Power Ranking the Top 20 European Clubs: Liverpool, Dortmund, Barcelona Climb
Welcome again folks to our latest roundup of Europe's top clubs, in which we assess their efforts in their most recent fixtures and rank them accordingly.
A week of both domestic and continental fixtures have shaken things up somewhat, while we've also had a domestic cup final in England.
In Spain, we had a local derby between two of the top three sides; two of the top four in Germany played each other, and in France, Italy and Holland alike, the runaway leaders extended their advantage at the top of those tables.
Here's the top 20 for this week.
Honourable Mentions and Dropouts
Bayer Leverkusen made it three defeats on the spin at the weekend, and they are falling ever further away from our top 20.
Schalke also drop out of the top 20, though perhaps not for too long, after they suffered a horrendous week of two heavy defeats—albeit against arguably the top two sides in Europe at present, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.
Lille deserve a mention for some good recent form as they won 3-2 at Ajaccio at the weekend to go four unbeaten in Ligue 1.
Portugal's joint-most in-form side is Estoril, which have risen to fourth on the back of four straight wins. They won 4-0 at home to Olhanense at the weekend.
PSV have won five in a row and are inching their way back toward the European spots after a difficult season in Holland.
20. Sporting Lisbon
Last week: NEW!
Sporting Lisbon are a new entrant to our top 20, making it two clubs from the Portuguese Primeira Liga for the first time.
The club has been in fantastic form of late and have won three on the bounce, with their latest victory coming at home to Braga. Sporting left it late to claim victory, coming from behind to score twice inside the last 20 minutes, but the three points keeps them in touch with the league leaders.
Sporting sit second, five points off the pace, but they now hold a four-point lead over third-place Porto.
Last week: 20
Ajax stretched their lead at the top of the Eredivisie to a very healthy looking eight points at the weekend.
A difficult match at rivals Feyenoord ended in a 2-1 win, with defender Joel Veltman scoring the winner after his team had come from a losing position in the first half.
Ajax have won four of their last five matches now.
Last week: 16
Everton actually won at the weekend, picking up a 1-0 home win over an in-form West Ham United. Their drop in the rankings is not really a reflection on their form, rather that others around them have been even better of late.
Roberto Martinez's men are placed sixth in the table with one game in hand over most of those above them; a late Champions League charge isn't beyond the realms of possibility though it would require a significant drop in form from other sides to happen.
The top six and a European spot would be an excellent achievement for the side.
17. Tottenham Hotspur
Last week: 17
Tottenham got back to winning ways with a 1-0 win over relegation strugglers Cardiff City, but it was a largely unconvincing win which never really looked secure.
Spurs remain just on the fringes of the Champions League places, still in with a shout if they can enjoy a good run of form up to the end of the season.
They've taken 10 points from the last 15 games, so they will need to up that points per game ratio slightly over the last 10 matches.
16. Athletic Bilbao
Last week: 18
Athletic Bilbao continue their ascent up our rankings after another victory in La Liga.
Aritz Aduriz was the hero as he hit a hat-trick at home against Granada in a 4-0 win—Athletic's 10th home win from 14 league games in their new stadium.
The three points leaves the Basque side six points clear of their nearest challengers for fourth place, Villarreal, in the race for the Champions League spots.
Last week: 13
Monaco suffered a costly defeat at the weekend in their challenge for the Ligue 1 title.
Saint-Etienne inflicted a third league defeat of the season on Claudio Ranieri's men, with the 2-0 result bringing an end to Monaco's recent unbeaten run.
Monaco still have a healthy seven-point lead over third-place Lille, but they trail PSG now by eight points.
Last week: 14
Napoli could only manage a draw at relegation-threatened Livorno at the weekend, missing out on the chance to close the gap to the top two.
A penalty from Dries Mertens was not enough for the three points after Pepe Reina conceded an unfortunate own goal.
Napoli have now won only two in their last five.
Last week: 15
Nicolas Gaitan was on target early on in Benfica's match at Belenenses, with that strike enough to beat the relegation strugglers, 1-0.
Benfica have now picked up four wins in a row in the Liga Sagres and hold a five-point lead over Sporting Lisbon. They're looking good for another league title with nine games to play.
12. Atletico Madrid
Last week: 11
Atletico Madrid drop another place in our rankings and remain off the pace of the league leaders in La Liga.
El Derbi ended 2-2 as Real Madrid made the short trip to the Vicente Calderon, and though Atleti were the better side overall for much of the game, they allowed Real back in by sitting back too much in the second half. A late equaliser meant a share of the spoils, so no ground lost, but none gained back either.
