European Power Rankings: The Continent's 20 Best Football Clubs

Tom SunderlandFeatured ColumnistApril 22, 2013

European Power Rankings: The Continent's 20 Best Football Clubs

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    With no European tournament action to speak of this week, clubs returned to their domestic roots as the seasons draw to a close continent-wide.

    While some sides maintain their run towards silverware, others continue to fight for European qualification in time for next year’s events while others drop even further away.

    Bayern Munich have sat dominant atop our rankings for the past four consecutive weeks, but will the Bavarian bruisers be able to retain their place given the events of the last week or so?

    Read on to find out.

Honourable Mentions

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    FC Basel

    Given that FC Thun earned a win over Grasshoppers just three weeks ago, it’s clear that the Swiss outfit are going through a decent boost in form regardless of their mid-table position in the Swiss Super League.

    However, FC Basel’s bid for the title took a slight dent after drawing 2-2 with the Bern club this week, and were it not for Grasshoppers’ draw against Lucerne, the league leaders might find themselves even less than three points clear at the summit.

     

    Valencia

    Very unfortunate not to have made our top 20 this week, Valencia’s latest result was a morale-boosting 5-1 win over Málaga, which sees them claw to within two points of La Liga’s fourth place side, Real Sociedad.

    Ernesto Valverde’s side are now hitting a very encouraging patch of form after a period of uncertainty and have won three of their last five matches, drawing another two and scoring 14 goals in the process.

     

    Olympique Marseille

    Now enjoying an unbeaten streak stretching back as far as seven matches, Marseille remain confident of beating Lyon to Ligue 1’s second spot, with Paris Saint-Germain looking just too far out of reach nine points clear at the top.

    This time around, it was Brest that walked away from the Stade Velodrome as losers.

    However, with just three goals scored in their last six games, three of which were 0-0 stalemates, Marseile might need to think about adding some extra firepower this summer after the January loss of Loic Remy looks to have hurt their attack quite severely.

     

    Malaga

    Dropping down to the honourable mentions this week, Málaga’s form has turned severely patchy of late and it all began with their crushing Champions League exit to Borussia Dortmund.

    The Anchovies have won just two of their last eight league outings, the latest of which was a 5-1 drubbing away to Valencia.

    Even though the club are banned from European participation next season, there’s still some face to be saved in the remaining weeks of the season, but things aren’t looking at all rosy for Manuel Pellegrini’s men. 

20. Bayer Leverkusen

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    Movement: New Entry

    With Schalke losing at Eintracht Frankfurt over the weekend, a 5-0 win over Hoffenheim is exactly what the Bayer Leverkusen management team of Sascha Lewandowski and Sami Hyypia will have ordered.

    Although the BayArena’s visitors had a man sent off early on, Leverkusen were clinical, concise and picked their moments well in finishing off their opponents, giving their goal difference and the search for the Bundesliga’s third-place finish a much-needed boost.

    Stefan Kiessling and Andre Schurrle both showed why they’ve been the club’s miracle men this season, each netting twice in the demolition of their opposition and probably bumping up their price tags in the process.

18= Tottenham Hotspur

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    Movement: New Entry

    Although the first half was one to forget, a second-half rallying of the troops did just the trick against Manchester City this weekend as Tottenham came from a goal down to beat the defending Premier League champions 3-1.

    No surprises in that the comeback was inspired by Gareth Bale—only just returned from injury—and it was the Welshman who put the ball on a plate for Clint Dempsey to fire in Spurs’ equaliser before grabbing the North Londoners’ third himself.

    As a result, not only have Andre Villas-Boas’ side pushed the league title towards Manchester United but helped their own fortune also as they currently sit in fifth, one point behind Chelsea and two points behind third-place Arsenal but with a game in hand over the latter.

18= Chelsea

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    Movement: Down Three

    Luis Suarez’s biting incident was undoubtedly the event that left the world paying little attention to the 2-2 scoreline at Anfield over the weekend (via BBC Sport).

