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

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistMay 20, 2013

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

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    As Europe’s top leagues come to their inevitable closes, clubs across the continent are making their late dashes away from mediocrity in the hopes of reaching something more spectacular.

    Of course, the most glamorous of any such accolade is finishing atop Bleacher Report’s European Power Rankings.

    How will Chelsea’s Europa League victory have affected their status? Can Bayern Munich maintain their Bundesliga-leading drive toward world domination?

    These rankings take recent form into account, with latest matches holding particular significance, but also level of competition and the manner in which a club achieved a result. All these answers and more can be found ahead.

Honourable Mentions

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    Manchester City

    Dropping outside the top 20 for the first time, Manchester City’s sorry end-of-season slump continued right through to the final day of the season, resulting in a 3-2 loss at home to Norwich City.

    Following their FA Cup final loss to Wigan Athletic last week, this signaled the Citizens’ second defeat to a side in the bottom half of the Premier League in as many weeks. They ultimately finished the season 11 points behind Manchester United.

     

    Ajax

    Through no fault of their own, Ajax slump into the honourable mentions this week despite having not played since their final game of the season last weekend.

    Saying that, the Eredivisie champions still deserve their recognition after typing up a 32nd Dutch first division title just a fortnight ago. They are only dropped due to the perceived stature of their division.

     

    Galatasaray                     

    After picking up a significant blemish to their record last weekend in their loss to Fenerbahce, Galatasaray climbed confidently atop their winning perch once again this weekend.

    Defeating Trabzonspor 2-0 in Istanbul, Fatih Terim’s men rounded off their Super Lig campaign with 10 points and 14 goals in between them and their nearest competitors.

     

    Pacos de Ferreira

    The best league finish of the club’s 53-year history, this week saw Pacos de Ferreira seal their spot in the 2013-14 Champions League playoff stage.

    Despite an end-of-season loss to Liga Primeira champions Porto, Paulo Foncesca’s team finished the term two points ahead of Sporting Braga, losing just four games in their league season, all of which came against the two sides above them in the table.

20. Saint-Etienne

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    Movement: New Entry

    In what’s their first time featuring amongst the weekly rankings, Saint-Etienne’s push for a top-three finish in Ligue 1 continued this weekend.

    The Greens closed the gap between them and third-place Lyon to just two points after earning a 2-0 win over French giants Marseille.

    As it stands any of Lyon, Saint Etienne, Nice or Lille could be playing Champions League football with PSG + OM next season. Exciting no?

    — Get French Football (@GFN_France) May 19, 2013

    With just one loss in their last 17 games, Christophe Galtier’s side look a good outfit on paper, but need to start turning more draws into victories if they’re to realise their dream of Champions League qualification.

    Saint-Etienne will still be relying on Rennes to take points away from Lyon next weekend but, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang leading their attack, will hope to clinch the points needed to see them through to continental competition.

19. Fiorentina

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    Movement: New Entry

    Bringing an end to the club’s short-lived dream of securing a place in next season’s Champions League, this weekend assured Fiorentina that the best they can hope for now is the Europa League.

    Finishing just two points behind AC Milan, La Viola’s 5-1 win at relegated Pescara was almost a kick in the teeth for Vincenzo Montella, who watched his side score more than four goals for the first time this campaign, only for it to mean very little.

    Regardless, the three points come as a by-product of Fiorentina’s third consecutive victory and means the side finish the season as the joint-second best attacking side in Serie A along with Napoli.

18. Benfica

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    Movement: Down Seven

    Ending both domestic and international competitions in miserable fashion, there are few managers in world football to have gone through as demoralising a week as what Jorge Jesus has just done with Benfica.

    First, the 58-year-old’s side fell victim to a 90th-minute Kelvin winner against Porto, a goal that would snatch not only the result, but the Liga Primeira title from out of Benfica’s clutches. However, this feat was perhaps surpassed by Branislav Ivanovic’s 93rd-minute tally for Chelsea in the final of the Europa League just four days later.

