FC Luzern were able to cope with the loss of key player Ugrinic (to Bern) after staying in the relegation and would even have been third according to the expected points metric, no team achieved a higher xG value, especially the finishing positions are enormously strong. New signing Max Meyer in particular knows how to use this - he scored 6 times in 11 games! Moreover, no Super League team crosses more often and only Basel looks for the 1vs1 more often.
Player to Watch - Switzerland
Young Boys Bern's 20-year-old Fabian Rieder impresses with his box-to-box qualities at the eight position, his aggressive duel behaviour (wins almost two-thirds of his duels) paired with dangerous goal-scoring prowess makes him a hot stock on the winter transfer market, top clubs from Serie A are keen on the World Cup driver!
U23 Player to Watch -
The second top talent of the Swiss Super League is captain Ardon Jashari from the aforementioned FC Luzern. The left-footer acts as a playmaker from deep, directs the build-up and transition play from the left half-track, and also has outstanding timing for targeted passes and the right moment to turn up with the ball. Various clubs from the top 5 leagues are after Jashari, especially FC Arsenal and VfL Wolfsburg show great interest.
Team to Watch - USA
FC Cincinnati games are pure spectacle - the main reason for this is the offensive trident in the 3-4-1-2 system around playmaker Luciano Acosta! Acosta (11 goals + 13 assists), as well as the young attackers Brandon Vazquez (24 years; 19 goals + 8 assists) and Brenner (22 years; 18 goals + 6 assists) contributed 75 (!) points to the team's success. In the league, they created the best finishing positions, mostly after quick switching moments, but defensively they were rarely solid and conceded the fifth most goals in MLS.
Player to Watch - USA
Minnesota United's Emanuel Reynoso may be out of the talent age group, but the 27-year-old attacking midfielder is currently in the form of his life. The Argentine can play both on the left and on the 10, and impresses with his excellent slot-in passes, speedy dribbles (most in the league, 10+/90th min) and sharp standards.
U23 Player to Watch - USA
The 21-year-old Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas) shot himself into the notebooks of all scouts in 2022 with 18 goals and 6 assists, was directly involved in 50% of all team goals as the central point in the 4-3-3! Without Pepi, who transferred to Germany, he found himself in good finishing positions much more often, and was usually able to make the most of them.
Team to Watch - Portugal
Already in the 2021/22 promotion season, the data-based structured Casa Pia impressed with a formidable defensive performance, conceding only 22 goals in 34 games. After thirteen games in 22/23, only Benfica and Porto have conceded fewer goals - this is achieved by a strong man defence from six-man Afonso Taira (over 12 defensive duels per 90) and veteran Vasco Fernandes (most shots blocked, third most passes intercepted).
Player to Watch - Portugal
Next to stars like Mehdi Taremi (Porto) and rising star Goncalo Ramos (Benfica), Braga's Vitinha (22) is a little overshadowed. The striker knows how to use his body skilfully and can also play with his back to goal. Vitinha has nine goals and four assists after eighteen games (League & Europa League), plus another four goals in which the man with the number 99 gave the penultimate pass.
U23 Player to Watch - Portugal
But Liga Portugal is not only home to talented strikers, as Benfica Lisbon have one of the world's greatest centre-backs in their ranks. Despite top-class competition, 19-year-old António Silva has established himself alongside captain Nicolás Otamendi and justifies Roger Schmidt's trust on a weekly basis - he was even called up to the national team for the 2022 World Cup. Silva is characterised above all by his enormous playing strength, 93% of his passes reach his teammates, and the 1.87 metre tall right-footer outshines all centre-backs, especially when it comes to vertical passes into the final third. By the way, his exit clause is € 100 million, Real Madrid and Manchester United have already enquired about him.
Team to Watch - Serbia
FK TSC Backa Topola from the north of Serbia is hardly familiar to anyone in this country - the club from a town of 16,000 inhabitants has only been playing first-class football since the 19/20 season! One of the club's greatest successes is the youth development of Dusan Tadic and Nikola Zigic, who started playing football here. Within a few years, they already boast the fifth most valuable squad in the league and are currently in third place in the league thanks to high, effective pressing and a lot of play through the centre. The pass strong defenders, but especially creative players Djakovac and right winger Jovanovic (many crosses) create excellent finishing positions and also defensively they caught only 12 goals through great positional play.
Player to Watch - Serbia
Although Red Star have dominated the Serbian league for several years, rivals Partizan won the Golden Boot in 2021/22 in the person of Ricardo Gomes (30 years old)! The 30-year-old Brazilian is one of the stars of the league, blessed with great pace despite his 1.87m and could hardly be more complete - he scored 7 of his 29 goals 21/22 with his head, 21 with his right foot. Powerful, well-placed finishes, deep runs, strong technique in many dribbles (5+/90 min.) and great positional play in the box - Ricardo Gomes is all that and more.