    That being said, Chelsea will have been displeased to have let their lead slip in the 97th minute, conceding a late, late equaliser to none other than Suarez himself.

    Despite their vast resources, Chelsea looked uninventive and unimaginative against Liverpool at times and finished the game with less than half as many shots as their opponents, less corners and more fouls conceded.

    Rafa Benitez’s men now sit in fourth, just a point above Tottenham Hotspur, and with a return to their Europa League commitments this week, things might not get any easier just yet.

17. Real Sociedad

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    Movement: No Change

    Although a 14-match unbeaten run is admirable, perhaps Real Sociedad’s one pitfall—or best attribute depending on how you see it— this season has been their reluctance to chase down results.

    This weekend, Philippe Montanier’s side saw out a 0-0 draw at Osasuna that, while not a loss on the scorecard, is the sixth time in those 14 matches in which Real have been forced to share the spoils.

    While Osasuna might have a great home defence, Sociedad need to feel more confident in going out against a side currently looked at as one of La Liga’s relegation candidates with the intention to win if they’re to really be looked at as a club worthy of Champions League football.

    Regardless, the Basque outfit still maintain their run towards Champions League football next season and are fourth in the Spanish top flight following their latest draw, 13 points behind Atletico Madrid but a scary two points ahead of Valencia, who are in great form.

16. Arsenal

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    Movement: Up Two

    Speaking ahead of his side’s fixture with Fulham this weekend, Arsene Wenger was reported by ESPN as claiming that his side can go the rest of the season without being beaten again.

    A 1-0 win at Craven Cottage later and such an announcement remains on track as the Gunners have now won five of the last six outings, drawing the other and conceding just three goals in those fixtures.

    That being said, Arsene Wenger can be disappointed his side didn’t make less of a Cottagers team that lost Steve Sidwell to a red card in the opening minutes and was, on the whole, a far less secure three points than it should have been.

15. Galatasaray

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    Movement: Down One

    With the best goal difference in the Super Lig and now seven points clear of their nearest opposition, a domestic title is looking almost certain for Fatih Terim’s Galatasaray.

    This weekend it was Elazigspor that handed the Istanbul outfit their fourth consecutive win across all competitions, a 3-1 win on their own turf.

    Theoretically, should Gala win next weekend and Fenerbahce lose their fixture against Kayserispor, they will have secured their second consecutive Super Lig crown in stylishly early fashion.

14. Porto

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    Movement: Up Two

    One would think that an unbeaten season including 20 wins and just six draws is indicative of a club leading their league by some margin and with assured confidence.

    That isn’t the case in Portugal’s Liga Primeira however, as Porto and Benfica carry on their tussle for the league’s top spot which this weekend saw the former claim a 3-0 victory over relegation candidates Moreirense.

    Even with the win, Vitor Pereira’s men remain four points behind league leaders Benfica and have just four games left to turn it around, all eyes turning towards the giants’ clash on May 12.

    Regardless of their second place honours, Porto still boast the best defence in the Portuguese top flight, conceding an average of just 0.46 goals per game and keeping clean sheets in 65 percent of their fixtures.

13. Manchester City

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    Movement: Down Four

    Dejected, depressed and downright defused following their weekend loss to Tottenham, not only are Manchester City looking out of the race to defend their Premier League title, but could now face a fight for second place after losing 3-1 at Tottenham over the weekend.

    Roberto Mancini’s side did well to claim an early lead at White Hart Lane but a second-half capitulation of mammoth proportions saw them concede three goals in the space of seven minutes to throw away the three points.

    In a performance this embarrassing, even the likes of Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta looked tired and out of shape in the latter stages of the matchup, failing to put up much of a fight once Spurs were in their stride.

    The second loss that City have seen in their last six matches, it isn’t exactly a case of all hands to panic stations for the Citizens, but the club has seen jollier times in recent years, that much is for sure.

