Power Ranking the Top 20 European Clubs: Barcelona and Chelsea Up, Arsenal Down
Welcome to this week’s instalment of our European Club Power Rankings.
The conclusion of the latest round of European competition has brought about a bit of movement, as have results from key contests in many of the continent’s top leagues. (You may have heard of El Clasico, for instance.)
Here’s how some of the biggest names in football shake down this week.
Tottenham Hotspur came from behind to beat Southampton on Sunday, but their Europa League exit, coupled with results elsewhere, see them drop out of this Power Ranking—temporarily, at least.
Lille recorded an impressive draw away to Monaco the last time out and are now unbeaten in seven Ligue 1 matches.
Ajax are six points clear atop the Eredivisie, but they’ve posted back-to-back draws against Feyenoord and Cambuur.
Sevilla defeated city rivals Real Betis on penalties to progress in the Europa League and have also won five straight in La Liga.
20. PSV Eindhoven
Last week: NEW!
PSV Eindhoven have rocketed up the Eredivisie table in 2014 and are now just six points adrift of leaders Ajax.
An eight-match winning streak (they haven’t dropped a point since February 2) has taken the 21-time champions from the fringes of the European places to title contention, and if they can maintain their form over their final five matches, they just might leapfrog the Amsterdam giants into first place.
PSV last won the Dutch championship in 2008.
Last week: 18
Everton have posted home wins over the Premier League’s Welsh clubs in their most recent matches, and with nine rounds to play, they sit sixth in the English top flight, just two points back of Tottenham Hotspur.
They also hold a three-point lead on seventh-placed Manchester United, despite having a game in hand.
18. Sporting Lisbon
Last week: 19
Sporting Lisbon were shut out of the European places last season, finishing a disappointing seventh in Portugal’s Primeira Liga.
Presently second in the division with six rounds to play, the 18-time champions are back in rather more familiar territory and even enjoy a five-point cushion on reigning champions Porto.
Saturday’s 3-1 win away to Maritimo extended their unbeaten run to six matches, and they’ll be looking to make it seven this weekend when they host Guimaraes.
17. Athletic Bilbao
Last week: 17
The goals have dried up for Athletic Bilbao in recent weeks, but the Basque outfit have nevertheless managed to pick up important points in La Liga.
Markel Susaeta scored the only goal in Athletic’s 1-0 win at home to Getafe on Saturday—a victory that followed 1-1 draws against both Valencia and Villarreal.
Currently fourth in the Spanish top flight, Los Leones boast the best defensive record outside the cities of Madrid and Barcelona.
Last week: 14
Napoli followed up their Europa League elimination at the hands of Porto with a 1-0 loss to domestic rivals Fiorentina on Sunday.
Manager Rafael Benitez’s side have now won only two of their last five matches in Serie A—a stretch in which they’ve managed just four goals.
They’ll look to break out against lowly Catania on Wednesday, although a showdown with league leaders Juventus awaits on Sunday.
Last week: 16
Don’t look now, but Schalke have climbed to third in the Bundesliga and are only a point back of second-place Borussia Dortmund with eight matches to play.
Despite crashing out of the Champions League to Real Madrid on 9-2 aggregate, the Royal Blues have managed to continue their ascent up the domestic table and enter Tuesday’s showdown with Dortmund on a three-game winning run.
Their March 1 loss to Bayern Munich represents their only Bundesliga defeat since the first week of December.
Last week: 15
Benfica saw off Tottenham Hotspur’s Europa League challenge last Thursday, then thumped Academica 3-0 on Sunday.
The current Primeira Liga leaders, Benfica have lost only once this term and haven’t dropped a single point since February 1—a stretch of seven matches.
Lima’s brace against Academica took him into a share of first place on the team’s domestic goalscoring chart alongside Rodrigo. Both players have scored nine times in the Portuguese top flight.
Last week: 13
Monaco are far and away the second-best team in France and currently enjoy a nine-point lead on third-placed Lille.
But les Dogues bit into the principality side’s lead on Sunday, drawing 1-1 at Stade Louis II.
Next up for Monaco is a French Cup encounter at home to Lens, after which they’ll have winnable matches against Evian and Nantes in Ligue 1.
Last week: 12
Two weeks after Napoli became just the second team to beat them this season, AS Roma are back to winning ways—having posted victories at home to Udinese and away to Chievo.
The Giallorossi continue to enjoy the best defensive record in Serie A, and while they won’t catch runaway leaders Juventus, they look a good bet to hold off the third-placed Partenopei, whom they lead by six points.
Last week: 10
A 6-0 loss is never helpful in the Power Ranking exercise, and Arsenal’s heavy defeat to Chelsea has seen them drop a place to 11th in this ledger.
That said, the Gunners are still solidly in the Premier League’s Champions League positions and lead fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur by six points, having played a game fewer.
But their demolition at Stamford Bridge, which came just over a month after a 5-1 loss at Anfield, has set off some alarm bells, and how they handle the emergency over the coming weeks will determine the comfort with which they conclude their schedule.
