Ranking the Top 20 European Clubs: Chelsea and Spurs Rise, Benfica Impress

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterJanuary 14, 2014

Ranking the Top 20 European Clubs: Chelsea and Spurs Rise, Benfica Impress

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    Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    Welcome to the latest edition of our European club power rankings!

    The Bundesliga is still on a winter break and that makes it difficult to properly assess the German teams' rankings, but we've done our best to slot them in adequately, and Borussia Dortmund fans will be delighted to hear Mats Hummels is back in training.

    Ligue 1 is back, though, and the Liga Sagres is in full swing. That means more competition for places and some really tough decisions!

Honourable Mentions

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    Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images


    A 0-0 stalemate at Torino called a halt to their impressive winning streak in Serie A.

    Athletic Club

    Recovered from their rival loss last week, hitting six past a helpless Almeria.


    Smashed an ominous Real Sociedad side 5-1 in style at El Madrigal. Quite the eye-opener in truth.

    Real Sociedad

    Beaten soundly by El Submarino Amarillo despite waltzing into the match on a five-game winning streak.


    Endured a disappointing loss to Reims at the weekend, further losing ground on Paris Saint-Germain.

20. Benfica

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    Last Week: N/R

    Differential: New!

    Benfica re-enter our rankings after a considerable amount of time spent in the honourable mentions section.

    Only Sporting's great form has really kept them out so far, but the Eagles' victory over FC Porto—in which they tore the old rivals to shreds at stages—is difficult to ignore.

    How will they fare without Nemanja Matic, who, as per The Guardian, is set for a £22 million move to Chelsea?

19. Sporting

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    Last Week: 18

    Differential: -1

    Sporting dropped from top spot in the Liga Sagres for the first time in a while on Saturday after being held to a 0-0 draw with Estoril.

    The road result comes as a disappointment given the standards this young side has set. With other results conspiring around them, they resume action next week from second.

18. Manchester United

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    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    Last Week: 20

    Differential: +2

    Manchester United overcame Swansea City at the second time of asking on Saturday, securing a 2-0 scoreline that sent shivers of relief down fans' spines.

    Antonio Valencia and Danny Welbeck scored the goals, but it was Adnan Januzaj who stole the show with his fleet-footed approach to wing play flummoxing Angel Rangel and Co.

    It was a much-needed reprieve for David Moyes.

17. Monaco

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    Didier Baverel/Getty Images

    Last Week: 16

    Differential: -1

    Monaco's return to Ligue 1 action did not go as planned.

    They failed to beat Montpellier in Friday's prime kick-off and allowed M'Baye Niang—on loan from Milan—to score his second in two games for la Paillade.

    Despite having Radamel Falcao fit and Emmanuel Riviere in the side, they mustered just one goal from left-back Layvin Kurzawa.

16. Bayer Leverkusen

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    Clive Rose/Getty Images

    Last Week: 15

    Differential: -1

    Bayer Leverkusen are not as strong right now, albeit temporarily, as Sidney Sam has opted to move to Schalke.

    The electric 25-year-old winger had a paltry €2.5 million release clause in his contract—a product of his injury-prone past—and the Gelsenkirchen outfit were all too happy to pay it.

    If he can work through his inconsistencies, he's going to be a wonderful acquisition.

15. Tottenham Hotspur

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    Julian Finney/Getty Images

    Last Week: 17

    Differential: +2

    Did anyone else notice Tottenham Hotspur creeping back into top-four contention?

    They've won four of their last six and sit on 40 points. As bad as the first half of their season is perceived to have been, Tim Sherwood's side are now two points off fourth-placed Liverpool.

    If Everton are "in the hunt," Spurs most definitely are too.

14. Everton

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    Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

    Last Week: 14

    Differential: None

    Everton sealed another routine victory against Norwich City this weekend despite the odd scare, and this winning habit Roberto Martinez has gotten his side into is a dangerous prospect for those around them.

    John Stones came into the defence and performed superbly, shunning the idea that the Toffees are overly reliant on Phil Jagielka (31) and Sylvain Distin (36), and Kevin Mirallas delivered a fantastic showing.

    This side should be scaring every title contender.

13. Borussia Dortmund

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    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    Last Week: 13

    Differential: None

    Borussia Dortmund will be sitting around stewing, desperate to get back into action and repair some of the damage they did to their own campaign in December.

    They've won just one of their last six league games as the injury bug hit Signal Iduna Park hard, forcing both first-choice centre-backs out of action and leaving Marian Sarr to grow up very quickly.

    With players back and a rest under their belts, how quickly can BVB get out of the blocks?

12. Roma

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    Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

    Last Week: 12

    Differential: None

    Roma's response to losing heavily to Juventus last week was first-class: a 4-0 destruction mission of poor old Genoa.

    The Giallorossi were at their scintillating best. They dominated possession and got four different players—two attackers, two defenders—on the scoresheet.

    Although sharing the goals out is always a positive, it may worry Rudi Garcia that his top league scorers are Mehdi Benatia and Alessandro Florenzi. Both are tied with five each. 

