Big European Clubs in Danger of Relegation

Image credit: Sky News
Image credit: Sky News

Nothing lasts forever, as these 3 big European clubs are in danger of relegation this season proves. There is a trio of clubs in Europe that dominated their domestic league not that long ago, that are all bottom or near-bottom of their leagues at the time of writing.

Olympique Lyon in France, Ajax in the Netherlands and FC Basel in Switzerland all went on winning sprees in their respective countries, but all three are struggling to even win games so far in 2023-24. We’re going to do a deep dive on the stories that might’ve passed you by this campaign.

Big European Clubs in Danger of Relegation

We’ll start with arguably the biggest of the three clubs in this article, Ajax Amsterdam. Ajax is world-renowned for having one of the best youth academies in Europe and pioneered the mesmeric “Total football”.

Ajax won four Eredivisie titles in a row between 2018-19 and 2021-22 and had finished in the top two every season since 2008-09. They were without a doubt the best Dutch football club in this time, even reaching the UEFA Champions League Semi-Finals as recently as 2018-19.

Image credit: UEFA Champions League on Twitter

Despite their best players being consistently poached by more financially mighty clubs, Ajax consistently reinvented and refreshed themselves. That was until this season, though. Last campaign wasn’t great, falling to a third place finish, but currently, the men from the capital sit bottom of the Eredivisie.

This is unprecedented for Ajax, the last time they finished a season outside the top four was back in the year 2000. A bottom half finish is even rarer, with that last coming in 1964-65. “Lucky Ajax” have been anything but this season, but they only have themselves to blame.

Off-field scandals involving Marc Overmars won’t have helped, but Ajax have been awful on the pitch. Their results include a 4-3 loss against fellow relegated-threatened side Utrecht and a 4-0 home drubbing by their great rivals Feyenoord.

That match saw fan violence which meant the game was abandoned and after that, some Ajax fans took their frustrations out on their stadium. A 2-0 win against Volendam could signal a revival by Ajax, but European qualification, even at this early stage of the season, looks like a distant dream.

Olympique Lyon

Even by French football’s standards, Olympique Lyon are an absolute basket case right now. Ligue 1 has reduced from 20 clubs to 18 for this season, but Lyon still find themselves bottom of the table and winless so far.

The French love to protest, so it was little surprise that the fans grilled their players after a humiliating 4-1 loss against PSG. That hasn’t worked though, as Lyon’s results have, if anything, gotten worse since then. Lyon’s most recent result was a home loss against 17th-placed Clermont Foot. There can be no doubt that Lyon are in danger of relegation to Ligue 2 for the first time since the 1980s at the end of this season.

It wasn’t that long ago that Lyon were the dominant force in Ligue 1. Lyon won seven consecutive Ligue 1 titles between 2001-02 and 2007-08, a feat that not even Paris Saint-Germain have managed since their Qatari takeover.

Lyon have always been there or thereabouts since, often being in the mix for best of the rest and always being in European competition. However, the last two seasons have been lacklustre and not produced European football by the season’s end.

Even still, this season has seen a massive drop off and it’s hard to see how Lyon can turn it around. While we don’t see Ajax going down, there is definitely a possibility of Lyon being dropped to Ligue 2, just like how Saint-Etienne and Bordeaux find themselves in now.

FC Basel

While the Swiss Super League isn’t the biggest league by European standards, FC Basel could definitely claim to be a big fish in that moderately-sized pond. Basel have won 20 Swiss Super League titles, with most of those coming in a ten-year stint between 2008 and 2017.

While Basel have fallen off from that slightly in recent seasons, with the rise of Young Boys knocking Basel off their perch. Basel’s drop off in form is arguably worse and more dramatic than Ajax and Lyon, as last season saw the Red and Blues reach the semi-finals of the Europa Conference League.

Image credit: Eurosport

This season, Basel fell at the second qualifying round of the Conference League and currently sit twelfth and last in the Super League table. They have half the points of eleventh-placed FC Stade Lausanne-Ouchy, who are a team most of the readers of this article will have never heard of before.

Like Lyon, Basel have been relegated before, but it’s been a number of decades since that last happened and it wasn’t that long ago that some suggested Basel should join the German Bundesliga as they had outgrown the Swiss football top flight.

Basel will need to pick their form up soon and get a run of wins together in order to survive. They’ll need to win at least three to get above the dotted line, which is three times more than they currently have.

Watch these spaces, as we could have some huge clubs playing second-tier football this time next year.

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