10. Borussia Dortmund
Last week: 11
It’s been a rather topsy-turvy 2014 for Borussia Dortmund, but their 3-0 win away to Hannover on Saturday kept them second to Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga. They’ll also contest the quarter-finals of the Champions League after eliminating Zenit St. Petersburg from the round of 16.
Robert Lewandowski’s 16 goals have been crucial to Dortmund this term, especially in light of the injury trouble that has plagued the club since the autumn.
Lewandowski, of course, is off to Bayern at season’s end, but for now his current side are enjoying his latest purple patch in the yellow-and-black shirt.
Last week: 8
Liverpool twice came from behind against Cardiff on Saturday and wound up prevailing 6-3 in one of the Premier League’s most entertaining encounters of the season.
Luis Suarez, who leads the English top flight in scoring, struck a hat-trick for the Reds while Daniel Sturridge—the division’s second-highest scorer—found the back of the net as well.
After 30 matches, Liverpool are second in the standings, although their two-point lead on third-placed Manchester City may shrink as the Citizens play their two matches in hand.
8. Atletico Madrid
Last week: 9
Atletico Madrid rose a spot in La Liga on Sunday (they’re now the league leaders), and as a result they also move up a peg in this Power Ranking.
While city rivals Real Madrid were losing 4-3 to Barcelona in El Clasico, Los Colchoneros were beating Real Betis 2-0 in Seville thanks to goals from Gabi and Diego Costa.
The latter has now scored 23 goals in the Spanish top flight this season and trails Cristiano Ronaldo by just three tallies.
7. Manchester City
Last week: 7
Manchester City didn’t even need to get out of second gear to beat Fulham 5-0 on Saturday.
They didn’t, as it turned out, require the services of the injured Sergio Aguero either, as all five goals came from the midfield (Yaya Toure and Fernandinho) and defense (Martin Demichelis).
Should City win their three matches in hand, they’ll leapfrog Chelsea into first place in the Premier League, with a superior goal difference to boot.
6. Paris Saint-Germain
Last week: 6
Paris Saint-Germain’s 1-0 win over Lorient on Friday was their sixth straight win in Ligue 1 and stretched their lead on second-placed Monaco to an insurmountable 10 points heading into the 31st matchday of the campaign.
PSG, who belted Bayer Leverkusen out of Champions League, are eager to test themselves against Chelsea in the quarter-finals of Europe’s most prestigious club competition, and given the form of Zlatan Ibrahimovic (never mind that of Salvatore Sirigu, Thiago Silva, Blaise Matuidi and Thiago Motta), they’ll likely be more than a match for the Premier League leaders.
Last week: 3
Juventus drop two pegs this week because of results elsewhere—their Serie A form hardly merits a demotion.
A 1-0 win over Catania in Sicily represented the Bianconeri’s fifth successive clean sheet, and while they rarely overwhelm their opponents offensively, they’re well nigh impenetrable in front of goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.
Thursday’s 1-0 win away to Fiorentina also put Juventus into the last eight of the Europa League.
Last week: 4
Chelsea followed up a 2-0 win over Galatasaray in the Champions League with a 6-0 drubbing of Arsenal on Saturday.
The win maintained the Blues' four-point lead on Liverpool atop the Premier League table, and although Manchester City could still take the summit by winning their matches at hand, Chelsea’s straightforward run-in could prove the difference between now and May 11.
Last week: 5
Barcelona were third in La Liga and trailed leaders Real Madrid by four points going into Sunday’s El Clasico, but at the final whistle at the Bernabeu, they had pulled to within a single point of the summit and established the tie-breaker with their eternal rivals.
Lionel Messi notched a hat-trick in the match, and with eight goals from his last four outings, any thoughts the Argentine has suffered a drop in form have surely been put out of mind.
Atletico Madrid are now the Catalans' primary rival, as the two sides will go head-to-head in the Champions League quarter-finals and also face one another in a crucial Primera Division showdown.
2. Real Madrid
Last week: 2
They may have lost Sunday’s El Clasico (it was their first defeat in La Liga since an October loss to Barcelona), but Real Madrid are still domestic favourites given their favourable schedule to conclude the season.
Fifth-placed Sevilla represent Los Blancos’ most difficult opposition over the final nine matchdays, and only two of their remaining matches will be played against top-seven sides.
Despite the El Clasico defeat, Madrid have dropped only seven points in 2014 and should also be favoured to overcome Borussia Dortmund in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
1. Bayern Munich
Last week: 1
Immovable Bayern Munich.
Once again the German powerhouses top our Power Ranking. They haven’t dropped points in the Bundesliga since October 5—a run of 18 matches—and in 2014 have outscored their domestic opposition by a combined 34-4.
With a 23-point lead atop the German top flight, another Bundesliga title is imminent, and they’re widely expected to beat Manchester United in the Champions League quarter-finals as well.
In fact, anything less than retention of their historic treble will be viewed as failure at Bayern—proof, if any were needed, that they are the very best club in Europe.