U23 Player to Watch - Serbia
His "CR7 cheer" at the World Cup may have brought some attention to Ghanaian international Osman Bukari, but the 23-year-old, who now plays for Red Star Belgrade after spells in Slovakia, Gent and Nantes, also impresses with his skills on the pitch. The ambidextrous right winger is extremely agile and quick as an arrow, going on almost 8 dribbles/90 minutes - the second most in the league! In addition, he likes to bring in sharp crosses, finishes effectively and wins over 3 balls in the opponent's half in counter-pressing!
Team to Watch - Austria
A team in 10th place in the table as a team to watch? Coach Miroslav Klose's style of play makes it possible, because only three teams have a higher share of possession than SCR Altach (52%) this season. Again and again, the team has to look for the 1vs1 (only Lustenau more often) and switch quickly defensively. In addition, the Vorarlberg team builds the game most often from the back, even outshining RB Salzburg in this respect. Nevertheless, they must finally get into good positions offensively and stop the flood of goals conceded - 34 goals conceded, 6 of them from distance, are the highest in the league.
Player to Watch - Austria
Despite top-class talents from league leaders RB Salzburg, our choice is Japanese Keito Nakamura from Linzer ASK. The 22-year-old acts as an inside forward, moves from the left wing with many tempo dribblings into the centre (mainly into the box) and shoots from all angles. No other player has finished more often this season, 13 scorers in 15 appearances are the logical result of the former €50,000 purchase from Osaka, who not only masters the running game but also the passing game and likes to target the interface.
U23 Player to Watch - Austria
In that running game, however, he is topped by Bryan Silva Teixeira, another left winger. The 22-year-old plays for the Cape Verde national team and excels with his progressive pace runs and dribbles, through which the right-footer regularly takes opponents out of the game. More than seven times per ninety minutes Teixeira looks for success in dribbling - only topped by Marco Grüll and Nicolas Kühn (both Rapid). The French-born player, who trained at sister club Clermont Foot, has a total of 6 goals and 7 assists and was directly involved in 57% of all Lustenau's team goals!
Team to Watch - Turkey
Currently, the Istanbul district club Fatih Karagümrük under the direction of coach Andrea Pirlo is in 15th place in the Süper Lig with only 13 points - according to expected points, however, it would be 7th place! The team, which consists of players from 14 nations and is led by the top scorers Mbaye Diagne and Fabio Borini (7 goals each), can be described in a nutshell as "good at the front, bad at the back". They create the best finishing positions in the entire league, in the top 20 leagues in Europe only Standard Liege is better. Especially veteran Caner Erkin (6 assists, top value in the league) was convincing in creating chances - 2 days ago, however, his contract was terminated after he did not show up for training following rumours of a transfer. Fatih also scored the most goals in the league from standards (12), but also conceded the most in the same segment (9). In general, they allow good finishing positions, Viviano in goal is one of the weakest in the league.
Player to Watch - Turkey
Georges-Kevin N'Koudou, a two-time substitute for Cameroon at the World Cup, is the attacking force for Besiktas. The 27-year-old left winger has over 5.5 crosses/90 minutes (second best in the league) and almost 11 dribbles per 90 minutes of play, the best in the Süper Lig and in comparison to the top 5 leagues - however, he only wins % of duels and has problems asserting himself. In addition, decision-making after successful 1vs1 duels is a problem - he neither finishes often nor creates many chances (4 goals and 0 assists 22/23).
U23 Player to Watch - Turkey
Only 20 U23 players played more than 500 minutes in the Süper Lig 22/23, and only Galatasaray's Sacha Boey was really convincing! The 22-year-old right-back played the most defensive duels of all players this season (10.5/90 min.) and won an outstanding 70% of them; in the process he won more than 11 balls! In addition, he has a strong offensive drive, his progressive dribbles and crosses are extremely effective, but due to Galatasaray's poor chance conversion rate (17%, no team in the league worse) he has only earned 1 assist (5.2 expected assists).
Team to Watch - Brazil
Scoring the most goals and conceding the fewest, Palmeiras' 2022 championship was well deserved and was due in no small part to the outstanding balance that Abel Ferreira's team consistently demonstrated. Palmeiras were always purposeful, no team shot and crossed more often, many long balls characterised their attacking play, led by difference-maker Gustavo Scarpa (19 scorers, plus most chances created), who at 28 is now fulfilling his dream of the Premier League. He joins Nottingham Forest on a free transfer in January.
Player to Watch - Brazil
Flamengo's Giorgian de Arrascaeta has not yet ventured into Europe, with his club paying Cruzeiro a hefty 15 million for his services in 2019. The Uruguayan scored twice in the last group game of the World Cup and was a reliable provider in Brazil (9 assists, only Scarpa more). In addition to his outstanding technique, the 28-year-old is characterised by his versatility and his ability to play all positions in an attacking three-man line.
