Early European Power Rankings: Arsenal and Barcelona Threaten Status Quo
Earlier this week we brought you an early look at some Premier League team rankings, and now we're diving in headfirst to bring you a full European perspective.
It's a measure of where the teams are, right now, in terms of pre-season preparation and transfer moves in the summer market. Basic strength of the squad and managerial comfort plays a part in the ordering too.
It's not a prediction of how they'll finish come the 2014-15 season's end; it's a primer to get you excited for another epic European campaign.
The Monaco project currently lays flat on its back, bereft of the ability to keep its star players around and failing to identify suitable replacements in the market.
Losing James Rodriguez is a hammer blow, but the club seem content even to sell the likes of Emmanuel Riviere if the price is right. Questions remain over Radamel Falcao's physical condition and commitment to the project, and their Russian benefactor has gone mysteriously quiet too.
19. FC Porto
FC Porto spent the entirety of last season in Benfica's shadow, but they're moving through the gears in this transfer window; while their rivals are losing players en masse, the Dragoes are gaining them.
Right now, FCP look the strongest team in the Liga Sagres and seem unlikely to lose any more of their key outlets, with Fernando Reges the only significant departure.
Yacine Brahimi will ignite the Estadio Dragao.
Marseille are back in contention at the top of the Ligue 1 table thanks to the appointment of one rather exciting coach, and the Argentine tactician's fluid 3-3-1-3 formation is already in place at the Stade Velodrome.
L'OM will be well worth your time next season.
17. Tottenham Hotspur
Mauricio Pochettino's Tottenham Hotspur have started pre-season superbly, and their 3-2 victory over Toronto FC showed Erik Lamela in Roma-esque form.
That's a big plus point, as many who believe Spurs need to spend bucket loads to contest the top four have forgotten just how good the Argentina ace was 14 months ago.
With Ben Davies brought in to fill the left-back conundrum, this team is nearly complete.
Schalke are shaping up as the third-best team in the Bundesliga at this early stage, and the primary reason for this is that they've so far been able to keep hold of all of their key players.
With Julian Draxler and Max Meyer seemingly on board for another season at the Veltins Arena, the Royal Blues can enjoy the pre-season preparations rather than worry about losing their star players.
15. Athletic Bilbao
Athletic Bilbao are gearing up for a long-awaited UEFA Champions League campaign but must do so without playmaker Ander Herrera.
The 24-year-old spurned the chance to lead Los Leones into Europe's elite competition after Manchester United came calling, and Ernesto Valverde has a big problem in replacing him.
The cantera recruitment policy means his options are very limited.
Rafa Benitez will reload and have another crack at overhauling the Serie A status quo, but just as Juventus weaken themselves and look ripe for overtaking, Roma have surged and look set to take their place.
There has been absolutely no transfer activity at the club so far, but that's not a big concern, as the Partenopei return a stronger outfit thanks to the January business they did this year.
A full year of Faouzi Ghoulam is an enticing prospect.
Liverpool have some work to do in the transfer window and need to catch up quickly.
The brief coming into the summer was clear: Don't lose Luis Suarez, buy two full-backs and find a better, more physical defensive midfielder.
Emre Can has been drafted in, which is a big positive, but they lost their Uruguayan talisman and have seemingly replaced him with Adam Lallana and Lazar Markovic.
Roma are edging slowly closer to the title of de facto No. 1 team in Italy, and their incredibly strong summer has added meat to the bones of a squad set to challenge on dual fronts next season.
In particular, upgrading at left-back (Ashley Cole) and on the wing (Juan Iturbe) has helped them move to a near-level status with Juventus in Serie A.
Rudi Garcia looks set to work another magical season, and if Mehdi Benatia stays they might just be title favourites.
Juventus may have acquired Alvaro Morata this week for £15 million, but the general estimation of the club has gone down.
