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

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistApril 29, 2013

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

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    Halfway through another fortnight of European football, the continental hierarchy has taken on another touch of metamorphosis as we edge towards season’s close, some benefitting from the changes more than others.

    Ranked in accordance with their most recent weeks of action, teams have been graded on current form, with the last week having a substantial, but not total, say on matters.

    Bear in mind, this isn’t simply a list of which clubs are enjoying the best form in Europe; you’ll find no Kidderminster Harriers in these rankings, regardless of their recent 10-match winning streak.

    Instead, these standings splice a mixture of quality displayed alongside form, where past results will only get you so far in favour of that which has happened of late.

Honourable Mentions

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    Tottenham Hotspur

    Constantly teetering on the edges of our power rankings, Tottenham’s hopes of Champions League qualification took a severe knock over the weekend after Andre Villas-Boas’ men drew 2-2 at the DW Stadium.

    Although a five-match unbeaten run was maintained as a result of the draw, sharing the spoils with relegation candidates isn’t what Spurs need at this stage of the season and leaves them two points adrift of fourth-place Arsenal.

     

    Schalke 04

    A 4-1 win over Hamburg this weekend keeps Schalke ahead of Eintracht Frankfurt in the race for the Bundesliga’s fourth spot and a place in next season’s Champions League.

    Klaas-Jan Huntelaar’s hat-trick provided the opus for Jens Keller’s side to ease past the dinosaur, but a record of that being their first win in three matches prevents Die Knappen from moving into our top 20.

     

    Galatasaray

    Although their run of five wins in a row is hugely encouraging, Galatasaray’s last five league outings have all been against opposition in the bottom half of the table, meaning the Turkish champions haven’t really had to prove themselves domestically of late.

    However, Fatih Terim’s men will soon have their chance to assert their dominance at the top of the Super Lig in a meeting with second-place Fenerbahce, proving that a Champions League win over Real Madrid earlier in April wasn’t just a one-off.

     

    Marseille

    Were it not for the millions spent by Paris Saint-Germain over the last year in particular, Marseille might see themselves challenging for first-place honours in Ligue 1 this year.

    However, the club remain in second spot, nine points behind leaders PSG and, having won their last two games and extending their unbeaten run to seven, can hope to close the gap on their fellow French giants next season.

20. Fenerbahce

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    Movement: New Entry

    One of our four Europa League semi-finalists, Fenerbahce took a grip of their two-legged exchange with Benfica and will bring a 1-0 lead to Portugal when they attempt to book their spot in the final later this week.

    As if their international fortune wasn’t enough, Fener then bettered themselves with a 2-1 league victory over Kayserispor this weekend, keeping them in the race for Super Lig glory, seven points behind league leading Galatasaray.

    With 60 percent of the possession, Aykut Kocaman’s side were assured in their midweek triumph over European stalwarts, Benfica, and with one of the best away defences in their native Turkey, could well complete their upset in Lisbon.

19. Bayer Leverkusen

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    Movement: Up One

    Still eight points behind Borussia Dortmund in the German top flight, this season has seen the Bundesliga’s upper echelons take on a new form of separation, of which Bayer Leverkusen would appear to reside in the third.

    However, Die Werkself might have some fortune in closing that gap next season after going their last five matches unbeaten, scoring 13 goals in the process.

    Following on from last week’s 5-0 routing of 10-man Hoffenheim, Leverkusen saw out a slightly less rampant 1-0 win over relegation candidates Werder Bremen, which yielded a very welcome second consecutive clean sheet at the BayArena.

18. Fiorentina

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    Movement: New Entry

    In truth, Fiorentina probably should have entered these rankings at an earlier stage but were just waiting on a European rival to slip up and allow them to squirm their way in, which now appears to have happened.

    After the relegation-threatened campaign of 2011-12, Vincenzo Montella has taken his side to heights they couldn’t have dreamed of 12 months ago as the team currently stands on a knife’s edge as to whether it will be them or AC Milan who clinches Serie A’s third and final Champions League spot.