    Benfica coach Jorge Jesus: "We played a great game, but football punished us. On the basis of how we performed, we should have [won]." #SLB

    — Goal UK (@GoalUK) May 15, 2013

    Despite reviving some smiles with a 3-1 end-of-season win over Moreirense this weekend, seeing two titles taken from in such a short space of time can only have one sort of impact on a squad, and is reflected in Benfica’s drop in the rankings this week.

17. Tottenham Hotspur

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    Movement: Up One

    Enjoying the second-best run of form in the Premier League right now, four wins and two draws from their last six games just wasn’t enough for Tottenham to ensure themselves of Champions League football next season.

    Even with a late Gareth Bale winner earning them a 1-0 triumph over Sunderland, Andre Villas-Boas’ side had to settle for Europa League football, missing out on fourth spot by just two points.

    Unbeaten in their last 10 games, attention now turns to whether Bale will remain at White Hart Lane past this summer, with speculation hinting at a host of transfer options for the Welshman.

16. AC Milan

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    Movement: Down Three

    While it might seem strange that AC Milan have dropped in the rankings despite winning their most recent outing, it’s the manner in which the Rossoneri won that they owe their placement.

    The Italian giants struggled at relegated Siena for far too long, relying on a late, late comeback to seal their Champions League future.

    Goals from Mario Balotelli and Philippe Mexes were enough to turn the tide in the final 10 minutes, but came in the dying embers of what was a very limp display from the San Siro side.

    However, the gloom can only last so long after Milan tied up third spot and a place among Europe’s elite next season, stretching the club’s unbeaten run to five matches as well.

15. Bayer Leverkusen

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    Movement: Up One

    Now unbeaten in eight matches, Bayer Leverkusen’s post-Christmas stumble has been firmly rescued by the club’s great form of late.

    Sami Hyypia’s side have been victorious in their last five matches, including their final game of the year against Hamburg. Although Borussia Dortmund admittedly had other competitions to worry about, they ended up finishing just a point away from the Black and Yellows.

    Another clean sheet means the Factory Squad have conceded just one goal and had their best defensive stretch of the entire 2012-13 term in their last five games.

    Back in the Champions League, Bayer Leverkusen will now attempt to assert themselves on the rest of Europe in tandem with their fellow Bundesliga outfits.

14. Udinese

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    Movement: Up Three

    Continuing what’s been a remarkable run for the Little Zebras recently, Francesco Guidolin’s Udinese clinched an eighth consecutive victory this weekend, this time seeing off Inter 5-2 at the San Siro.

    Udinese are easily Italy’s most in-form side right now and would probably stake a challenge on a lot of Europe’s teams with the confidence currently buoying them after such a strong close to the season.

    Although the team will be playing Europa League football next season, it’s vital that the Udine outfit remember just how they stumbled upon their current pedigree and kick off next season in similar fashion.

13. Atletico Madrid

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    Movement: New Entry

    With just three wins in their last six matches, Atletico Madrid may not seem like one of Europe’s strongest teams right now, but a triumph over Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey final makes the side hard to ignore.

    Just three weeks after their 2-1 La Liga loss to their local Madrid rivals, Diego Simeone’s men managed to reverse the scoreline in their favour this time around, albeit after extra time.

    RT @tnc_laliga: Atletico Madrid lift the #CopaDelRey: twitter.com/TNC_LaLiga/sta…

    — Seputar Info Bola (@SeputarInfoBola) May 18, 2013

    Just days previous, Los Rojiblancos were unfortunate not to come away from their clash with Barcelona with points in hand, but bounced back beautifully in the Spanish capital.

    Yet to feature since their tournament victory, Atleti have two fixtures left in their season. Although the side can’t mathematically move in the Primera standings, they’ll undoubtedly aim to end on a high note.

12. Real Sociedad

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    Movement: Up Three

    Two weeks after Getafe brought an end to Real Sociedad’s remarkable 2013 winning streak, Philippe Montanier’s men have returned to their winning ways in admirable style.

    A 2-1 win away at Sevilla this weekend rounds off a league double over the Seville club, the first time La Real have accomplished such a feat since the 2002-03 campaign.