U23 Player to Watch - Brazil
With more than 3,000 minutes of action, Fluminense's midfield dynamo André (21) was one of the league's perennial favourites - no player under 27 collected more! This is understandable, because the 1.76-metre right-footer determined the rhythm of the game for his team, no other player played more passes, and André excelled with a precision of almost 94% and set the scene for his team-mates with unerring vertical passes (an outstanding 89% successful). According to the Brazilian media, the extension for another year at an improved salary is only a formality; his club wants to keep him at all costs in order to win the Copa Libertadores in 2023.
Team to Watch - Sweden
Led by the twin Gustafson brothers, BK Häcken shot their way to the first championship in the club's history a few weeks ago! The team from a district of Gothenburg used its great offensive to score 69 goals, clearly the most in the league. The ex-Dresden target man Alexander Jeremejeff was decisive here, securing the goal-scoring crown with 22 goals! Crucial here on the wings were the talents Sadiq (many crosses and dribbles; 11 scorers), Lund (many crosses; 6 assists) and Uddenäs (many dribbles; 10 scorers), who supported Häcken's player of the season Mikkel Rygaard (11 goals + 4 assists; great plug-in passes) in central midfield - he came in January as a clubless!
Player to Watch - Sweden
Just before the start of the season, Hammarby IF signed Nahir Besara on a free transfer. The attacking central midfielder, who played for the capital between 2013 and 2015, turned out to be a real stroke of luck. Born in Sweden to Syrian immigrants, the 31-year-old Besara was voted player of the year by his own fans after scoring 11 goals and providing 10 assists (a league best), wowing them with his finishing skills and chance creation. His 3.3 shots/90 min. and 2.3 assists/90 min. are among the top 5 in the league, especially in the last third he likes to use precise passes to set up a teammate.
U23 Player to Watch - Sweden
Yasan Ayari comes from the youth of his club AIK Solna and has been an integral part of the Gnaget starting eleven since the summer. The 19-year-old usually plays as an eighth in the team's 4-4-2 system, where he excels with his high action radius and the many duels. Despite his slight stature, the 1.72m and 69kg man throws himself into these defensively - but also offensively in ball progression. He regularly pushes the ball forward with quick dribbles and is one of the most fouled players in the entire league. His greatest strength, however, is vertical passing - almost 25% of his passes find the final third, and he regularly uses the interface for passes to the outside.
Team to Watch - Japan
The team with the lowest market value managed to stay in the J1 League - we are talking about Sagan Tosu, who were able to convince with an exciting playing philosophy. A high share of possession, coupled with early tackling and tactical fouls when necessary. Kei Koizumi in defensive midfield and Taisei Miyashiro (8 goals), an attacker on loan from Kawasaki Frontale, were particularly impressive.
Player to Watch - Japan
Yasuko Wakizaka is under contract with the same top club from the megacity of Kawasaki. The 27-year-old is the best provider of assists this season and was also ahead according to the metric of expected assists. The attacking midfielder registered a strong 2.3 assists/90 minutes, mainly from the right half of the pitch, from where he created the most chances of any player in the league.
U23 Player to Watch - Japan
The 23-year-old Shuto Machino proved to be strong in converting scoring opportunities, taking 35% of his chances and contributing 13 goals for midfield club Shonan Bellmare. Almost five ball actions in the box/90 minutes, coupled with a good rate in the air and dribbling rounded off his profile. The Japanese World Cup player's contract expires at the end of January.
Team to Watch - Czech Republic
FC Hradec Kralove have mostly oscillated between the first and second division over the last decade, but in their current second Fortuna Liga year in a row (6th place 21/22) they are also doing extremely well in 5th place! Although the team from north-eastern Bohemia has the fourth lowest market value of all teams, coach Miroslav Koubek (71 years old) manages to keep the opponents away from his own goal with his preferred three-man backline and an extremely high quantity and intensity of tackling. They like to start aggressively and high up, involve their opponents in direct duels and, when they win the ball, immediately play with speed to the top (most counterattacks in the league) - if the young attackers Kubala and Vasulin were more efficient, they could even finish higher than 5th.
Player to Watch - Czech Republic
In the last two years, Roman Kvet played as a central defensive midfielder for Bohemians Prague, but was always involved up front. Currently, the new coach Vesely uses the 24-year-old as an all-rounder almost everywhere in the offensive after a system change - mostly on one of the two wing positions, however, where Kvet scored 9 times (+2 assists) in 13 league games! He uses his powerful body again and again in runs and dribbles to the goal, can assert himself strongly and assert himself, often moves into the penalty area or hits (mostly quite inaccurate) crosses. In front of goal he is extremely accurate (3.5 shots per goal).
U23 Player to Watch - Czech Republic
Actually, we would have liked to present Yira Sor, the 22-year-old goal-getting winger from Slavia Prague, here - but he missed 16 matches in 22/23 with a calf injury. His internal replacement is his 20-year-old Nigerian compatriot Moses Usor (trained in the 6 Lion Football Academy just like Sor and Peter Olayinka), who was only signed from Africa in the summer. Usor weighs only 64kg at 1.81m and is therefore extremely agile and quick on the right wing, dribbling almost 7 times per 90 minutes - only three players in the league are better in this respect! The left-footer is extremely eager to finish, always taking off from the centre, and has already scored a total of 6 goals.