Atleti have only claimed four points from the last available 12 as their title bid stutters.
Last week: 9
Roma were held to a rather drab 0-0 draw at home against Inter Milan in Serie A's Saturday match.
Another clean sheet means Roma have still only conceded 11 league goals this season, the second lowest in Europe's top five leagues.
They remain six points ahead of Napoli, but they are now 11 off top spot.
Last week: 8
Arsenal are in the midst of a very difficult run of games, but the Stoke fixture wasn't really seen as one of the most testing of them. Not that it was ever going to be easy, but with the likes of Bayern, Manchester City and Chelsea to come, this would have been one to mark as a win.
A somewhat toothless display saw the Gunners defeated 1-0 at what has become an extremely difficult place for them to get a result over the years, even though Stoke's home form has not been quite as imperious this year as previously.
Arsenal drop to third in the league, but they are still just four points off the lead.
9. Borussia Dortmund
Last week: 12
Borussia Dortmund made it four wins from five at the weekend as they regained second place in the Bundesliga.
A convincing second-half performance saw them run out 3-0 winners over Nurnberg, with Mats Hummels, Robert Lewandowski and Henrikh Mkhitaryan all on the scoresheet.
BVB are still a whopping 20 points off top spot, but reclaiming second was always going to be their league aim for the second half of this season.
Last week: 10
If anybody was still waiting for Liverpool to confirm themselves as in or out of the title race, this was probably the weekend which confirmed it.
A difficult trip to Southampton ended in a 3-0 win for the Reds, with Luis Suarez scoring one, making one and winning the penalty for the third in a virtuoso display.
Liverpool are now up to second place in the Premier League with 10 games to go, with leaders Chelsea still to visit Anfield later in the campaign. Brendan Rodgers' team are also the most in-form side in the league over the last six games.
Last week: 7
PSG took another big stride toward a second consecutive Ligue 1 title at the weekend with a 2-0 home win over Marseille, the day after watching Monaco lose by the same scoreline.
South American duo Maxwell and Edinson Cavani were on the scoresheet for PSG, stretching the league leaders' lead at the top to eight points.
6. Manchester City
Last week: 5
Manchester City took a break from league action at the weekend to win the Capital One Cup.
A Wembley victory and some silverware are nothing to ever be sniffed at, though everyone connected with the club has bigger prizes in mind for this season. In the grand scheme of the season, the League Cup is good, but more is expected.
The 3-1 win over Sunderland came from goals by Yaya Toure, Samir Nasri and Jesus Navas.
Last week: 3
It's harsh to drop a team down places after a win, but right at the top, where the best teams compete, performances, difficulty and the pressure involved in each game need to be used to separate a few sides.
Juventus moved 11 points clear at the top of Serie A with a 2-0 win over midtable AC Milan, taking advantage of Napoli and Roma only managing draws.
Last week: 6
Barcelona kicked their title fight back into life with a 4-1 thumping of Almeria at the weekend, bouncing back after last week's defeat to Real Sociedad.
That result, combined with the two Madrid clubs drawing, means Barca move back up to second in the league table, one point off top spot and with a two-point gap to Atleti in third.
3. Real Madrid
Last week: 2
Real Madrid took an early lead in the derby and would have hoped to have gone on to close it out and take a big three points. As it was, they needed to come from behind to salvage a point with Cristiano Ronaldo netting near the end after Karim Benzema had opened the scoring in the 2-2 draw.
They stay top of La Liga's table, despite their run of three wins in a row coming to an end, and Carlo Ancelotti's men still arguably look the best bet for the title.
Last week: 4
Chelsea were extremely poor in their first half against bottom club Fulham, but they turned up the pace after the break to hit three past their opponents.
Andre Schurrle netted a hat-trick before the home side scored a late consolation, with the three points—and Arsenal's defeat—meaning Jose Mourinho's side now enjoy a four-point lead at the top of the Premier League table.
With four wins out of the last five league games, it's looking good for the Blues as they chase another title.
1. Bayern Munich
Last week: 1
No surprises for top spot; Bayern remain first after absolutely walloping fourth-placed Schalke in the Bundesliga this weekend.
David Alaba, Arjen Robben and Mario Mandzukic were all on the scoresheet with the Dutchman netting a hat-trick. A Rafinha own goal was the only downside to the 5-1 win, which extends Bayern's lead at the top of the table to a massive 20 points.
The title beckons.