Home Sport Champions League-chasing Atalanta and Getafe among Europe’s biggest overperformers

Champions League-chasing Atalanta and Getafe among Europe’s biggest overperformers

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The dust is just about settling on an enthralling 2018/19 season across Europe – and there’s been plenty of highs and lows for clubs and individuals.
Manchester City and Liverpool played out an epic battle for the Premier League crown in England, while Borussia Dortmund went toe to toe with Bavarian behemoths Bayern Munich in Germany, even though it looks like they’ll come up just short.
Juventus proved their enduring class in Italy where they will hoist a record-extending eighth Scudetto. Likewise in France, Paris Saint-Germain lifted a sixth league crown in the last seven years. Meanwhile, in Spain, Barcelona also continued their recent dominance by winning an eighth La Liga title in the last 11 years.
But while there is much to celebrate in terms of title successes, what about teams that have surpassed all expectations? Maybe by finishing higher than anyone thought possible, qualifying for Europe or completely flipping their fortunes?
We pick out our top five overperformers from Europe’s top five leagues.
ATALANTA Gian Piero Gasperini has worked a miracle at Atalanta.
High up in the hills of northern Italy, there is a story unfolding this season that – if realised – will seem taller than the mountainous Alps in which the city of Bergamo is situated.
However, it is very real, as the city’s Atalanta football side sit perched on the cusp of true greatness. A maiden campaign of elite cross-continent football beckons next season as La Dea (the Goddess) dare to dream of a first brush with the Champions League.
One more victory from their remaining two games – admittedly they face a tall task in Turin this Sunday as they travel to Serie A champions Juventus – will likely be enough for Gian Piero Gasperini’s side to claim fourth spot and send them into the Champions League. At the expense of national giants AC Milan, Roma and Lazio.
They finished fourth two seasons ago when it came with a Europa League berth – an end to a 27-year European drought was exciting enough. But this would mean so much more.
Gasperini’s side are Italy’s great entertainers. No-one has scored more goals (73) – not even Juve. But only Roma (47) have conceded more than their 44 in the top eight.
The sky is the limit.
GETAFE Getafe head coach Jose Bordalas has steered his side onto the cusp of the Champions League.
Another epic story is being told in Spain this season, where Getafe go into the final day of the La Liga campaign needing to better the result of Valencia in order to make a maiden Champions League appearance.
It would bring European football to the Coliseum Alfonso Perez for just the third time after featuring in the Europa League in 2010/11 and its predecessor the UEFA Cup three years earlier.
It would be the biggest chapter yet to be written in the history of a fledgling club that is only 35-years-old, founded in 1983 beneath the shadows of mighty Madrid neighbours Real and Atletico.
Jose Bordalas’ Azulones (Deep Blues) have lost only nine games this season – two fewer than Los Blancos – and conceded one less goal than champions Barcelona.
They are tied with Valencia on 58 points in a tussle for the final Champions League spot that could not be more tense ahead of the final day.
WOLVES Two of Wolverhampton Wanderers’ four previous Premier League campaigns ended with them finishing 20th and going straight back down – their other two visits yielded finishes of 15th and 17th.
On the last occasion that happened in 2011/12 they followed it up with successive relegations, to League 1.
Wolves have had to claw and scratch their way back to England’s top table in the ensuing five years. How fitting then that a blistering return to the top-flight in 2018/19 might yet end in Europa League qualification.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s side have taken four points from home and away meetings with Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea this season, as well as beaten Tottenham and drawn with champions Manchester City.
They have played a bold and brilliant counter-attacking style that many giants have been unable to trample – they even beat United and Liverpool on their way to the FA Cup semi-finals.
Wolves have shown plenty of bite and they will be howling at the moon with delight should City complete a domestic treble and beat Watford at Wembley on Saturday.
LILLE Amid all the hype – but mostly boredom – surrounding Paris Saint-Germain and their dominance of Ligue 1, many more interesting storylines often go unheard.
Take Lille for example. They’ve led a fairly mediocre existence since lifting their fifth French title eight years ago. 2010/11 ended a 57-year title drought – but since then the powerful Parisiens have lifted six trophies in eight years.
So bad had the malaise become for Lille, that they finished fourth from bottom and narrowly avoided facing a relegation play-off with the third-placed team in the second tier last year, finishing a point ahead of Toulouse.
Christophe Galtier, in his first full season in charge, has transformed the Great Danes – driving them to 34 more points than a year ago and firing them 15 places up the league table to second, and back into the Champions League, courtesy of the league’s best defensive record.
BORUSSIA MONCHENGLADBACH It seems strange now that Gladbach announced in early April they would not be extending manager Dieter Hecking’s contract, considering he has brought them to the cusp of Champions League qualification after two below par ninth-placed league finishes.
True, Die Fohlen (The Foals) need to beat Borussia Dortmund – who have an outside chance of winning the league title – on the Bundesliga’s final day on Saturday in order to return to Europe’s top table. But the fact they are even fighting for just a fourth shot at Champions League participation in its 27-year history is remarkable.
Alassane Plea’s arrival from Nice last summer has paid off with 12 Bundesliga goals, while the younger Hazard brother, Thorgan, continues to shine, with 10 assists.
The hierarchy made the Hecking call when the club briefly slipped out of the top four for the first time since September in April. If he ends up leading them into the Champions League next season, it could prove a poor one.

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