    With a 3-0 away victory at Sampdoria this weekend, the Florence outfit earned their third domestic win in a row, across which the club have scored an average of three goals per game while conceding just three in the process.

    Now just one point away from Milan, the coming weeks are set to define Fiorentina’s 2013-14 season and just which pedigree of opponent they’ll be meeting in Europe next term.

15= Porto

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    Movement: Down One

    It’s really quite unfortunate that Porto have experienced a drop this week, something not a lot of sides enjoying a four-match winning streak would hope for.

    However, the success of teams around them has seen the Portuguese giants drop slightly off the pace, with the last two of those wins coming against Vitoria Setubal and Moreirense, neither of whom are far away from the Liga Primeira’s drop zone.

    Although Benfica have played a game less than them, The Dragons are now just a point away from the league leaders and will really receive a test of what’s been an outstanding defence this season, conceding an average of just 0.29 goals per game when at home.

15= Atletico Madrid

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    Movement: Down Four

    While the dream was nice for a while, Atletico Madrid’s vision of breaking up the two-team hierarchy that’s taken a hold of Spain in recent years looks to have been shattered over the weekend.

    Now six points away from their capital city rivals, Atleti’s 2-1 loss at home to Real Madrid means that the club have little chance of making the La Liga a threesome any time soon and will instead settle for the division’s third-place at best.

    That being said, Diego Simeone’s side will get their chance at revenge in next month’s Copa del Rey final, which will again see them pitted against Jose Mourinho’s side in the hunt for further silverware this season.

15= Arsenal

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    Movement: Up One

    Currently riding one of their finest runs of form not just this season but for some years now, Arsenal extended their unbeaten run to eight games over the weekend after drawing 1-1 with newly-crowned Premier League champions Manchester United.

    The Gunners opened the scoring inside two minutes at the Emirates Stadium but lacked the resolve to see their lead through to halftime and inevitably succumbed to the scoring exploits of none other than their former star, Robin van Persie.

    While the club’s current run is impressive, the point has been raised that all of Arsene Wenger’s last five wins have come against clubs of mid-table status or lower, draws against Everton and United putting to test the theory that the North Londoners perhaps fail to perform against the “bigger” clubs.

    Supporters of the club would undoubtedly raise their 2-0 second-leg Champions League away win at Bayern Munich in March as contrary to that belief, but considering how futile the win ultimately was in the competition, concern might still be warranted. 

13= Shakhtar Donetsk

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    Movement: Down Two

    Having made the Ukrainian Premier League crown their own for the fourth season in a row over the weekend, one might expect the champions to feature more prominently on our countdown.

    Alas, however, the domestic title was acquired in far less glamorous circumstances than they would have liked, despite what a 15-point gap at the top of the table might suggest.

    Having drawn with Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk earlier in the week, missing out on their first chance to tie up the league silverware, Shakhtar drew once more against Metalist Kharkiv.

    Regardless, the club still have a semi-final to think about in the Ukraine Cup and can now focus all of their resources on next week’s meeting against Sevastopol.

13= Manchester City

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    Movement: No Change

    Following a 3-1 loss at Tottenham last weekend, this week saw Roberto Mancini’s side get back to winning ways with a 2-1 victory over West Ham, although the Citizens were still far from their convincing former selves at the Etihad Stadium.

    Across all competitions, the recently dethroned Premier League champions have kept just one clean sheet in their last five matches and have just an FA Cup final against Wigan Athletic to look forward to in the hopes of squeezing some joy out of their season.

12. Chelsea

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    Movement: Up Six

    Rafa Benitez might be stepping down from his role as interim Chelsea manager come season’s end, but the change will be a controversial one should the Spaniard bring his side their second European title in as many years.

    Such a hope took a turn for the better this past week when the Blues managed to take a 2-1 lead from the away leg of their Europa League semi-final clash with FC Basel, putting them as firm favourites to book a place in the tournament’s final.

    Bearing in mind that Tottenham were unable to overcome the Swiss giants, it puts the result into slightly more of an English context.