Team to Watch - Croatia
The closest rival to Dinamo Zagreb is Hajduk Split - according to Expected Points they are tied. The port city team is constantly looking for the right pass into the area, they also hit the most crosses and focus their game completely on the powerful goal scorer Marko Livaja (11 goals in 16 games). Defensively, they attack early, the intensity of the duels is high - and under coach Mislav Karoglan (in charge since mid-September) Hajduk are still unbeaten!
Player to Watch - Croatia
Undefeated is also a good word for goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic, who is currently shining with absolute top performances in Qatar and secured Croatia's progress in the last 16 and quarter-finals with brilliant saves and saved penalties. The goalkeeper has been playing at a consistently high level for years, with save rates above 75% since 2018 - absolute top class! With his lanky build, he doesn't show any special flying moves, he stands for consistent goalkeeping with great qualities in 1vs1. His contract runs until 2024, a move to a top league next summer seems overdue for the 27-year-old - after Manuel Neuer's injury, FC Bayern is considered a major suitor!
U23 Player to Watch - Croatia
A transfer of Dion Drena Beljo from Osijek is even more likely. Borussia Mönchengladbach, TSG Hoffenheim and other Bundesliga clubs have recently expressed interest. Especially the cross-heavy play of the Kraichgauer shows a high fit to the 1.95m centre forward, who knows how to assert himself in the air and is also strong in finishing with both feet. The 20-year-old wall player has scored eight goals with only 23 attempts - he needs only 2.9 shots per goal, which is absolutely top class, just like the almost double goal yield of his xG value (4.5).
Team to Watch - Mexico
In some South and Central American countries, the league is played in two separate halves of the season - as is the case in Mexico. There, after a six-year drought with many poor performances, CF Pachuca won the Apertura (1st season of the year) in May and finished a strong 4th in the following Clausura. The father of the success is Uruguayan coach Guillermo Almada, who took up his post just under a year ago and has since been setting offensive spectacles ablaze week after week. The attack around top striker Nicolas Ibanez (20 goals in 2022) creates extremely poor finishing positions, instead closing down various attacks at the first opportunity - surprisingly effective! In the build-up, they like to use quick passes into the final third, where they play the wing via many crosses and 1vs1 duels; the 35-year-old left winger Aviles Hurtado leaves the opponents standing with almost 8 dribblings/90 min (8 assists in 2022).
Player to Watch - Mexico
However, Luis Chavez, who played for Mexico at the World Cup in Qatar and scored with a wonderful free-kick, is also responsible for the many shots from poor positions. The 26-year-old is considered the country's best long-range and free-kick shooter, and since the beginning of July alone has averaged 43 minutes from distance! His main role, however, is on the defensive side of the ball, where he wins almost 10 balls/90 mins through fair, effective tackling and his anticipation in space - only six midfielders intercept a ball more often than the 12-time international. Together with the extremely talented and combative Erick Sanchez (23), he dominates the centre of the pitch.
U23 Player to Watch - Mexico
Jeremy Marquez comes from the youth of Atlas Guadalajara, since 1.5 years he is part of the close circle of regular players and helped to win only the second championship after 1951 in 2021! Marquez is an extremely strong two-on-two ball carrier/eighth man who is often played deep into the area and passes the ball to his team-mates in the style of a ball distributor. He impresses with his high passing accuracy (87%) and many sharp passes to the top, which directly create chances.
Team to Watch - Scotland
When one thinks of the Scottish Premiership, one immediately thinks of the tradition-steeped Old Firm derby between Rangers and Celtic. Less traditional and more innovative, however, are the new approaches the Green-Whites are taking in the transfer market. Under Australian coach Ange Postecoglou (who has also coached in Japan) and ManCity chief scout Lawwell (only 32 years old), players are being signed from exotic markets. Five Japanese, plus the Israeli Liel Abada or the new wing-backs Alistair Johnston (Canadian) and Alexandro Bernabei (Argentinian) confirm the picture. The focus is clearly on a high tempo and a developable age - no less than 13 players in the squad are under 25 years old. Investments in the future that should pay off.
Player to Watch - Scotland
The €250,000 transfer fee paid by Rangers for James Tavenier has long since paid off - the right-back is entering his 8th season with the city rivals from Ibrox. So far he has scored a staggering 203 points in 373 appearances, an incredible record that underlines his consistency. Time and again, the 31-year-old sets off on wing-over runs, hits incredibly precise crosses and becomes a danger for the opponent's goal, especially on stationary balls. For an attacking full-back, he is also present in the box and is not only a danger from penalties.
U23 Player to Watch - Scotland
The Edinburgh Hibs have had 23-year-old centre-back Ryan Porteous in their jersey since 2018, and his performances have earned him a call-up to the Scotland national team. Assertive in the air and with just under 13 clearances on the ball on the ground, he is one of the Premiership's top two-way defenders and should take the next step in the summer thanks to his expiring contract. Despite his robust build, the 1.88 metre tall Scotsman has good finishing speed, while an outstanding 14.8 passes/90 minutes find their way into the final third of the game - an absolute top figure that is not broken by any player in the top 5 leagues.
