Europe's Biggest Under-Achieving Clubs After United, PSV, Udinese All Lose Again

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistJanuary 22, 2014

Europe's Biggest Under-Achieving Clubs After United, PSV, Udinese All Lose Again

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    Welcome back to the latest round-up of Europe's biggest under-achievers, with another clutch of clubs failing to pick up expected victories this weekend.

    Punching below their weight at this stage of the season means managers and players are coming under increasing pressure to kick on and have a big final three or four months of the season, with some still in the hunt for trophies or European spots—if they can find form.

    Here are the biggest of those not reaching their expectations at present.

7. Borussia Dortmund

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    It's not entirely their fault, and they've not yet had a chance to rectify their position this year, but Dortmund are certainly below the level expected of them so far.

    Injuries decimated the squad before the winter break, especially in defence, leading to a poor run of form over winter. BVB haven't resumed their Bundesliga campaign yet—that starts again this coming weekend—and will hope to step up significantly when they do.

    Even with the injuries, being fourth in a two-horse race isn't the way this year was supposed to go.

6. PSV

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    PSV struggled in the first half of the season, going on an unprecedented 12-match run with just one solitary victory in the middle.

    They've hit back with three wins in a row either side of the winter break but lost a crunch game with big rivals Ajax at the weekend.

    That leaves them way down in eighth place in the Eredivisie, 14 points off a top-two spot.

5. Olympique Lyon

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    After a dreadful first half of the season, Olympique Lyon are finally starting to find some form, though they have a way to go before they can challenge for Europe.

    Two wins in a row, including their 2-0 success at Reims at the weekend, have dragged Lyon back up to eighth place.

    They are now six points behind fourth-place Saint Etienne and play struggling Evian in their next game.

4. Udinese

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    Three top-five finishes in successive seasons gave Udinese the fleeting chance to rub shoulders with some of the big-hitters in Europe once more, but a succession of sales of top players has caught up with them.

    They now languish down in 15th place in Serie A with just six wins all season. They've also lost 12 times—that's more than every other top-flight club other than the bottom two.

    Lazio inflicted a last-minute defeat on them at the weekend, their third straight loss, and Udinese won't find it any easier with a trip to in-form Parma next on the cards.

3. Valencia

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    They've changed their manager, loaned out an under-performing player and come back after the winter break with renewed hope, but Valencia are still well, well off the pace.

    A 0-0 draw with Malaga last time out wasn't the worst result, but the 2-1 defeat at Celta Vigo that came beforehand is an indication of how much work is to be done.

    Los Che sit in mid-table in 9th place, 15 points off a Champions League spot. A push for the Europa League is what they'll have to aim for, but even sixth place is a big ask, nine points off at present. They are home to Espanyol next time out.

2. Manchester United

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    Manchester United's season has been a case of one step forward and two steps back, and after three wins in four games leading up to the weekend it was a similar scenario.

    A heavy 3-1 defeat to title hopefuls Chelsea was a reminder of how far off the pace the Premier League holders are this season.

    They sit in seventh place at present, six points off a Champions League spot and 14 points behind the league leaders. United's next league game is at home to bottom club Cardiff City.

1. AC Milan

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    The biggest under-achieving side in Europe undoubtedly remains AC Milan of Italy's Serie A.

    They have finally dispensed with the woeful Massimiliano Allegri, replacing him with first-time manager Clarence Seedorf, but the Dutch legend has much work on to turn around the good ship Milan.

    A 1-0 win over Hellas Verona at the weekend was a good start, but once more the points came courtesy of a late penalty. Milan need more, much more, as they currently sit 11th in the table, seven points off rivals Inter who occupy fifth place—the last European spot.

    Milan are at Cagliari next time out.