    What’s more, things improved domestically over the weekend as goals from Frank Lampard and Oscar meant that the West Londoners capitalised on draws by Tottenham and Arsenal to take a leading hand in the race for a top three finish.

11. Real Sociedad

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    Movement: Up Six

    Fairy tale stories always come to their end and, in football, they usually come crashing down as inharmoniously as in any format.

    That being said, Real Sociedad’s dream run towards Champions League football has endured, and a 4-2 victory over Valencia only goes to prove just how fearsome a threat the club can be, even against big opposition.

    Now having gone 15 games unbeaten, nine of which have yielded Philippe Montanier’s side all three points, La Real are five points clear in La Liga’s fourth spot, albeit a mighty 10 points away from Atletico Madrid.

    It will be interesting to see if, should Sociedad qualify for the Champions League, just how their squad will cope with the requirements of a multi-faceted campaign and if their reserves run deep enough.

    The biggest jump in our European rankings this week, Spain’s in-form side probably deserve to have made such a climb earlier than now.

10. Benfica

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    Movement: Down Four

    Yet to return to domestic action since losing in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final against Fenerbahce, Benfica haven’t had the chance to redeem themselves in front of a Portuguese audience.

    In Turkey, the Eagles were deserved losers against Fener and are now tasked with the challenge of overcoming the one-goal deficit laid ahead of them as well as maintaining their run to the Liga Primeira crown, all in the space of three days.

    While undoubtedly tough to contend with, it’s congested parts of the calendar such as these that define a truly great side and test just whether or not a club can really be counted among Europe’s finest.

9. AC Milan

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    Movement: Up Three

    AC Milan make their way back into the top 10 of our European Rankings following the revival of their unbeaten 2013 form, which came to its inevitable end at the hands of Juventus last week.

    Despite the disappointing result, Massimiliano Allegri’s men got their campaign back underway in the best possible fashion with Giampaolo Pazzini and Mario Balotelli paving the way for a 4-2 battering of mid-table Catania.

    Having surrendered seven points to Napoli, Fiorentina and Juve cumulatively in the past month, Milan’s hopes of a top three finish hang in the balance as they sit just one point above Fiorentina.

    That being said, the Rossoneri’s current form should be enough to see them through to Champions League football next season as long as Allegri can continue to motivate his refreshed squad.

8. Paris Saint-Germain

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    Movement: Down Two

    Having taken 15 points from their last five Ligue 1 meetings, Paris Saint-Germain remain France’s in-form team and, although Marseille would see such a possibility spoilt, can win the league title with just one more victory.

    That being said, the 1-0 win over Evian this past weekend posed a far more difficult test than should be provided by a 17th place squad as PSG eventually finished the matchup with just nine men on the pitch following red cards to David Beckham and Marco Verratti.

    As such, the club’s seven-match unbeaten streak in the French top flight was marred slightly, earning Carlo Ancelotti’s men a drop in rank despite some fine play of late.

7. Napoli

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    Movement: Up Two

    Having dropped just two points in their last six Serie A games—a 1-1 draw with Milan at the San Siro—Napoli’s current form is second only to league leaders Juventus, befitting their second place position in the Italian top tier.

    Having seen off basement side Pescara 2-0 over the weekend, Walter Mazzarri’s men maintained their seven-point lead over AC Milan but also pulled off a much-needed clean sheet, only the third in their last 10 games.

    The Azzurri seem just about set to wrap up their spot in next season’s Champions League competition and have the odds running in their favour after netting an average of three goals in each of their last six matches.

6. Barcelona

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    Movement: Down Two

    The first time Barcelona have featured outside the top five of our European Power Rankings, Tito Vilanova’s men had a week to forget both domestically as well as in Europe.

    The Catalan side will now face a near impossible task in overcoming the 4-0 deficit Bayern Munich managed to amass during the first leg of their Champions League semi-final at the Allianz Arena.