Team to Watch - Russia
Coach Sandro Schwarz left Dynamo Moscow in the summer after almost 1.5 years due to the Ukraine war, but his implemented style of play is still the Belo-golubye's recipe for success half a year later. Currently, they occupy a strong 4th place in the table, only top team Zenit St. Petersburg is stronger both defensively and offensively in terms of expected goals and finishing positions of their own/opposing teams. They like to give away possession, use quick passes to the top for switching actions via the dribble-strong offensive players (Ngamaleu, Lesovoy, Makarov, Zakharyan) - against the ball they press extremely high and effectively. Interesting: only 3 of the 11 players with more than 1000 minutes are 26 years old or older, captain is the talented backstop Daniil Fomin, the biggest talent Arsen Zakharyan is probably moving to Chelsea.
Player to Watch - Russia
While some players and officials, especially from South America, left Russia and especially Ukraine at the beginning of the war, Russia's top teams were able to keep their "exotics" thanks to large salaries (Zenit, for example, still has 9 South Americans in its squad). ZSKA Moscow was also able to sign Jorge Carrascal on a permanent basis after a loan, transferring 6 million euros to River Plate. The Colombian has contributed 5 goals and 5 assists in 16 league games so far (22/23) and is used at left wing. No player in the league enters 1vs1 duels more often than the agile 24-year-old (10/90 min.), in addition to various tempo runs, finishes and created scoring chances through slot passes.
U23 Player to Watch - Russia
Krasnodar's Armenian Eduard Spertsyan - who is currently being watched by several Bundesliga clubs - is somewhat more central and defensive, although no less creative. The 22-year-old international is used in the 4-3-3 system as the more offensive of the two eights, usually acting as the team's playmaker; in 16 games he has 9 goals and 6 assists! Thanks to his high finishing quality from the half-left, many intensive runs with the ball and excellent passing quality, he has a great impact on the offensive, especially his (tuck) passes into the box are impressive.
Team to Watch - Ukraine
Since the founding of the Ukrainian Premier League, the champions have only once not been Shakthar Donetsk or Dynamo Kiev - SK Tavriya Simferopol won the title in the first Ligaj in 1992. Exactly thirty seasons later, SK Dnipro could achieve something historic. The team from the country's fourth-largest city deservedly leads the league, creates very dangerous goal-scoring situations, impresses with many quick short-passing combinations and runs at its opponents early. This starting behaviour is a real trump card, no team has such a high success rate in attacking pressings - as well as in finishes after counterattacking situations. Only on matchday 14 did they suffer their first defeat of the season.
Player to Watch - Ukraine
Time and again, Dnipro succeed in playing deep, the biggest beneficiary of which is striker Artem Dovbyk (25), who positions himself incredibly cleverly in the penalty area and even underperforms with 12.7 expected goals. The Ukrainian national team also benefits from his presence and his often offside-suspicious runs behind the chain, where the left-footer has already scored six times. His contract expires in the winter of 2023, and he is likely to take the next step in the summer at the latest. In August, VfB Stuttgart, FC Augsburg and Trabzonspor were interested in him.
U23 Player to Watch - Ukraine
Ukraine's greatest talent since Andriy Yarmolenko is Mykalyo Mudryk of Shakthar Donetsk. The 21-year-old has made a splash both in the league (six assists, by far the highest Expected Assists value in the league) and in the Champions League (five scorers in six games) and is incredibly coveted internationally. Donetsk are hoping for a transfer fee in the high double-digit millions, and it is considered certain that Mudryk will break Fred's transfer record (59 million to United). The inside forward comes down the left flank, wins an outstanding two-thirds of his dribbles and finishes over three times per 90 minutes, finding his way onto the opponent's goal with enormous precision. Efficiency, goal scoring, preparation qualities (more than three assists/90 minutes) - the fast-paced Ukrainian has everything it takes to make a big splash in a top-5 league.
Team to Watch - Colombia
During the 1950s, Millonarios FC from the Colombian capital Bogota benefited from a match strike in Argentina, signed all the top stars such as the later Real Madrid legend Alfredo di Stefano and in the following years was considered the strongest team in the world and, due to its attractive style of play, the "Ballet Azul" (blue ballet, later Real Madrid adopted the phrase "white ballet"). In recent years, they have been able to return to the success of days gone by, with 5 of the 10 most valuable players in the league, including top talent Daniel Ruiz, under contract. They dominate with a lot of possession, press extremely high and create a lot of chances through the individual quality of the players. Under coach Alberto Gamero, the 16th championship is only a matter of time.
Player to Watch - Colombia
The title in the Apertura 2022 (first season until May) was secured by record champions Atletico Nacional around captain Sebastian Gomez. The 26-year-old central midfielder controls the dominant play of El Verde from the metropolis of Medellin, impresses with a pass rate of well over 90% in the build-up to the game, regular progressive runs with the ball and extremely effective but fair tackling.
