one of the teams to watch? Upon Luciano Spalletti’s return to a Serie A technical area, Napoli came flying out of the blocks and seemed nigh on untouchable. Key injuries have contributed to a drop off and with AFCON on the horizon, further losses will occur. This next month or two will be sink or swim for Spalletti’s men with the likes of Juan Jesus and Dries Mertens needing to fill the void left by Kalidou Koulibaly and Victor Osimhen respectively. Whether they can rediscover that early season form or not, it’ll be an intriguing watch at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

Rayo Vallecano

Moving over to Spain and no side have been more surprising across Europe than Rayo Vallecano. It would have been easy enough for most La Liga watchers to tip Rayo for a relegation scrap. The side from Madrid only returned to the Primera Division this season, yet they are mixing it with all of the big boys. Every single one of Rayo’s seven defeats have come on the road with their only dropped points on home soil coming back in November in a stalemate with Celta. Andoni Iraola has his team in dreamland and even if they do start to drop off in 2022, their efforts are wholly commendable.

Real Sociedad

Rayo sit sixth in La Liga on thirty points and just behind them, only via goal difference, are Real Sociedad. There are several teams in La Liga, from Real Betis to Sevilla, Valencia to Athletic Club, that could easily have featured. It is La Real though with the early pace-setters dropping off to a worrying extent. Imanol Alguacil’s men have a neutral goal difference which is evidence of a lack of attacking impetus. Mikel Oyarzabal and Alexander Isak may be the subject of huge interest from Europe’s major powers and so if they are to seal big-money moves, they’ll need a strong second half to the season but they are one of the teams to watch.

Wolves

There are a few very good sides in the Premier League and then a fair bit of dross. This makes a team like Wolves all the more pleasing on the eye. Under Bruno Lage, Wolves have struck a fine balance of defensive stability and attacking intent. Finishing the plethora of chances created is what is currently holding them back but they still comfortably occupy the top half of the table. With Pedro Neto still out, Daniel Podence and Barcelona loanee Trincao need to step up even more in 2022 to support Raul Jimenez if a European football push is to come to fruition.

West Bromwich Albion

Remaining in that part of the country and a recent lack of goals, similar to that of their West Midlands rivals, has made an imminent return to the top-flight less and less likely for West Brom. The Baggies are still creating chance after chance but their dismal conversion rate has Bournemouth, Fulham and even Blackburn Rovers running away from them. The signing of USMNT forward Daryl Dike, with whom Valerien Ismael worked at Barnsley, is geared towards getting them out of this rut but that is a lot of pressure on the shoulders of a 21-year-old. The expectation is that West Brom should get promoted automatically in 2022 but that is much easier said than done.

Derby County

Not too long ago, with Frank Lampard at the helm, Derby County were in contention from promotion, just like West Brom are now. How times have changed though with two points deductions totalling -21 for the tally leaving the Rams are afloat at the foot of the Championship table. Their recent form is why we love football though. The fight and spirit shown by this squad under Wayne Rooney and Liam Rosenior is a joy to watch. They have a nice blend of experience from Phil Jagielka and Curtis Davies and co as well as the youth of the likes of Jason Knight and Festy Obesele. Three wins on the bounce in late December over Blackpool, the aforementioned West Brom and Stoke closely followed by a hearty come-from-behind 2-2 draw away at Reading shows just what these players are about. The powers that be may have damaged this club, but those on the pitch are intent on fighting for their fans and the badge. Derby are eleven points from safety and you can bet your bottom dollar that they will battle until the very last.

Lille

Paris Saint-Germain can romp to the Ligue 1 title all they like, that doesn’t take away from the entertainment below them. The top division in France gets a lot of unnecessary stick, there are so many fascinating teams, players and moments. As reflected in our article of players to watch in 2022, Lille and their players make an appearance. It was no surprise that they gave a poor account of themselves in the early stages of this season following a mass exodus of key players as well as manager Christophe Galtier leaving for Nice. The form of Canadian striker Jonathan David has Europe’s elite on red alert and as those around him start to find their feet, they can slowly claw their way back up the standings. One can’t forget how well they performed in the Champions League group stage too, with a mouth-watering knockout tie against Chelsea coming up in the new year. Progression in there could make them one of the teams to watch, not just domestically, but also in Europe.

Hoffenheim

Finally now to the Bundesliga and, in truth, this is the big five/six league that has been most underwhelming by to date this term. Bayern Munich have continued to be excellent most weeks whilst the likes of RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund have flattered to deceive with no help from key absentees, making the title race somewhat redundant. That being said, a few so-called mid-table teams have been playing good football and reaping the rewards. Freiburg, are in the top four, Mainz and Koln are in the top half plus Hoffenheim aren’t doing too badly themselves. They have seemingly been involved in high-scoring affairs in the last few years thanks to the likes of Andrej Kramaric and Munas Dabbur yet nothing has come of it. Under Sebastian Hoeness, nephew of now-former Bayern president Uli Hoeness, just goal difference separates Hoffenheim from a Champions League spot. Can they do it?

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