11. Napoli

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    Dino Panato/Getty Images

    Last Week: 11

    Differential: None

    Napoli were on upset alert on Saturday as they traveled to Verona, but a cool, calm performance saw them run out 3-0 winners and extend the gap between the two clubs in the table.

    With Internazionale drawing the next day, the Partenopei have been able to open up a 10-point lead on the Nerazzurri (who sit in fifth) and really only have Fiorentina to worry about at this point.

    A nice position to be in.

10. Liverpool

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    Clive Mason/Getty Images

    Last Week: 10

    Differential: None

    Liverpool and Stoke City played out an enthralling tie at the Britannia Stadium, and the Reds broke the record for the most amount of goals a visiting team has scored at the ground (five).

    It saw the return of Daniel Sturridge, the resumption of the "SAS" partnership and the continued brilliance of Luis Suarez, who scored twice to bring his seasonal tally to 22.

    Brendan Rodgers will be very pleased with the 51 goals they've scored already.

9. Real Madrid

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    David Ramos/Getty Images

    Last Week: 8

    Differential: -1

    Another week, another unconvincing Real Madrid performance.

    By no means are Espanyol slouches, but Carlo Ancelotti must be wondering what he has to do to get his side playing in the same manner both home and away from the Bernabeu.

    Los Blancos were dominant for 90 minutes, yet struggled to find the opener due to poor decision-making and a lack of cutting edge in the final third.

8. Chelsea

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    Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    Last Week: 9

    Differential: +1

    The KC Stadium represents a potential banana skin for any top Premier League club this season, but Chelsea were able to coast through their away date with Hull City and win 2-0.

    Eden Hazard took control of the game and scored a scintillating goal to open the scoring in the second half, then Fernando Torres scored the winner, his second in two games, at the 87th minute. 

    Chelsea are in title-winning form.

7. Arsenal

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    Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    Last Week: 7

    Differential: None

    Arsenal squeezed themselves over the finish line at Villa Park on Monday night's flagship game, beating off a late Aston Villa assault to win 2-1.

    Jack Wilshere and Olivier Giroud scored two goals inside one crazy first-half minute to give them a platform to defend, and although Christian Benteke's diving header gave the home side hope, they weren't able to capitalise on the momentum swing.

    Another gritty win for a potential championship side.

6. Manchester City

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    Stu Forster/Getty Images

    Last Week: 6

    Differential: None

    Manchester City certainly made life difficult for themselves, but they overcame a stubborn Newcastle United side 2-0 at St. James' Park.

    Edin Dzeko's early stabbed finish after the finest of team moves set them on their way, but Alan Pardew's men fought back and had a wonderstrike from Cheick Tiote disallowed.

    Alvaro Negredo (fortuitously) finished things off in the dying minutes, sending the Citizens temporarily top of the league.

5. Juventus

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    Enrico Locci/Getty Images

    Last Week: 5

    Differential: None

    Mauricio Pinilla put Cagliari ahead in their tie with Juventus on Sunday afternoon to spark a little confusion in the ranks, but the overriding quality reigned supreme as the Bianconeri bit back with four goals.

    Fernando Llorente led the charge on the scoresheet and Claudio Marchisio chipped in too, but it was Stephan Lichtsteiner, from right-wing-back, who was the real difference-maker on the pitch.

4. Barcelona

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    Denis Doyle/Getty Images

    Last Week: 4

    Differential: None

    Saturday represented a rare day in which Barcelona played, yet failed to score.

    Gerardo Martino's charges have scored a joint-league-high 53 Liga goals so far this season, but could not break down a stubborn Atletico Madrid defence packed with quality and discipline.

    Lionel Messi is back so that's a positive, but otherwise the Catalan outfit will be viewing it as two points dropped—no matter how strong los Colchoneros are at this time.

3. Paris Saint-Germain

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    Harry Engels/Getty Images

    Last Week: 3

    Differential: None

    Laurent Blanc performed some substitution heroics on Saturday to get a result at Ajaccio, with a late double change creating a winning goal for Blaise Matuidi.

    Les Parisiens enjoyed 73 percent of the possession against a true five-man defensive line and struggled to break through for much of the game, but in the end, managed to seal a vital three points.

    With Monaco and Lille dropping points, PSG are five clear atop Ligue 1.

2. Atletico Madrid

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    Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

    Last Week: 2

    Differential: None

    Atletico Madrid and Barcelona played to an entertaining 0-0 draw on Saturday, proving to us all once again that they essentially cannot be separated.

    The Liga title race will go right to the wire with a new contender in town, and that's great for Spain's domestic profile and could help them shed the "two-team league" tag.

    Even Lionel Messi's return at half-time couldn't breach Diego Simeone's defence.

1. Bayern Munich

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    Steve Bardens/Getty Images

    Last Week: 1

    Differential: None

    It's very hard to gauge what should be done with Bayern Munich while they rest on their winter break.

    Should they come off top spot, or is it harsh to remove them without giving them a chance to defend their own crown? Fortunately, none of the teams around them who are looking to commandeer first place performed exceptionally well, so we've left them top for another week.

    The Bundesliga resumes on the January 24...and we can't wait for it.