A BRIEF HISTORY OF WINTER CHAMPIONS
Topping the table at the half-way stage is a feather in any team’s cap but not every team is celebrating come end of season.
‘I would love it…’
Newcastle United held a 10-point lead over Manchester United during the festive period in 1995 but their advantage had dwindled away by March after a run of five defeats from eight matches. Tensions boiled over for Magpies boss Kevin Keegan who famously hit the headlines after his ‘I would love it’ rant directed at the Red Devils.
Fiorentina were top of Serie A in 1998 after registering nine victories from the first 14 rounds of action, before falling away in spectacular fashion in the New Year. The Viola lost five and won just two of their final 10 domestic ties, finishing 14 points adrift of champions Milan.
Heroes to Villans
Aston Villa led the way at the halfway point during the 1998-1999 campaign, despite selling star striker Dwight Yorke to Manchester United. Ultimately, the Villans had to settle for sixth after losing 11 of their final 19 league games as the Red Devils memorably went on to win the Treble.
Leeds let it slip
Leeds United were top of the table as a new millennium approached but faded away during the second-half of the term. The Whites had Jonathan Woodgate, Harry Kewell, Lee Bowyer, Alan Smith and Ian Harte in the ranks but struggled to juggle domestic and European duties as Manchester United finished 22 points ahead.
Manchester United had accumulated a mightily impressive 39 points from 51 available but capitulated in the second-half of 2003-04. The Red Devils had to settle for third, 15 points behind the Arsenal Invincibles and were not helped by a number of uncharacteristic defeats against squads battling for survival.
Liverpool blew it – fact
Liverpool were top of the pile in 2008 but the Reds fell four points adrift of Sir Alex Ferguson’s winners. The Reds’ season took a turn for the worse in January after Rafael Benitez’ infamous ‘facts’ tirade and his opposite number quickly took advantage of the Spaniard who wilted under the pressure of leading the title race.
Milan led the way for the majority of the 2010-11 season, eventually ending a six-year wait for the title. Talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic was in inspired form throughout as Milan held off the threat of neighbours Inter to win the Scudetto with two matches to spare.
Liverpool go close
Liverpool edged out Manchester City on Christmas Day in 2013 and were the standout side in the division throughout the year. The Merseysiders had a three-point advantage with three games remaining but lost to Chelsea and squandered a three-goal lead to draw with Crystal Palace. City claimed the silverware on the final day.
On the Bus
CSKA Sofia were in a familiar position at Christmas in 2014 but would not have envisaged what was to follow. Top scorer Sergiu Buș was sold to Sheffield Wednesday in the winter and CSKA failed to score in 10 straight games following his departure. Bulgaria’s most successful club dropped to fifth in the table.
Old Lady fights back
Napoli were crowned winter champions in 2017 but 15 wins from their final 19 fixtures saw Juventus steal the Scudetto. The turning point in the title race came in March as Roma toppled the Azzurri 4-2 and Maurizio Sarri’s men only won two of their next five.
Manchester United made a habit of hauling back the winter champions under Sir Alex Ferguson…
Arsenal gave United a taste of their own medicine in 2003-04
Liverpool’s wait for a Premier League title has seen the Reds blow several mid-season leads
Surely Jurgen Klopp’s side are too far clear in 2019-20?
Juventus’ domination of Serie A saw them come from behind to beat Napoli to the title in 2017