    With wins against Valencia, Atletico Madrid and Málaga in their last 10 games, Real Sociedad are not only performing against the smaller sides, either.

    That said, Valencia remain hot on their tails in the pursuit of fourth spot. Whether they can restrain Real Madrid this weekend could really validate if the Basque club belong in the Champions League.

11. Arsenal

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    Movement: Up Four

    Arsenal maintained their push and wrapped up the final Champions League qualification spot, beating out Tottenham.

    A 1-0 win over Newcastle United was enough to give the Gunners their 17th consecutive qualification for the competition under Arsene Wenger, an impressive achievement in itself.

    That result extends Arsenal’s unbeaten league streak to 10 games, albeit made slightly less impressive than some might suggest given the fact that over half those fixtures were against sides in the bottom half of the table.

    Regardless, smaller clubs can often be the more difficult ones to beat. The Gunners can now take a much-deserved sigh of relief in preparation for yet another grueling campaign in the English top flight.

10. Juventus

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    Movement: Down Three

    Continuing their downward slope since winning the Serie A title, Juventus’ foot seems to have been truly off the pedal for their last two games of the season.

    Even with some of the club’s fringe players thrown in, one point from fixtures against sides in the bottom half of the Italian top flight isn’t the kind of record Antonio Conte will have been settling for.

    This weekend saw Juve succumb to defeat at the hands of Sampdoria by a score of 3-2. It was their third loss in 10 games.

    Juventus’ drop in standards might not mean any risk to their Scudetto crown, but affects their ranking nonetheless.

9. Manchester United

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    Movement: Down Two

    The first 5-5 draw in Premier League history, Manchester United showed the full potential of their attack against West Brom in Sir Alex Ferguson’s last game as manager of the club.

    However, they also showed the full extent of the defensive weaknesses that have seen them come up short at times during the last eight months.

    Exclusive pic: Golden Boot winner RvP behind the scenes. "They should make 25 golden boots. We do it together." #MUFC twitter.com/ManUtd_PO/stat…

    — Manchester United PO (@ManUtd_PO) May 19, 2013

    While nothing may have been on the line with the Premier League title already in their cabinet, Ferguson will have undoubtedly preferred to have ended his management career on a more positive note.

    Just two wins in their last six games, United are another example of a side whose league triumph has seen them ease off in their end-of-season run-in, taking just 12 points from their last possible 24.

8. Paris Saint-Germain

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    Movement: Up Two

    A 3-1 win over Brest this weekend gives Paris Saint-Germain their 12th consecutive game without a loss and is also the fifth victory in their last six outings.

    The game held special significance as the last game of David Beckham’s playing career, emotionally shown by the player upon his teary substitution for the French outfit.

    Emotional David Beckham leaves pitch in tears as he completes final home match of his career: bbc.in/18TqGqD twitter.com/BBCSport/statu…

    — BBC Sport (@BBCSport) May 18, 2013

    With just five league losses all season, PSG have been dominant in their journey to the Ligue 1 title, finishing with an impressive goal difference of plus-44.

    On average, Carlo Ancelotti’s side have conceded an average of just 0.60 goals per game in the last 10 matches and averaging 1.60 goals per game in that same amount of time.

7. Porto

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    Movement: Up Two

    On the back of their tide-turning victory against Benfica just over a week ago, Porto completed their second unbeaten Liga Primeira season in three years this weekend.

    Pacos de Ferreira were the last side to feel the brunt of Vitor Pereira’s outfit, succumbing 2-0 at home and giving the Dragons their 24th league victory of the campaign.

    Jackson Martinez scored his 26th goal of the season, which helped the club win the domestic title and finish a point above Jorge Jesus’ Benfica.

6. Real Madrid

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    Movement: Down Two

    Last week saw Los Merengues surrender the Copa del Rey to final underdogs and bitter rivals Atletico Madrid after extra time, which will no doubt be the final nail in Jose Mourinho's coffin. 

    As reported by the Daily Mail’s David Kent, Mourinho—who was sent to the stands in the cup final—branded the 2012-13 campaign as “the worst season of my life.”

