European Power Rankings: The Continent's 20 Best Clubs
Happy New Year to all our readers here on Bleacher Report—and to kick off the new year, here's a cracking power ranking run down of Europe's top 20 sides right now.
The midway point has been reached or passed for most of the top championships throughout the continent by now, with plenty of countries enjoying a well-deserved mid-season break.
Clubs are firmly established in their respective battles, whether that be in aiming for Champions League or title glory, relegation battles or merely trying to improve on somewhere in between.
A good run of consistent form can make a team's season at this stage. With that in mind, this is the top 20 for the entire continent at this point.
Teams' recent domestic form was, of course, taken into account, along with relative strength of the club's playing squad and the league they compete in.
Michael Regan/Getty Images
In fairness, there are a whole host of clubs whose recent form shows them to be amongst the best in their respective divisions.
Not all can quite claim to be at the top of their game, though, with results sometimes masking the odd poor performance—while others can be on a run of four wins from the past six games, but having the most recent matches as the results which let them down.
Nonetheless, a few honourable mentions are worth dishing out to those who have rattled off at least 12 points over the last six league matches.
English Premier League
Both Liverpool and Manchester City have won four of their past six, though the two hold very different league positions at present. Arsenal have also won four, with only one defeat in the last six games, but they missed a chance to be much higher up in this ranking when only managing a draw at Southampton.
French Ligue 1
Lorient and Nice have both recorded impressive recent results and maintain top half positions in Le Championnat, while last season's winner, Montpellier, have almost doubled their season points tally in the past six matches, recording four wins in that time. They remain in the bottom half, however. Just missing out on a place in the top 20 of the power rankings was Marseille. They have similarly won four of the last six and sit in third place—though only goal difference has them in that spot as they are level on points with the top two.
Rest of Europe
Spanish La Liga side Atlético Madrid continue their excellent season as they lie in second place at the midway point, having also won four and lost two of their last six games.
In the German Bundesliga, Stuttgart have an identical recent record, though despite their improvement they are still in only ninth position.
Finally, in the Portuguese Liga Sagres, Sporting Braga have won four matches from the last six to keep in relative check of the leaders. They sit third in the top flight.
Dino Panato/Getty Images
We start the countdown in Turkey and the second-placed side in the top flight.
Beşiktaş are entirely unbeaten in their last six matches, winning four and drawing two of their games to pull three points back on leaders Galatasaray over that period of games.
They have scored 16 goals over those six matches, including putting five past Antalyaspor (currently third in the table), and they are the top scorers at home in the entire league this season.
An improvement in last season's fourth place finish is definitely on the cards as Beşiktaş search for their first league title since 2008-09.
19th: CSKA Moscow
Dmitry Korotayev/Getty Images
Sitting pretty at the top of the Russian Premier Division are CSKA Moscow.
The third place team from last season are mounting a great challenge for the title this time around despite heavy spending from Zenit and the presence of Anzhi in the race, as well.
CSKA have suffered just one defeat in their past six games, winning four and drawing the other one.
The Russian league resumes in March and CSKA will face their first four games against teams in the bottom half, three of whom are in the bottom four of the table. If they pick up where they left off before Christmas, they have a terrific chance of extending both their great run and their lead at the top of the league.
18th: Shakhtar Donetsk
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Shakhtar Donetsk are so far clear at the top of their table that the title medals might as well be handed out now.
After 18 games, their record in the Ukrainian top flight reads won 17, lost one.
That single defeat came just three matches ago at Arsenal Kyiv, so their recent form is slightly worse off for it, but the loss has hardly dented their title aspirations.
Shakhtar are 13 points clear of their nearest rivals, Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk.
17th: Bayern Munich
Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images
The Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich are on course to regain their crown after two years of domination by Borussia Dortmund.
Just one single defeat from the opening half of the season sees them nine points clear, though they would have figured higher in this list had their most recent six fixtures reflected their season as a whole.
Three wins and three draws is not the most scintillating Bayern have been all season but the quality of their squad is undeniable.
Bayern conceded just one goal away from home from August to December.