12. AC Milan

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    Movement: Down Two

    If AC Milan’s miraculous 2013 unbeaten run was going to be ended by anyone, at least they can say it was brought to a close by the defending—and soon to be once again—Serie A champions.

    Even though the Rossoneri were beaten 1-0 at the Old Lady, Massimiliano Allegri’s side limited Juventus to the least amount of shots on goal they’ve had in a league game this entire season (12) and put up a hell of a fight in doing so.

    Having lost for the first time in the Italian top flight this calendar year, Milan drop to seven points away from second place Napoli and are just a point ahead of Fiorentina, putting their Champions League qualification into a shade of doubt.

11. Shakhtar Donetsk

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    Movement: Up One

    Although the European big spenders will be disappointed not to have wrapped up their Ukrainian Premier League title at the soonest possible stage, Shakhtar Donetsk only delayed the inevitable when they drew 1-1 at Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk over the weekend.

    Darijo Srna’s penalty salvaged a point for the league leaders that means their next possible landmark comes against Metalist Kharkiv this weekend, where they can again look to seal their domestic crown.

    Mircea Lucescu’s side were perhaps not helped by their midweek fixture against Karpaty in the Ukrainian Super Cup, a match which saw them advance to the competition’s semi-finals.

    Whatever the case, Shakhtar remain the strongest team in Ukraine having won eight and drawn one of their last 10 league outings.

10. Atletico Madrid

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    Movement: Up Three

    After going through a period of depression, Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid side now look like realistic candidates for a second-place finish in La Liga after going five games unbeaten.

    A win against Sevilla in their own ground is something that only Barcelona, Málaga and Real Valladolid had managed this season but Atleti turned that counter into four this weekend with a 1-0 victory at La Bombonera

    This is on the back of a 5-0 demolition of Granada as well as draws against Getafe and Valencia, pulling the capital club back to within three points of their bitter local rivals, Real Madrid.

    Apart from the league, Atletico also have a Copa del Rey final against Real to look forward to next month, where they’ll get the chance to add to this season’s trophy cabinet.

9. Napoli

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    Movement: Up One

    With Juventus beating AC Milan in Turin over the weekend, second place almost looks assured for Napoli, who managed to pull off a late win against Cagliari on home turf.

    Even though it took a late, late, Lorenzo Insigne goal to give Walter Mazzarri’s side the three points, the Naples outfit look nonetheless confident in sealing Champions League football for next season and are now seven points clear of the Rossoneri.

    Four wins and a draw in their last five matches points to the kind of form Napoli haven’t seen since Christmas time, but Edinson Cavani’s return to form appears to be leading the way for the club, who boast the best home attack in Serie A.

8. Manchester United

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    Movement: No Change

    Yet to play this week, Manchester United will have the chance to win the Premier League title when they host Aston Villa this evening (Monday) thanks to Manchester City’s slip-up at Tottenham Hotspur.

    Therefore, it doesn’t seem fair to push the Red Devils up or down in the rankings compared to last week’s placement.

    That being said, with the best home attack in the English top flight and considering there’s no Premier League side Wayne Rooney has scored more goals against than Aston Villa, one can look forward to some fireworks at Old Trafford.

6= Benfica

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    Movement: Up One

    Taking a monumental step towards stripping Porto of their Liga Primeira title once more, Benfica’s 2-0 triumph over fellow Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon ensured that the Eagles maintained a four-point gap over their closest rivals.

    Still engaged across three competitions, not only are Jorge Jesus’ men the favourites to take home the league title but will also face Fenerbahce in the first leg of the Europa League semi-final encounter this week.

    What’s more, Benfica sealed a place in the Taca de Portugal final last week, where they will face off against Vitoria de Guimaraes for a chance to add to their trophy collection.