U23 Player to Watch - Colombia
It has been less than a week since Deportivo Pereira won the first title in their club's history - in a tight play-off final they defeated top club Indepediente Medellin on penalties. The main protagonists in the 3-5-2 system of the Aurirrojo were the attackers Leonardo Castro (15 goals in the Clausura = season since June) and the talented Brayan Leon Muniz (22 years, 6 scorers in 8 play-off games; 15 scorers in 2022). Muniz is similar in stature and style of play to his compatriots Bacca and Muriel, despite being 1.75m tall he is extremely massive, assertive, quick and good in the air! He has a precise and powerful finish, makes and distributes balls well, but also works aggressively against the ball.
Team to Watch - Denmark
The Danish Superligaen is more open than it has been for a long time, as some teams have been able to take advantage of the weak phases of the flagships from Copenhagen and Brøndby. One of them is Viborg FF, who are having an outstanding season under coach Jacob Friis (points average: 1.9) despite the departures of key players Sörensen (to Copenhagen) and Lonwijk (to Kiev). The second-best xG value and the second-fewest goals conceded are recorded by the Green-Whites, who tend to forego high pressing and pose problems for their opponents with their compact midfield pressing. The key player is first and foremost goalkeeper Jay-Roy Grot (24, 9 goals in the season), who as a brawny wall player secures balls and ensures a high penalty area presence, while in central defence Zan Zaletel (23) shines with his clever positional play as a ball winner.
Player to Watch - Denmark
Danger on the wings is provided by Silkeborg's Sebastian Jörgensen, who has maintained his strong form from the previous season (22 scorer points). In the Conference League, he also drew attention to himself on the international stage with four scorer points, underlining his importance for the strong, but not always efficient, boys of Silkeborg IF. The 22-year-old is a prolific finisher, always moving into the half-areas, and fits seamlessly into Kent Nielsen's team's pass-happy system (88% passing accuracy). In October, the left-footer scored three braces in three consecutive competitive matches - the interest of Dutch and Italian clubs is confirmed, and the Bundesliga might also have an eye on the Dane.
U23 Player to Watch - Denmark
One price category higher is Norwegian top talent Anders Schjelderup, who is shaking up the league with FC Nordsjaelland. The 18-year-old is the top scorer for the league leaders, has already scored ten goals and has an irresistible up-tempo movement with the ball. With the ball, he is almost unstoppable and often moves into the opponent's box (4 times/90 min.), where he knows how to convince with unassisted shots at the right moment. The technician, trained in the outstanding academy of Bodø, we will see next year in the European Cup!
Team to Watch - Poland
After top team Legia Warsaw recovered from a poor season last year and is now in second place, it is above all league leaders Rakow and promoted and current third-placed Widzew Lodz that are surprising. After being relegated to the 5th division in the summer of 2015 due to sporting and, above all, financial problems, the four-time Polish champions have fought their way back into the Ekstraklasa in recent years, always being promoted in the second year. The team currently plays in a 3-4-2-1 system, placing great emphasis on defensive compactness - they rarely press, let the opponent come and then show themselves to be strong in two fights. When they have the ball, they often switch quickly and use the wing positions in particular to penetrate the final third more often than average and to set the scene for the Spanish target man (5 goals).
Player to Watch - Poland
Probably Poland's greatest current talent plays for Lech Poznan and is called Michal Skoras. The 22-year-old even took part in the World Cup in Qatar for his home country, playing 45 minutes in his second international match against world champions Argentina. Skoras is at home on the left wing and, at just 1.72m tall, is extremely quick and agile; he goes on many dribbles and likes to find space behind the full-back for slot passes. Despite great finishing (3.3 shots/90), the inside forward is only on four goals and is often too imprecise.
U23 Player to Watch - Poland
Lukasz Lakomy from Zagłębie Lubin, on the other hand, is still an U21 international. The 21-year-old central midfielder is a playmaker in the making, controlling all of the Miedziowi's attacks from his position on the eight ball, and he loves to play riskily in the vertical. He plays 25% of all his passes directly into Lubin's offensive third (over 11/90; second most in the league), in addition he plays 2.3 times/90 min. directly into the interface - skills that are ideally suited to his team's fast-paced switching game! He regularly creates goal chances, only 3 players in the league have a higher xA value than Lakomy, who still has to work on the precision of his passes.
Team to Watch - Belgium
Ten points ahead, 45 goals and only 15 conceded - a picture-perfect first round that KRC Genk has achieved so far in 2022/2023. Despite several departures, they did not replace Ito or right winger Bongonda and instead rely on goal scorer Paul Onuachu (13 goals 22/23), as well as the previously disappointing Mike Tresor (see below) and Joseph Paintsil (6 goals + 8 assists 22/23) - homegrown Bilal El Khannous (18 years old, with Morocco at the World Cup) is also set at the 10 despite only one assist in 16 games! This makes the East Belgians the second youngest team of the round, they are goal-oriented in their forward play and effective in front of goal - they are mostly creative in creating chances on the wings and use dribbles as well as through passes. Despite the tree-length Onuacho, they do almost completely without crosses!