16th: AC Milan
Paolo Bruno/Getty Images
Into Italy now, and the first of six teams with an identical recent domestic record.
AC Milan have won four, drawn one and lost one of their past six matches to lift themselves up to seventh place in Serie A; just two months ago they were way down in 12th place and struggling to show their quality.
This isn't the same class of AC Milan squad which has graced the league and European competitions in years past, but they have found some good form of late, which bodes well for 2013.
Milan are still eight points off a Champions League berth, so have much work to do, but their recent improved form should give them confidence moving forward.
Claudio Villa/Getty Images
Right at the top of the Italian league sits Juventus, eight points clear of their nearest challengers.
Only two teams have a better recent form guide than Juve, who look odds-on to go on and take the league title over the second half of the season, having lost just two matches in the campaign thus far.
Thirteen points from their last six matches include a 3-0 derby win over Torino and four wins in a row since their last defeat.
Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images
Having taken one point more in the last six games than the honourably-mentioned Marseille, Lyon sit one place above their rivals in Ligue 1 by virtue of goal difference.
Four wins in the last six include a 4-1 victory over Marseille back in late November and a 3-0 win over Nice last time out—but a disappointing 1-1 draw with bottom-of-the-table Nancy has cost them dear.
Even so, Lyon look set to contest the French title race once more having been almost 20 points off the pace last season.
Clive Rose/Getty Images
Tottenham Hotspur have emerged as the first of the Champions League challengers outside the two Manchester clubs to get their act together and so have taken a big initiative on claiming one of the final two spots.
Four wins from their last six games have moved Spurs up into third place, with a five-point gap opening up between themselves and the fifth-place team, which happens to be their local rivals Arsenal.
Spurs have kept three clean sheets in their past six matches, while also hitting the back of the net nine times in their last three wins over the Christmas and new year period.
Andre Villas-Boas has found some consistency in his side, and they look a good bet at present to stay in the top four, if not actually challenge for the title.
Michael Regan/Getty Images
Just above Spurs in the form guide and a single place below them in the league table is Chelsea.
The Blues will leapfrog Spurs with a single point taken from their two matches in hand, and since they have won the last four league games on the bounce could rise significantly up the power rankings if they are victorious against QPR on Sunday—one day later than Spurs' latest win.
An 8-0 rout of Aston Villa contributed greatly to the confidence in the Chelsea team and there are certainly plenty of goals throughout the midfield and attack.
They would be three points off second-place Manchester City if they were to take maximum points from their two matches in hand.
David Ramos/Getty Images
To finish off the bottom half of the rankings, we head to Spain and La Liga, where Málaga have shown their quality both domestically and in continental football this season.
Málaga are the sixth and final side who have won four, drawn one and lost one of their last six league games, enough to see them into fourth place in La Liga over the winter break.
Though some distance off the leaders, Málaga have clawed back three points on the side immediately above them, Real Madrid, over the last half a dozen matches and have a three-point buffer between themselves and Real Betis immediately below them.
A 3-2 win over Real Madrid in the final game before the break was perhaps the crowning moment of their excellent season so far, though Valencia were dispatched 4-0, as well, just a few weeks previous.
photo from goal.com
Into the top half now and the first of two sides with an identical record to each other.
Dutch Eredivisie challengers Feyenoord are unbeaten in their last six games, winning five and drawing one in that time.
A run of three wins in a row with clean sheets was brought to an end with a disappointing draw with NAC Breda, struggling at the foot of the table, but Feyenoord have returned to form with wins over ADO Den Haag and Groningen.
When the Dutch league re-kicks off in late January, the first side Feyenoord will face is Ajax, who incidentally...
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
...are the next team in our list and have an identical record to Feyenoord!
The Amsterdam side won their previous five league matches in a row before drawing 0-0 with Utrecht in the final game before the winter break and they lie in third place in the table.
Ajax lead Feyenoord on goal difference at present, and both teams are only three points off the teams in front of them—PSV lead Twente on goal difference too, to top the table.
Ajax vs. Feyenoord on January 20 could be a big date in the race for the Dutch title.
Marco Luzzani/Getty Images
Back into Serie A and one of the more surprising challengers to Juventus perhaps.