6= Paris Saint-Germain

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    Movement: Down One

    While Carlo Ancelotti’s club may have seen a drop in the rankings this week, it’s in no way down to any indication of their own downfall, but more so of the success those around them have seen in recent weeks.

    With their Champions League dreams crushed, PSG are on a two-match Ligue 1 winning run, the latest of which was a 3-0 trouncing of Nice, somewhat of a bogey side for the club in recent years.

    Nine points clear at the throne of the French top flight and with a goal difference of plus-40, just two more wins should bring the domestic back to the country’s capital; that’s provided Marseille don’t surpass all expectations and go on to score 40-something goals in the next few weeks.

4= Borussia Dortmund

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    Movement: Down Two

    The first of five clubs that forever find themselves jostling about the top five of our rankings, Borussia Dortmund might have been more convincing this weekend in preparation for their Champions League semi-final faceoff with Real Madrid.

    That being said, the 2-0 win over Mainz was still an assured one, if not for some defensive uncertainty at times from the likes of Mats Hummels and Lukasz Piszczek.

    However, it was unsurprisingly the midfield, BVB’s strongest weapon, that stole the show against their mid-table opposition with the likes of Ilkay Gundogan, Mario Gotze and the more offensively minded Marco Reus all pitching with great displays.

    Having won their last four, Jurgen Klopp’s men host Real hoping to take some advantage back to the Santiago Bernabeu.

4= Barcelona

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    Movement: Down One

    With Lionel Messi out in an attempt to recover from injury in time for his side’s Champions League semi-final against Bayern Munich, Barcelona’s attack looked flat at times during their 1-0 win over Levante.

    In the end, it was Cesc Fabregas’ goal that was the difference between the two outfits but Messi’s absence was again made to look truly evident, asking the question just how strong Barca are without their talisman.

    That being said, 80 percent of possession and 28 attempts on goal compared to the opponent’s tally of just two are far more like the Barcelona that the world has come to love. 

3. Juventus

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    Movement: Up Three

    While the club’s Champions League battering against Bayern Munich will have undoubtedly left its mark, Juventus have positively shrugged off the bad bones of their European exit, much to the benefit of their Serie A form.

    This week, it was AC Milan that fell to the Old Lady thanks to a second-half penalty acutely fired home by Arturo Vidal, keeping the gap between Juve and Napoli at 11 points.

    Conceding just four goals in their last 10 league meetings, Antonio Conte has the best defence in Italy at his disposal, and quite possibly a lot of Europe too.

2. Real Madrid

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    Movement: Up One

    Although, with just six games left of La Liga’s season, there doesn’t seem to be a chance of Real Madrid overcoming the 13-point deficit between them and Barcelona, it’s confident performances such as the one against Real Betis this weekend that will always keep hope alive.

    Mesut Ozil provided the impetus, scoring twice in the 3-1 win over La Liga’s European hopefuls, while Karim Benzema added a third for Jose Mourinho’s side.

    A clean sheet might have been nice for los Merengues but with an away trip to Signal Iduna Park to think about this week, Mourinho will have been overjoyed to see a few morale-boosting goals ahead of their clash with Borussia Dortmund. 

1. Bayern Munich

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    Movement: No Change

    As if winning the league title in record time wasn’t enough, Bayern Munich certainly seem intent on embarrassing the rest of division, too, after beating Hannover 6-1 away from home.

    This victory set a new Bundesliga record of 26 wins, extends FC Hollywood's goal difference to plus-75 and just shows how dominant the German giants have been of late, winning their 13th league fixture in a row.

    What’s even scarier is that only a handful of Jupp Heynckes’ starting XI on the day would be considered truly automatic selections based on the season so far, showing just how much depth as well as talent this Bayern Munich side now boast.

    Clinical, lethal and workmanlike might all be words that get associated with German efficiency on all too frequent a basis but, in this case, are all fantastically true.

     

    It’s impossible to get them all right but let me know who would have made your rankings in the comments section below. And don’t forget you can engage with me on Twitter: