5 Surprise Packages Across Europe so far this Season

Jordan Edmonds

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Union Berlin

You would expect Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, or even the likes of RB Leipzig and Frankfurt to be leading the top of the Bundesliga after nine games. However, it’s Union Berlin who have taken Germany by storm this season and sits at the summit after six wins and just one defeat so far.

Union earned promotion to the German top flight in 2019 and, although they have established themselves with improving top-half finishes since, have always maintained that their primary aim is staying in the division.

The Berlin outfit had a strong finish last season, winning four of their last five and ending the campaign in fifth spot – qualifying for the Europa League group stages. But after losing some key players, such as Taiwo Awoniyi to Nottingham Forest in the summer, no one could have predicted the incredible start to this season.

Die Eisernen have picked up some impressive victories this season over the likes of RB Leipzig and Wolfsburg, as well as a massive 6-1 annihilation of Schalke away from home.

Union even managed to claim a point at home to the champions, with Sheraldo Becker putting the Berlin side in front before Joshua Kimmich grabbed the equalizing goal for Bayern. Becker has certainly filled the void left by Awoniyi up front, with six goals and four assists in his nine league games so far. The 27-year-old has been instrumental to Union’s success as Dirk Zingler’s men sit two points clear at the top.

SC Freiburg

Behind Union in second place in the Bundesliga is another side that have impressed so far and have surprised many in Germany this season.

Freiburg have been a mid-table side in recent seasons, knocking at the door of European football. After reaching the DFB Pokal final and qualifying for Europe last season, Die Breisgauer have stepped it up even further this campaign, reaching the top spot in the Bundesliga at some points already this season and currently two points behind high-flying Union.

Freiburg have won five of their nine league games this season, with just the one defeat coming against Borussia Dortmund on matchday two. The win away to Bayer Leverkusen has to be the highlight so far, coming from behind to emerge victorious in a 3-2 triumph.

Udinese

Udinese have been one to watch in Italy, after a fantastic start that sees them sit fourth in Serie A.

The northeast Italy outfit are another side that have lingered around the middle and bottom half of the table in recent seasons, finishing the 2021/22 campaign in 12th, but are taking on - and taking it to - the big boys this season.

The Bianconeri have won six of their first nine league games, with just the one defeat coming on the opening day away to the defending champions, AC Milan. Since then, Udinese have thrived under new boss Andrea Sottil and have picked up some huge wins along the way.

Early in September, Udinese thrashed Jose Mourinho’s Roma 4-0 at the Dacia Arena before coming from behind to see off title favourites and last year’s runners-up, Inter Milan. Atalanta have been in good form this season, in second place and without a defeat so far, but even they couldn’t get the better of Udinese in their meeting last time out which ended 2-2.

Former Everton attacker Gerard Deulofeu has been on top form for Udinese this season, with six assists and one goal in his nine league games – including setting up two of the goals in the 3-1 win over Inter.

FC Lorient

In France, you would expect to see the likes of Marseille and Lyon being the closest to Paris Saint-Germain in Ligue 1, instead, FC Lorient have been the surprise package and are just one point below the Parisians in second place.

Lorient finished 16th last season, just four points clear of the relegation play-offs, which makes their incredible start to the season even more of a shock. Les Merlus are two points in front of third-placed Marseille, after eight wins, one draw, and one defeat so far. They’ve beaten some of the big teams in that time too, winning away to Rennes on the opening day before going on to beat Lyon 3-1 in September, as well as claiming a 2-1 victory over Lille earlier this month.

Terem Moffi has been one of the star players for Lorient, with eight goals in ten league appearances, drawing him level with Kylian Mbappe and Neymar at the top of the Ligue 1 Golden Boot standings.

Adana Demirspor

Adana Demirspor have surpassed many expectations so far this season and have climbed to the top of the Turkish Super Lig, leaving the likes of Besiktas and Fenerbahçe below them.

Demirspor only gained promotion to Turkey’s top tier at the end of the 2020/21 season, solidifying their top-flight status with a ninth-placed finish last campaign. This season though, the Blue Lightnings have stunned many to climb to the top, albeit on goal difference, after nine games played.

The Adana outfit have lost just one game in the league, picking up wins against the likes of Sivasspor and Antalyaspor, as well as beating the current champions Trabzonspor 3-2 last month.

Demirspor have some familiar names performing for them this season, such as former Schalke midfielder Younes Belhanda, former Middlesbrough striker Britt Assombalonga, and ex-Everton and Monaco winger Henry Onyekuru all contributing to the team’s success.

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