Lazio are on a terrific run of form and have been unbeaten in their last seven league games in fact; over the past six, they have won four and drawn two, including a win at Sampdoria and at home to Inter Milan.
They lie in second place at present, a large eight points off the top, true, but still in fine form and looking good to challenge strongly for a European spot.
Lazio have the third-best defensive record in Serie A, having conceded an average of exactly one goal per game so far.
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
A perfect recent record might be expected to figure high in the rankings, and so the next two teams make the top 10 with ease, though the strength of the Liga Sagres in Portugal prevents them rising any higher.
Porto have won six from six recently, and in fact have won all but two of their games this season, both of which have been drawn.
They have the best defensive record in the league too, with just six goals conceded in 11 matches, including just two in their past six games.
Porto sit second in the league table—six points clear of Braga in third, with a game in hand.
Jasper Juinen/Getty Images
Meeting Porto step for step in form, both recently and over the course of the season so far, is Benfica.
They have won all six of their last six games, scoring 16 goals in the process—they are easily the highest scoring side in the top flight.
Benfica have played a game more than Porto, which they won, so sit three points ahead of their rivals and top of the league.
The crunch clash, which may sway favour towards one team or the other, takes place on January 13, with Benfica the home team.
5th: Paris St. Germain
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Into the top five now and the French league leaders Paris St. Germain are first up.
Five wins and just one defeat from the past six have propelled PSG from fourth (as recently as Nov. 23) up to first in what is a very tight Ligue 1.
The free-scoring Parisian side have been impressive in defence also and this combination has them top on goal difference, with Lyon and Marseille level on points.
PSG have won four in a row, including a 1-0 win over Lyon just two weeks ago.
4th: A.S. Roma
Paolo Bruno/Getty Images
The most in-form side in Italy right now are AS Roma who, despite a great run of recent form, still sit in only sixth position.
However, their recent run of five wins and one defeat in six has moved them to within three points of a Champions League spot, making back seven points over that period of games on third-placed Inter Milan.
Torino, Pescara, Siena, Fiorentina and AC Milan have all been bested by Roma in the past six weeks, with only a 1-0 defeat at Chievo proving a disappointment in that time.
Roma will get a real test of their top-end of the table credentials when Serie A resumes as they face Napoli (fifth), Catania (ninth) and Inter Milan (third) in their first three games.
3rd: Bayer Leverkusen
Clint Hughes/Getty Images
With the same five wins, one defeat record as AS Roma, Bayer Leverkusen are providing the strongest opposition to Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga this season.
An unbeaten home record has greatly aided their rise to second place, though they will want to improve on a cavalier approach to away games—nine games this season have so far yielded four wins, four defeats, 17 goals scored and 17 conceded!
Hamburg, Werder Bremen and Schalke are amongst those sides to have lost recently to Leverkusen. Midway through the season, they have a three-point buffer on the two sides directly below them, Dortmund and Eintracht Frankfurt.
2nd: Manchester United
David Rogers/Getty Images
Premier League leader, Manchester United, are unbeaten in their last six matches, with just one win detracting from a perfect recent record.
An impressive surge in results has seen them win against a host of lower-half of the league teams—but crucially away at their biggest title rivals, as well, Manchester City.
A 1-1 draw against Swansea is the only recent blip for a team with eight wins in their last nine league games.
United are looking very strong for a run at reclaiming the Premiership title and lead the table by seven points.
Victor Fraile/Getty Images
It doesn't get much better than sitting top of the table and with a perfect recent record in perhaps the most competitive domestic league in the world.
Barcelona have won all six of their most recent league games, extending their lead over second-place Atlético Madrid by six points in that period of time.
Real Zaragoza, Levante, Athletic Bilbao, Real Betis, Atlético Madrid and Real Valladolid have all been swatted aside over the past six weeks as Barça look to re-take the league title after Real Madrid's win last season.
The Catalan side are nine points clear at the top and have scored 18 more goals than any other side in the league. Those last six matches yielded a whopping 21 goals alone, with just five against.
Barcelona are without doubt the most in-form side in Europe right now and deservedly top the power rankings.