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 By Nick Miller

Which clubs set goal-difference records in Europe's biggest leagues?

After their unbeaten start to the 2017/18 Premier League season, Stewart Robson explains why Manchester United are favourites for the title.
Ale Moreno says Man City's abundance of talent and squad depth is why they're such heavy favourites to win the league.

Manchester United and Manchester City have started the season in blistering goalscoring form. Both have a goal difference of +17, and if they keep up the current pace then they'll finish the season north of +100. That would be a record, so here are the goal difference records for seven of Europe's top leagues:

England, Premier League/First Division: Chelsea, 2009-10, +71

In the 41 years since goal difference was adopted in England over goal average, there have been many great teams, teams that will go down in history as era-defining. The Chelsea team that won the Premier League under Carlo Ancelotti in 2009-10 are not one of them: a very good team, for sure, but not among the greats. Still, what they were was a team who scored a lot and didn't concede many: 103 and 32 respectively, the former figure significantly boosted by the higher-than-normal collection of absolute thrashings they dished out. The 5-0 defeat of Blackburn in October was a mere warmup, with Sunderland dismissed 7-2, Aston Villa beaten 7-1, Stoke City given a 7-0 hiding and Wigan, on the final day, hammered 8-0. Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard both registered career-high tallies of 29 and 22 respectively, as they beat Manchester United to the title by a single point.

France, Ligue 1: Paris Saint-Germain, 2015-16, +83

The main reason that Monaco's success in Ligue 1 last season was so shocking was the campaign that came before it. To say PSG steamrollered the rest of the division is a gross understatement: they won the title by 31 points, clinching with eight games to spare when they hammered Troyes 9-0. They lost only two games: one to Lyon in February, and the other to Monaco the week after they were confirmed as champions. Their goal difference figure of +83 (102 scored, a miserly 19 conceded) was 16 more than the next highest scorer: to clarify, that's not goal difference, but goals scored. They scored more goals than the bottom three teams combined. Their top scorer, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, got 38 in 31 games, which was more than four whole teams managed, and only one fewer than Lille, who finished fifth. We could go on.

Germany, Bundesliga: Bayern Munich, 2012-13, +80

Bayern Munich broke 30 Bundesliga records in 2012-13. They included the most points, the biggest winning record, the fastest time to clinch the title and, most appropriately for these purposes, the goal-difference record. Their tally of +80 smashed the previous mark of +64 set in 1972-73 by, erm, Bayern Munich. They won their first nine games by an aggregate score of 26-2, and didn't really slow down from there, keeping 21 clean sheets (a record), conceding the fewest goals (a record), scoring in every game (a record) and being top from the very start of the season to the very end (not a record ... just kidding, of course that was a record). The goals were spread around: no player scored more than 15, but four reached double-figures and the only first-team regular not to find the net was Philipp Lahm. Oh, they also won the DFB-Pokal and the Champions League too. A solid campaign.

The Manchester clubs have set the Premier League place in terms of points and goals so far this season.

Italy, Serie A: Torino, 1947-48, +92

What might Il Grande Torino have achieved? The team that won five Italian titles in the 1940s were cut down in their magnificent prime in 1949, returning from a friendly in Lisbon, when their plane crashed into the hills above Turin. The season before, they had sent records tumbling: most wins, biggest league-winning margin, the biggest home win and the one that stands to this day, greatest goal difference. They scored 125 goals that season, more than double every other team aside from Milan and Juventus, who finished second and third respectively. Valentino Mazzola, regarded by some as the greatest Italian footballer of all time, and Guglielmo Gabetto got the lion's share, scoring 47 between them as they created a legendary team, gone before they could further embellish their greatness.

Netherlands, Eredivisie: Ajax, 1997-98, +90

By 1997, many of the brilliant young Ajax team that won the 1995 Champions League had gone: Patrick Kluivert, Clarence Seedorf, Edgar Davids, Marc Overmars, Michael Reiziger and Frank Rijkaard had all left, dispersed across Europe or, in Rijkaard's case, to retirement. No matter: Ajax promptly went about setting records, breezily winning the Eredivisie by 17 points, at least in part thanks to a blistering goals total of 112 in just 34 games, notching a whopping goal difference of +90. Shota Arveladze is not the first name you would think of if asked to name an Ajax great, but that season he scored 25 goals, although perhaps you'd struggle to score fewer if you had Jari Litmanen in his prime setting things up for you.

Portugal, Primeira Liga/Primeira Divisao: Benfica, 1972-73, +88

Benfica registered 58 points in the 1972-73 Primeira Liga season. That doesn't sound like an especially impressive number, but it does start to get better when you consider there were only 16 teams in the division, meaning 30 matches, and only two points were awarded for a win. The more mathematically adept among you will thus spot that Benfica dropped only two points that year, drawing twice and winning the rest. It's perhaps even more impressive when you consider they also played a whopping 26 friendlies between July 1972 and June 1973. Benfica, under English coach Jimmy Hagan, won a record 29 games in a row, a run stretching back into the previous season, as they sashayed to the league title. This was about as close to perfection as you can get in elite football.

Spain, La Liga: Real Madrid, 2011-12, +89

In some respects, the 2011-12 season was a victory for committed psychological warfare, as Jose Mourinho finally ground down Pep Guardiola and chased him out of Barcelona. But mainly this was a season when records tumbled: indeed, in Spain it is sometimes known as "La Liga de los Records". They surpassed their own mark for goals scored, beating the mark of 107 set in 1989-90 with 120, plus they reached the 100-point mark for the first time in La Liga history. They also set the Spanish goal-difference record with a mark of +89, and of course it was Cristiano Ronaldo who got most of those goals. Forty-six, in fact: that's more than eight other clubs in the division managed. He'll go far, that guy.

Nick Miller is a writer for ESPN FC, covering Premier League and European football. Follow him on Twitter @NickMiller79.

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