Player to Watch - Belgium
The Maltese Teddy Teuma covers a broad spectrum of qualities and was already one of the key players at the surprise runners-up last season - albeit in the shadow of the strong Mitoma and Undav (now Brighton) or midfield stalwart Casper Nielsen (now Bruges). This season, Teuma continues to lead the way, pulling the strings in midfield as a technically gifted eighth man and shaping Royale Union's play. Particular strengths are shown in vertical passing - the 29-year-old supplies both the final third and the penalty area and defensively leads many duels!
U23 Player to Watch - Belgium
THE key player of KRC Genk is 23-year-old Mike Trésor, who already attracted attention in the pre-season with seven assists and is now Belgium's shooting star with 13 (!) assists and five goals in 17 games. Genk and Trésor - that fits, because the 23-year-old moved from his central role to the left wing, manages there with almost 5 dribblings/90 min., various plug-in passes to create over 3 shots on goal/90 min. - an incredibly high value (0.42 expected assists). Tresor seems to have finally arrived after various changes, feels comfortable in his role as a wide playmaker with more space, a big change in the summer of 2023 should be the reward!
Team to Watch - Romania
In 2013, FC Universitatea Craiova was dissolved due to political and financial problems - as a result, the fan camp separated, one group founded CS Universitatea in 2014, the former Ultras founded FC U 1948 in 2017. It is precisely FC U that has fought its way back from the 4th division into the Romanian Superliga in recent years, and in its second year is in a solid 10th place in the table with significantly more limited means than its hated city rival. But not only in the 2:0 derby win a few weeks ago they convinced with a lot of possession and creativity in the offensive, according to expected points they would even be 4th - however, they only converted 21% of their chances. To make matters worse, they lost centre-forward Andrea Compagno to top team FCSB from Bucharest at the end of August. The Italian had previously scored 17 times in 35 games for the Studenții.
Player to Watch - Romania
Probably the strongest player in the league at the moment keeps feeding Compagno with assists - Darius Olaru. The 24-year-old box-to-box midfielder is the epitome of a new generation of Romanian footballers who are already being given a lot of responsibility at the top clubs in the league at a young age (vice-captain) and are also expected to bring the national team forward again in the next few years. While some Romanian talents rest on their status at home but also in Italy, for example, and fall into regular performance holes, Olaru shines with his high work rate. He is a biting and effective tackler, likes to carry the ball with agile runs through the centre and plays the most interface passes in the league - in addition, he is ambidextrous.
U23 Player to Watch - Romania
The same applies to Olaru's teammate Andrei Cordea, who was actually loosely linked with FC Augsburg a few weeks ago. The 23-year-old right winger exploits the aforementioned performance gaps of the once much-hyped Florinel Coman and the 19-year-old top talent Octavian Popescu (both at home on the left), in many attacks one prefers to use his explosive and effective dribbles into the centre, where the inside forward is involved in over 4 finishing actions per 90 minutes.
Team to Watch - Norway
For the fourth year in a row, training club FK Bodo/Glimt finished in the top two and once again sent a statement to the top clubs from Molde and Trondheim with a very young team. The father of success, Kjetil Knudsen, who has been in charge since 2018, has recently been watched by top clubs - after all, the Norwegians once again managed to provide the best offensive in the league (86 goals) and to decisively develop top talents such as Ola Solbakken (to Roma in January) or playmaker Hugo Vetlesen (16 goals + 12 assists) with a dominant style of play.
Player to Watch - Norway
David Datro Fofana of Molde FK has also made decisive progress. The 19-year-old sensationally shot his club to the championship with fifteen goals and is now on the verge of an engagement with Chelsea FC (transfer fee around 10 million euros). The Ivorian is enormously athletic, acts as a mobile striker, always starts in the interface and then finishes ice-cold. Equipped with a strong drive, he caused quite a stir and should definitely be on your watch list.
U23 Player to Watch - Norway
Rosenborg's Carlo Holse also made a big step forward, convincing with his agility and running strength and initiating attacks from various positions as a modern playmaker. The 23-year-old Copenhagen-born player can easily penetrate free spaces in the half positions and shine as a chance creator thanks to his strong passing game. Only Valerenga's Osame Sahraoui (21) surpassed the 40 chances created by the left-footer.
Team to Watch - Greece
Record champions Olympiakos Piraeus (47 titles) have won 10 of the last 12 championships in Greece - but this season they are stumbling badly due to extremely weak squad planning and are already twelve points behind record runners-up Panathinaikos (20 titles) in third place. After the last five years "PAO" could hardly keep up with the front ranks of the table, it is now a strong offensive (25 goals), but even stronger defensive (5 goals conceded), which won twelve times and drew two times in 14 games. In long periods of possession, they overload the outside position with track and wing players in a 3-4-3 and penetrate into the centre via dribbles - where Cantalapiedra (8 goals) and Sporar (5 goals) net. After losing the ball, they go straight into high, effective and intensive counter-pressing and do not give their opponents the option of creating attacks.
