As money and power is increasingly concentrated towards elite clubs, many European leagues have become predictable. 

Juventus' grip on Serie A, Bayern's dominance in the Bundesliga and Barcelona and Real Madrid's duopoly over La Liga show little sign of being toppled any time soon. 

​This makes it all the more enthralling when an unfancied club throws away the script and goes on to do better than anyone expected.

Examples of such teams have been refreshingly abundant recently. Here's eight of the very best surprise packages from across the continent this season.



​Leicester's progression since Brendan Rodgers took charge just over a year ago has been sensational. 

After being forced to endure Claude Puel's sterile, possession-based football, Foxes fans have been treated to an explosion of pressing and blistering counter-attacks this season.

Not only have Leicester got more pleasing on the eye, results have also dramatically improved under Rodgers. An incredible start to the season saw ​Leicester emerge as genuine* title challengers.

Although their form has dropped off significantly since those halcyon days, prior to football's enforced break they were still comfortably positioned in third and on course to secure ​Champions League football next term.


Borussia Monchengladbach 

Lars Stindl

​After a fifth-placed finish during the 2018/19 season, few would have expected Borussia Monchengladbach to harbour title ambitions this time out - especially after losing star man Thorgan Hazard in the summer. 

Despite this, Gladbach have spent a significant portion of the campaign sitting at the top of the table. Key to their success has been the well-drilled tactics of manager Marco Rose.

They may not be awash with stars nor be the most attractive team to watch in Europe, but a combination of stern defending and ruthlessness on the break has made Die Fohlen more than the sum of their parts this season.

Real Sociedad

Mirandes v Real Sociedad - Copa del Rey: Semi-Final 2nd Leg

​Galvanized by the arrival of Martin Odegaard - and to a lesser extent, Nacho Monreal - Real Sociedad are flying high in ​La Liga this season.

La Real have claimed some massive scalps this season, including Atletico Madrid, ​Real Madrid and a draw against ​Barcelona

Defeating Los Blancos in the Copa del Rey quarter final - before dispatching minnows CD Mirandés - set up an all-Basque final against Athletic Bilbao for the first time ever. We really, really, really hope it gets played. 


Joaquin Correa,Ciro Immobile

​Yes, Lazio are a huge club but did anyone really have them pegged as possible title winners this season? Much of the narrative in the summer centred around whether Antonio Conte could help ​Inter break up Juventus' Serie A hegemony. 

However, a spell of poor form has left I Nerazzurri nine points off the pace. Lazio on the other hand trail the Old Lady by just one and have already beaten Maurizio Sarri's side twice this season. 

Much of the credit for this must go to the freakishly brilliant Ciro Immobile - who has bagged 27 goals - though Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Luis Alberto have both been excellent as well. Expect this season's title race to go right down to wire... if it even reaches a climax at all. 

Sheffield United 

Billy Sharp

​Sheffield United are currently enjoying one of the best seasons from a promoted team in Premier League history. 

Tipped by many for the drop at the start of the campaign, Chris Wilder's band of merry men have defied all expectations and remain in the hunt for a Europa League spot. 

Smart defending has been the secret to the Blades' success this season, though they should not be dismissed as unsophisticated tactically. Wilder's 3-5-2 system has been a marvel for tactics nerds everywhere.


Josip Ilicic

​We've thought long and hard...and decided that Atalanta might just be the most exciting football team in the world.

The Bergamo-based side are Serie A's top scorers this season with 70 goals - phwoar, that's a lot - and have more exciting players than we can do justice to in these few, short paragraphs. 

Their playing style is open, joyous and carefree, traits you wouldn't necessarily associate with a good Champions League run, where games can often be intense, defensive battles. 

This hasn't stopped Gian Piero Gasperini's side putting in a fantastic performance during their debut season in the competition. They had just beaten Valencia over two legs to reach the quarter finals prior to football taking a break. 

F.C. Famalicao​

Pedro Goncalves,Gustavo Assuncao,Racine Coly,Patrick William

​Though they are funded by a billionaire, investment in Portuguese minnows F.C. Famalicao has not been so extensive to render their success this season unsurprising. 

The club have more than held their own in the Primeira Liga - after around 25 years away from the top flight.

They spent a handful of weeks at the top of the table earlier in the season, currently sit in seventh place, and their young squad is only going to improve over the next few years. Not bad for a team whose stadium can only hold just over 5,000 fans.

AZ Alkmaar

Calvin Stengs,Dani De Wit,Myron Boadu,Oussama Idrissi

​Last season AZ Alkmaar finished a seemingly insurmountable 28 points behind Eredivisie winners Ajax. This time around, they have someone managed to bridge the gap with the two sides currently neck and neck in the title race.

While Ajax's loss of key players such as Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt have undoubtedly done some of the work, AZ still deserve huge credit for their drastic improvement

They have beaten the reigning champions twice this season and the thought of potentially lifting their first league title since 2009 will be helping the squad get through isolation.

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