    Real are now without a win in their last two games and appear slightly disassembled in their squad, a group of individuals with no leader at the helm.

    Despite all talk of a move to Chelsea, Mourinho remains Real Madrid’s manager, but an uncharacteristic trophy-less season hasn’t done the Portuguese’s reputation much good.

5. Napoli

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    Movement: Down Two

    Just their second league loss of 2013, Napoli slipped up in the Italian capital on their final fixture of the season, losing 2-1 to Roma and ending the season a disappointing nine points behind Juventus.

    That being said, the Naples club have made massive strides in the last four months and can only hope that any incoming manager can pick up where Walter Mazzarri—whose departure from the club has been confirmed by Sky Sports—left off.

    Eight wins and a draw from their last 10 games, the Azzurri have been among Europe’s most in-form sides for some time now and will hope to juggle such expectations alongside Champions League football next term.

4. Borussia Dortmund

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    Movement: Down Two

    Having not won any of their last four games, Borussia Dortmund could certainly be heading into their Champions League final against Bayern Munich with better match form.

    So Borussia Dortmund have decided to troll Bayern by putting a Solskjær shirt in their museum... twitter.com/paddypower/sta…

    — Paddy Power (@paddypower) May 17, 2013

    The Black and Yellows have fielded a mixture of full-strength and weakened sides in their last three league outings, but it was a lineup of the former that still managed to lose 2-1 against relegation-threatened Hoffenheim this weekend.

    Jurgen Klopp was visibly upset with the result and must now rely upon an immense reply in morale if his side are to cause an upset at Wembley. Mats Hummels, who picked up an injury at Signal Iduna Park, could miss this match.

    Conceding an average of two goals per game in their last four matches, it looks like defence is where the most help is needed at this point too.

3. Barcelona

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    Movement: Up Three

    This weekend saw Barcelona stretch their unbeaten league run to 10 matches, albeit conceding for the fourth game in a row and preventing their La Liga clean sheet tally from reaching double figures just yet.

    Real Valladolid’s second-half attempt at a comeback ultimately proved insufficient, and a 2-1 scoreline was enough for Barca to see off their mid-table opponents.

    Despite their Champions League ejection, Tito Vilanova’s men remain atop the Spanish pile with some distinction and can finish the campaign with a 100-point total should they win their next two games.

2. Chelsea

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    Movement: Up Three

    Two or three months ago, it would have been nigh impossible to imagine Chelsea anywhere near the summit of the European form rankings, especially with their busy schedule pulling them every which way across as many as four competitions.

    But, with a midweek Europa League final triumph over Benfica, Chelsea become holders of two European titles for however brief a period and are once again stating their claim as one of the continent’s strongest clubs.

    Domestically, Rafa Benitez’s side haven’t done too badly either, securing wins over Everton, Manchester United, Aston Villa and Swansea City, all in the last three weeks.

    Benitez may not have started his tenure as the most loved of figures, but the thanks of some Stamford Bridge supporters is a sign of just how much he’s done in his brief spell in West London.

    Chelsea's Rafa Benitez: "It's not just what we achieved, it's the team we achieved it with, a team in transition, full of young players."

    — Premier League (@premierleague) May 19, 2013

1. Bayern Munich

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    Movement: No Change (Eight Consecutive Weeks at No. 1)

    Taking a break from their usual, rampant style of doing things, Bayern Munich chose to give their supporters a bit of a scare this weekend, seeing out a 4-3 victory over Borussia Monchengladbach.

    First going 2-0 down inside five minutes, Bayern had to rely on goals from Javi Martinez, Arjen Robben, as well as a Franck Ribery brace in order to turn the fixture in their favour.

    It seems only fitting that Der FCB saw out their manager, Jupp Heynckes, in style before ushering in the era of Pep Guardiola.

    Now with nine wins and a draw from their last 10 fixtures, scoring an incredible 32 goals in that space, Bayern couldn’t ask for a better record heading into this weekend’s Champions League final encounter with Borussia Dortmund.

     

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