Player to Watch - Greece
For more than 3 years, Niclas Eliasson was a top performer at Bristol City and subsequently joined Olympique Nimes, with whom he was relegated. Since the summer, the Swedish left winger has been playing for AEK Athens and, until his fibula fracture 1.5 months ago, was stirring up the Super League - he already has 5 assists in 9 games. With his many precise crosses (almost 7/90 min.) and his very successful dribbles (5.5/90 min.) he creates an average of over 2.5 shots on goal/90 min., only team-mate Amrabat is better.
U23 Player to Watch - Greece
Konstantinos Koulierakis has only played 874 minutes in the Greek first division, but the 19-year-old central defender with 1.88m measurements is already on the wish list of various Bundesliga clubs (BVB, Stuttgart, Gladbach). PAOK Saloniki sporting director Jose Boto accordingly gave the left-footer a price tag of 15 million euros a few weeks ago, which should act as a deterrent with a contract until the end of 2025. Koulierakis is a modern central defender with strong athleticism, coupled with resolute but fair tackling on the ground and in the air. He is also technically skilled and a strong passer, always using long, precise balls in the build-up to the game.
Team to Watch - Argentina
Our Team to Watch in the country of the world champions is Huracán, who in January were able to loosen playmaker Franco Cristaldo (26) from Boca for less than € 500,000 - a true transfer coup! The agile and strong attacking midfielder not only proved his qualities as a preparer (10 assists in national competitions) but also as an enforcer (17 goals) and is moving to Gremio in Brazil for ten times the amount paid for the transfer. The boys from Parque Patricios, a district in Buenos Aires, often managed to penetrate the final third and the box, and no team was awarded more penalties, which once again underlines their presence there. Equally impressive is their record of not losing a game when trailing by 11 points and not losing a game when leading by one.
Player to Watch -Argentina
The 23-year-old Martin Ojeda of Godoy Cruz had an even more outstanding season than Cristaldo. The winger scored 26 times in the league, was a red-hot provider of assists with around 13 expected assists - and added four second assists. No player finished the season more often than the left-footer, who will join Orlando City (USA). With a transfer fee of € 3.8 million, the Argentine, who was trained in the youth of Racing Club, is an absolute bargain, stands out above all for his unpredictability - with over 3 crosses, 3+ dribbles and more than 3 shots per 90 minutes!
U23 Player to Watch - Argentina
Argentine midfielders have been in fashion again at least since Enzo Fernandez. The ball-winning midfielder Santiago Hezze from Huracan represents an exciting profile here. The 21-year-old acts as a classic aggressive ball-conqueror in front of the defence and throws himself into every duel. He leads over 20 duels per 90 minutes and intercepts an above-average number of balls with 6+. Even though the 1.82 metre tall six-pointer does not shine in all areas (e.g. with the ball), he still has the potential for absolute top performances in the near future. Besides Botafogo from Brazil, European clubs Celta Vigo, PSV and Espanyol Barcelona have also expressed interest.
Team to Watch - Netherlands
Not PSV, not Ajax - Feyenoord Rotterdam lead the otherwise rather one-sided Dutch Eredivisie by three points! The secret of their success? Youth research! With an average age of 23.8, Feyenoord Rotterdam is one of the youngest teams in Europe, only five players are older than 25. They scout worldwide, with 15 different nations in the squad. In the summer alone, four players came from outside Europe (Gimenez, Bullaude, Paixão, Lopez). In addition, they are convincing in terms of play with a lot of possession, beautiful passing combinations, a high and effective pressing, as well as a strong finishing quality (especially striker Danilo with 38% and 8 league goals).
Player to Watch - Netherlands
PSV wanted to sell both Cody Gakpo and Ibrahim Sangare in the summer, but various deals fell through. So the 1.91m tall midfield all-rounder Sangare shows for another year that he is now good for the Eredivisie. In addition to his uncanny defensive quality in direct duels on the ground and especially in the air, he often cleverly runs into spaces and takes advantage of ball conquests in direct unswitching. He regularly carries the ball into the final third with great strides or plays passes into the interface with great vision. A must-buy for various clubs in the next 1-2 transfer periods.
U23 Player to Watch - Netherlands
The departure of homegrown player and captain Owen Wijndal to Ajax Amsterdam in the summer of 2022 was a heavy blow for AZ Alkmaar - even though the deal brought in a transfer fee of 10 million euros. The left-back's connection to left-winger Jesper Karlsson was particularly impressive. Six months earlier, however, the legitimate successor was signed in the form of the now 19-year-old Milos Kerkez (who came from AC Milan for 2 million euros). The Hungarian international, who has already scored 9 goals in his first 26 games for AZ, is characterised by his willingness to work, as well as his crosses and speed dribbles.