Why? Because Antonio Conte resigned and the club moved quickly to secure Massimiliano Allegri—a widely disliked coach in some parts of Italy due to his questionable work with Milan in recent seasons.
Do the Old Lady have the personnel to play what is essentially a 4-3-1-2 formation?
10. Manchester United
Louis van Gaal's Manchester United revolution started with a 7-0 victory over L.A. Galaxy, with even Ashley Young putting in a solid showing.
The Dutchman confirmed to the Daily Mail's Ian Ladyman after the game that he would continue with the 3-4-3/3-5-2 formation for the upcoming season, as he lacks balance in his squad and has too many attacking players.
9. Borussia Dortmund
Borussia Dortmund have done their business quickly and are busy gearing up for the new season stylistically.
An inevitable stylistic change will occur as the club depart from Robert Lewandowski's complete play and switch to the more limited style of Ciro Immobile and Adrian Ramos, but how will it affect Jurgen Klopp's plan?
This is a team in transition, and it'll be interesting to see how they carve out their chances.
8. Atletico Madrid
Atletico Madrid may have won La Liga last year, but they'll start the 2014-15 campaign as the third-best side in the division due to the mass player exodus they've had to endure.
Diego Costa, David Villa, Adrian, Thibaut Courtois and Filipe Luis are all gone, and in their place fresh players are hoping to contribute to a new, exciting project.
Jan Oblak, Mario Mandzukic and Guilherme Siqueira is a strong start.
7. Paris Saint-Germain
Paris Saint-Germain have found a creative way to avoid Financial Fair Play rules: loan players with a promise to buy next summer when their figures look stronger.
That's how they've recruited Serge Aurier from Toulouse to lock up the right-back spot, and if they tab Angel Di Maria from Real Madrid too, they're going to be one hell of a side.
Arsene Wenger is assembling a deep squad packed with talent and tactical versatility, and he's found his key impact player, Alexis Sanchez, to feed off last summer's star signing, Mesut Ozil.
Jack Wilshere must be looking at the midfield squad list and worrying about whether he's going to get a game at this rate, and every member of the team back in pre-season training looks fresh and ready to go.
5. Manchester City
Manuel Pellegrini's cleverness in the transfer market is shining through again, with Bacary Sagna, Willy Caballero and Fernando Reges all signing before pre-season began.
With Chelsea and Arsenal visibly strengthening around them, the Citizens know retaining the Premier League title will be a battle this season, so the manager's decision to bulk up at right-back and in midfield is wise.
Chelsea are our highest-ranked Premier League team, and they leapfrog Atletico Madrid on the basis that they have stolen two of their best players this summer.
Jose Mourinho must have taken a particular old saying to heart after losing to Diego Simeone's side in the UEFA Champions League semi-finals last season, because he will enter the new campaign with Diego Costa and Filipe Luis in tow.
Barcelona appear reinvigorated by the new project under way at Camp Nou, and Luis Enrique appears to be a popular choice for manager, given his club history and recent heroics with Celta Vigo.
They've picked up Luis Suarez in a blockbuster transfer, but they will need to wait to use him due to his ban. They've also paid £15 million for Jeremy Mathieu of Valencia.
That second deal is intriguing: It allows Barca to switch back to the fluid back-four/back-three defence they ran with Eric Abidal when they were so successful in Europe.
2. Bayern Munich
Bayern Munich were humiliated in the UEFA Champions League semi-finals last season and have some work to do to catch Real Madrid.
Juan Bernat will now compete with David Alaba at left-back or push the Austrian into midfield, and the long-awaited signing of Robert Lewandowski should transform their attack.
Primed to take revenge?
1. Real Madrid
Fresh off winning the UEFA Champions League, Real Madrid have gotten stronger during the 2014 summer break.
Florentino Perez has awarded Carlo Ancelotti a fresh set of midfielders worth over €100 million to take on the new season, and the Italian must once again find a way to knit his star-filled group into a viable team.
They're not budging an inch for now.