Picks and predictions for 2022-23 season across Europe's top soccer leagues

The 2022-23 European soccer season will soon begin, with teams still fine-tuning their squads during an exciting transfer window. From the two-horse race in the Premier League, a new attacking rivalry in El Clasico to the French champions, Paris Saint-Germain, looking for European glory, our insiders share their picks and predictions across Europe's Big Five leagues. Which player will win the Golden Boot? Which team will be crowned champions of Europe? Who will rack up the most yellow cards? ESPN FC writers Rob Dawson, Gab Marcotti, Constantin Eckner, Julien Laurens, and Alex Kirkland make their forecasts. LaLiga Top four Barcelona's summer transfer window has been ominously successful, strengthening the team in every key area. Xavi's first season as coach was promising, and now he has the tools at his disposal to take Barca back to the top. Real Madrid won't be far away, but a repeat of last year's near-perfect season feels unrealistic. Atletico Madrid should be more consistent this time around -- especially if Antoine Griezmann finds his form -- and Villarreal has enough quality to take fourth, without the distraction of Champions League football this time. 1st place: Barcelona 2nd place: Real Madrid 3rd place: Atletico Madrid 4th place: Villarreal Top scorer Robert Lewandowski. At last, some serious competition for Karim Benzema! Real Madrid's captain top scored in LaLiga last year with 27 goals, nine more than closest rival Iago Aspas, but that's a league tally Lewandowski has topped in six of his last seven seasons at Bayern Munich. Benzema won't give up his crown without a fight, and their rivalry will be a lot of fun to watch: not quite vintage Messi vs. Ronaldo level, but not far off. Relegation Cadiz, Real Valladolid, Almeria. Cadiz only survived by a single point last season -- after an improbable escape on the final day -- and they haven't made any significant improvements to the squad this summer. Of the promoted sides, Girona should score enough goals to stay up after adding Taty Castellanos to an attack led by Cristhian Stuani, but Real Valladolid looks likely to struggle. Almeria has been active in the market but if they start poorly, manager Rubi will come under immediate pressure. Best goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. Sevilla's Bono won Spain's Zamora trophy for the goalkeeper with the lowest goals-to-games ratio last season, but there's no question that Courtois was the best keeper in the country. His Champions League final masterclass came as no surprise to those of us who'd watched him perform miracles all year. Real Madrid's defense should improve with the incorporation of Antonio Rudiger, too. Most yellow cards The two dirtiest teams in LaLiga last season were Valencia -- then coached by Jose Bordalas -- and his previous side, Getafe. While Bordalas is now gone, his replacement at Mestalla Stadium, Gennaro Gattuso, has a similar win-at-all-costs mentality. If we're going to pick one player, though, let's go for Getafe's Uruguayan full-back Damian Suarez, who has been one of LaLiga's most comically enjoyable hard-men for years now. Champions League winner Just like last year, it's hard to look beyond the two best teams in the Premier League and Europe: Liverpool and Manchester City. The City's continued ability to choke in the latter stages of this competition is inexplicable given their quality and depth, if no longer surprising; Liverpool will feel they were the better side in defeat to Real Madrid in last season's final. They have the experience, and the coach in Jurgen Klopp, to go one step further this time. Premier League Top four It's hard to see either Manchester City or Liverpool dropping out of the top four, which leaves two spots for Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal, Manchester United, and possibly Newcastle. Tottenham has spent well this summer and has had the benefit of a full preseason under Antonio Conte, and Chelsea still looks strong despite something of a chaotic offseason. Arsenal and Man United will run them close, but Spurs and Chelsea will make up the top four alongside Man City and Liverpool. 1st place: Manchester City 2nd place: Liverpool 3rd place: Spurs 4th place: Chelsea Top scorer Harry Kane. He's a proven Premier League goal scorer and Conte is a master at getting the best out of his center forwards. Tottenham should have a good season, which means plenty of chances for Kane. The only issue will be whether or not he can stay fit and how much the World Cup in Qatar takes out of him ahead of the second half of the season. Relegation Brentford, Bournemouth, Fulham. Brentford went through a poor spell last season when it looked like they might get dragged into the relegation scrap, and they've lost Christian Eriksen to Man United. As for Bournemouth and Fulham, it's always difficult for newly promoted sides, and as things stand, their summer recruitment doesn't look good enough to keep them up. Best goalkeeper Man City and Liverpool are both thrilling attacking teams, but they're also very good defensively -- mainly because opposition teams hardly ever have the