    With Lionel Messi only just returning from injury, the game went some way to proving the theory that Barca struggle to reach the same standards as long as the Argentine isn’t firing on all cylinders, due in large part to Jupp Heynckes’ tactics almost taking Messi out of the equation entirely.

    What’s more, a 2-2 draw at Athletic Bilbao means their lead at the top of La Liga was closed to 11 points which, however insurmountable it may appear, puts the title race in that much more doubt as Real Madrid close in. 

5. Manchester United

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    Movement: Up Three

    Having wrapped up the Premier League title in very early fashion, Manchester United started the week off in the right way as Robin van Persie led the assault in a 3-0 demolition of Aston Villa last week.

    However, the Red Devils couldn’t maintain their winning streak at the Emirates Stadium and instead settled for a share of the spoils, coming away from North London with a point in hand following their 1-1 draw against Arsenal.

    Undoubtedly a more appreciated result for the hosts, the dropped points will mean little to Sir Alex Ferguson, but meant that the club can no longer amass a record amount of points in the Premier League—a record Chelsea will be happy to keep as their own.

4. Juventus

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    Movement: Down One

    Although Torino are far from the hardest opponent Juventus will face during their end-of-season run-in, the Old Lady’s 2-0 win over the Bull means that the Turin club have now won their last seven Serie A matches in a row.

    Still 11 points clear at the summit of the Italian top flight, this means that Antonio Conte’s mean can retain their Scudetto title should they manage to earn victory over Palermo next week.

    With only 0.59 goals conceded per game and averaging a clean sheet every other game, Juve’s 2012-13 campaign has proven the old adage that while goals might win you games, defence wins you championships.

3. Real Madrid

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    Movement: Down One

    For some weeks now, Real Madrid have been closely tied to Barcelona in a sort of power struggle for Spanish dominance in our rankings.

    However, with both sides losing quite substantially in the first legs of their Champions League semi-finals, it was dependent on their domestic return just how the two would be placed in this week’s standings.

    Losing 4-1 at Signal Iduna Park, Cristiano Ronaldo’s sole away goal gives Jose Mourinho’s men just a glimmer of hope in preventing what would appear to an all-German final.

    Things fared slightly better back in Spain’s capital after it was Real that emerged as victors in the latest Derbi Madrileno, beating Atletico 2-1 in their own backyard and extending the gap between second and third to six points.

    That won’t be the last time these two sides meet however, as both capital clubs look to add to their trophy collections in next month’s Copa del Rey final.

2. Borussia Dortmund

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    Movement: Up Two

    In keeping with the German surge that is currently sweeping the continent, Borussia Dortmund move back amongst the top spots after impressing mightily in their 4-1 win over Real Madrid during midweek.

    The Black and Yellows were clinical; technically superior to their Spanish foes and ultimately boasting the main difference between these two sides on the night—Robert Lewandowski.

    The Pole scored all four BVB goals in prolific fashion, proving just why he’s being tipped as a sought-after striker this summer.

    No longer concerned with the Bundesliga title, Jurgen Klopp made nine changes for the weekend trip to Fortuna Dusseldorf—a fixture that Dortmund won 2-1—showing just how much depth the squad have in their reserves.

1. Bayern Munich

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    Movement: No Change

    The side currently being looked upon by many as the world’s finest, and quite possibly the best Bayern Munich squad ever, Jupp Heynckes’ Bavarian giants remain seated on our Power Rankings’ throne this week.

    With a 4-0 win over Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final, Bayern showed that Spain’s time at the head of the continent might be over for now, and that Germany may be the country to watch evolve in coming years.

    Although this had been supposed for a number of years, the result was true evidence that such a notion may be coming to fruition, with all fingers pointing to Der FCB as the new kings of Europe.

    Looking just about set for a place in the Champions League final, a weakened Bayern outfit then extended their Bundesliga winning streak to 14 games with a 1-0 victory at home to Freiburg.

    Just how the club will look to pass such heights with Pep Guardiola at their helm next season is anyone’s guess, but for now the reigning German champions look nigh unstoppable.

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