ball. It means Brazilians Ederson and Alisson are the two prime candidates for the Golden Glove, and with City set to be without center-back Aymeric Laporte until at least September, Alisson looks a good bet to claim the title. Most yellow cards Granit Xhaka. At 29 years old, the Switzerland midfielder isn't going to change the way he plays now. Whether Mikel Arteta wants him to or not, he's still going to fly into tackles and get on the wrong side of referees. Only three players had more bookings than Xhaka last season and he's a good shout to top the list this time around. Champions League winner Manchester City. Pep Guardiola has got Man City regularly reaching the latter stages of the Champions League and they will get over the line sooner rather than later. They are too good a team not to. A lot will depend on how quickly Erling Haaland settles and whether he can influence the biggest games at such a young age, but all the ingredients are there for a first Champions League triumph. Bundesliga Top Four Before Sebastien Haller's testicular tumor diagnosis, I would have confidently picked Borussia Dortmund to win the championship. However, with their new first-string striker missing large chunks of the season, Dortmund drops back to two in my power ranking. This leaves Bayern Munich as the only logical choice to win the league, and for an 11th time in a row, with Dortmund finishing second. Behind the two powerhouses, things become unpredictable, as both RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen have strong squads but may struggle in the first half of the season. Leverkusen should recover from early setbacks quicker, as Florian Wirtz will come back from his knee injury at some point and help them reach third place. Fourth goes to VfL Wolfsburg -- not necessarily the most exciting side in the league but one that gets the job done under former Bayern boss Niko Kovac. 1st place: Bayern Munich 2nd place: Borussia Dortmund 3rd place: Bayer Leverkusen 4th place: VfL Wolfsburg Relegated teams This season could be the season in which Augsburg finally goes down. The small club located 40 miles northwest of Munich has been in the Bundesliga since 2011 and outside of one or two outlier seasons, Augsburg has usually been in survival mode. Enrico Maassen, their new manager, has no top-flight experience, as he coached Dortmund's reserve team most recently and semi-professional sides before that. While Maassen is undoubtedly talented, keeping Augsburg in the league might become an impossible task. The second team that will be relegated is Werder Bremen, who have made smart signings following their promotion, but still don't possess enough quality to finish above the relegation zone. Top scorer If Patrik Schick could stay healthy, he could easily be one of Europe's elite strikers. Ankle issues and other injuries have impacted the Czech's career quite significantly, yet if he is fit, he turns into an almost unstoppable goal scorer. Schick is tall and technical, agile and astute -- in short, he has it all. With decent distribution from his teammates at Bayer Leverkusen, he should be able to score 25 goals. Best goalkeeper This could become a close race between Bayern's Manuel Neuer and Dortmund's Gregor Kobel, given that these two will work behind stable defenses and rarely make any mistakes. While Neuer has been among the best goalkeepers in the world for a decade, Kobel had his breakthrough rather recently. Still, it seems nothing can rattle the 24-year-old Swiss. He will put up a great fight against Neuer but has to yield to Germany's no. 1 one more time. Most yellow cards This could be a close contest because a couple of players in the league have made a habit out of picking up yellow cards. Even the highly gifted English international Jude Bellingham gets in the books every other weekend, even though he seems head and shoulders above most of his opponents. Be that as it may, I pick Mainz's Stefan Bell to receive the most yellow cards. The 30-year-old is just a little bit too slow and, at the same time, quite old-school in his approach to defending. Some mistimed tackles and tactical fouls will get him to at least 10 bookings this year. Champions League winner We should never get carried away by early-season results, but Bayern Munich's performance against RB Leipzig in the German Supercup last weekend makes you think that this side might be better now than before Robert Lewandowski left. Without a traditional target player up front, manager Julian Nagelsmann will exploit some of the tactical ideas that have been in the back of his mind since he arrived in Munich. If Bayern keeps their team healthy, they are my pick to win the cup next June. Serie A Top four I write this with a massive caveat. The window doesn't close until the end of the month and Serie A squads, for several reasons, are likely to see major overhauls between now and then. So I reserve the right to make different predictions come Sept 1. That said, I think we're looking at another Milanese derby for the title, with the arrival of Romelu Lukaku and Henrikh Mkhitaryan moving the needle towards Inter (though "Prince" Charles de Ketelaere" is a fascinating boost for Milan). I have Juventus at third, though Paul Pogba's injury situation needs to be closely monitored. And Jose Mourinho's Roma, with the addition of Paulo Dybala, looks well placed to pip the Kalidou Koulibaly-less Napoli to fourth. 1st place: Inter 2nd place: AC Milan 3rd place: Juventus 4th place: Napoli Top Scorer I think it's a three-way race between Lukaku, Lazio's Ciro Immobile (hey, he's already won it four times), and Juventus' Dusan Vlahovic. I'm picking Lukaku because I think Simone Inzaghi will tweak the attack to make it more center-forward-focused, while Immobile is a year older and Juve still have unanswered supply chain questions for Vlahovic (How will Chiesa bounce back from his injury? How fit will Pogba be? What condition is Angel Di Maria in?) Relegation Sampdoria, Salernitana, Cremonese. I have a soft spot for Cremonese, but they lost four key contributors to their promotion run who returned to their parent clubs on loan (Marco Carnesecchi, Gianluca Gaetano, Nicolo Fagioli, and Caleb Okoli). Salernitana pulled off a miracle last year, but lightning rarely strikes twice. Sampdoria is a mess financially and is operating on a shoestring: it's down to them and Lecce, and I'm backing Lecce to stay up. Best goalkeeper Mike Maignan. He conceded the fewest goals in Serie A last season and defensively Milan remains very strong. Inter should run them close, but it's not clear to me who their starting keeper will be, so Maignan is the safer bet. Most yellow cards Gianluca Mancini of Roma. He led the league last season and Roma is likely to be fired up again this year. Roma as a team had the second-most yellow cards last season and Venezia has been relegated, so they look well-placed to take the crown here. Maybe it's a natural consequence of Jose Mourinho's intensity causing you to take more risks than you normally would. Champions League winner Manchester City. I don't know, and may well change my mind many times between now and the start of the season. I feel that Pep Guardiola is due and, bearing in mind how difficult it is to repeat, how last season took so much out of Liverpool, how Bayern has unanswered questions, how Paris Saint-Germain has a new coach, how Kylian Mbappe didn't join Real Madrid and how Erling Haaland's season won't be affected by the World Cup, I'll say City. Ligue 1 Top Four Paris will be too strong for Ligue 1 once more. New manager Christophe Galtier can't mess it up and the team played well in the Trophée des Champions with Lionel Messi and Neymar looking sharp. It is far more interesting to look behind PSG at who can finish in the top four. Lyon has done impressive recruitment (Lacazette, Tolisso, Tagliafico). Monaco will compete, Lucien Favre can do good things at Nice who recruited well. Marseille, which already going through a crisis with new manager Igor Tudor, will miss out. 1st place: PSG 2nd place: Lyon 3rd place: Monaco 4th place: Nice Top scorer Kylian Mbappe. He finished with 28 goals last season, 27 the year before, and 18 before that. So it is three seasons not going over the 30 goals a season mark like he did in 2018-2019 with 33 and this is the year when he will get over 30 again. After extending his contract at PSG and having more responsibilities, he will be even stronger on the pitch. With Messi and Neymar looking sharp already, and Paris' good recruitment this summer (Vitinha, Ekitike, Sanches, Mukiele), Mbappe will star even more than usual. Relegation Auxerre, Clermont, Lorient, Troyes. This season, four teams are going down as Ligue 1 is moving back to an 18-club league instead of 20 so it is vital to stay up. It is a battle between six clubs: the two promoted sides, Auxerre and Toulouse as well as Brest, Lorient, Clermont, and Troyes. Toulouse has been smart this summer and their project is promising. For Auxerre, it will be tough. Same for Lorient and their new manager Regis Le Bris. Clermont lost their best player Mohamed Bayo, while there are tensions between players and managers already at Troyes. Best goalkeeper Walter Benitez won it with 14 clean sheets last season. He since left for PSV Eindhoven and has been replaced by Kasper Schmeichel. My winner for this season is Donnarumma. The PSG defense will be stronger with a back 3 and Galtier has chosen the Italian as his number one so he will play every league game unlike last season, and will keep many clean sheets. Alexander Nubel and Monaco could be up there too, alongside Patrick Pentz at Reims. Most yellow cards Facundo Medina. There are a few contenders. Marco Verratti "won" this award last season with 12, ahead of Lille's Benjamin André and Lens' Facundo Medina with 11. Medina was also 3rd the season before with 11 again. I think he should be top this season. He is an aggressive defender in a team that presses a lot. So it is the right fit! Champions League winner PSG, finally, this is their year (I write this every summer). The squad is much better than last year, more balanced, younger, and more French, even. New manager Christophe Galtier will make this squad click and the magic of Messi, Neymar, and Mbappé, as well as the leadership of Sergio Ramos, will do the rest. "Paris, Champion of Europe" sounds great.