Power Ranking the Top 25 European Clubs After Weekend of September 22-25
Welcome to the latest edition of our European club power rankings, where we order the top teams on the continent based on early season form and squad strength.
The Premier League is in full swing, La Liga has returned and the Bundesliga's back too. With just Serie A left to kick off among Europe's major leagues, how does a fresh slate of games affect the order?
The new season is taking shape!
25. Manchester United
Last Week: 13
Manchester United ground out a draw at the Stadium of Light on Sunday when they probably should have lost. Usually this is a great trait and great habit, but when you're playing Sunderland...with respect, you have to win!
The Red Devils are plummeting in our rankings due to the fact they've acquired just one point from two games in which they should have secured six.
Last Week: 25
As ever, we speak to B/R's Ligue 1 correspondent, Jonathan Johnson, for an AS Monaco update:
"Leonardo Jardim's men finally got off the mark for the season with a narrow 1-0 win away at FC Nantes. However, it was far from convincing.
"Had goalkeeper Danijel Subasic not saved the first-half penalty that he conceded, Les Monegasques could and probably would have gone on to lose the game.
"Despite another poor performance though, the principality outfit's first three-point haul of the season will alleviate some of the pressure that had been building around Stade Louis II."
Last Week: 22
As ever, we speak to B/R's Ligue 1 correspondent, Jonathan Johnson, for a Lille update:
"Lille seem to have picked up where they left off last season after a 2-0 win over FC Lorient last week. Rene Girard's men are yet to concede a single goal in Ligue 1 and are making the most of the chances that they create going forward.
"Without further investment, there will come a time when Les Dogues struggle for goals. However, that rock-solid defence makes them so difficult to beat and they have the chance to put some early distance between themselves and Monaco, who will also be UEFA Champions League qualification rivals."
Last Week: 16
Ajax's perfect start to the season ended with a home loss to PSV Eindhoven. Phillip Cocu outdueled Frank de Boer on the touchline and saw his side come away with a mightily impressive 3-1 scoreline.
The reigning Dutch champions drop in our rankings as a result of the game and due to the belief that Daley Blind could leave for Manchester United—despite the Press Association (h/t The Guardian) carrying quotes from his agent cooling interest for now.
Last Week: New!
As ever, we speak to B/R's Ligue 1 correspondent, Jonathan Johnson, for a Bordeaux update:
"Willy Sagnol is enjoying a sensational start to life at Girondins de Bordeaux. The former French international has inspired Les Girondins to three wins from their opening three games, and they are the only team with a 100 percent record remaining in France.
"Sagnol has shown himself to be tactically impressive, and Bordeaux are currently looking like a team capable of becoming Ligue 1's strongest once again."
20. PSV Eindhoven
Last Week: 23
A big result in the Eredivisie this weekend saw PSV Eindhoven topple last year's champions Ajax at the Amsterdam ArenA.
The 3-1 scoreline didn't flatter Ajax, and though they dominated possession of the ball, Luciano Narsingh punished the home side on the counterattack and put their ailing defence to the sword.
Memphis Depay scored again, obviously.
Last Week: 24
Everton should—should—have come away with a victory on Saturday evening, leading Arsenal 2-0 with 10 minutes to go.
But the energy levels dropped and Arsene Wenger shuffled his pack, leading to a late comeback and a share of the spoils.
Two games in, and the Toffees have just two points when they deserved six—a damning early indictment on their top-four hopes.
18. Bayer Leverkusen
Last Week: New!
Talk about your instant impact!
Roger Schmidt, famed tactician fresh off a strong yet short career at Red Bull Salzburg, led his Bayer Leverkusen side to an opening weekend win at Signal Iduna Park on Saturday.
His 4-2-2-2 formation looked brilliant, and his use of players a cut above.
Last Week: 20
Boavista's fairytale return to the Liga Sagres continued in miserable fashion courtesy of a defeat to Benfica.
The Eagles are rolling onward, yet to concede a goal and even managing to extract a strong, scoring performance from Eliseu, who looked a little...overweight in pre-season.
16. FC Porto
Last Week: 19
FC Porto beat Pacos de Ferreira 1-0 to record their second successive victory of the Liga Sagres season, seeing Jackson Martinez net and wunderkind Ruben Neves play another good game.
Julen Lopetegui's men are clearly looking the strongest side in Portugal again after a summer overhaul, but it's the youngster Neves whom everyone is raving about, not Yacine Brahimi and Co.
15. Zenit St Petersburg
Last Week: 18
Zenit St Petersburg made it five wins from five games under Andre Villas-Boas in 2013-14, beating Amkar 2-0 at home in comfortable fashion.
Hulk made it five goals and four assists in five games, per WhoScored.com, and Javi Garcia made an impressive debut by dominating in midfield.
Last Week: 15
Tony Mahoney of Goal.com believes Napoli can win the Serie A title this season, pipping Juventus and Roma to the post:
Napoli play a brand of football that most outdated Italian clubs can’t live with. Benitez’s 4-2-3-1, which relies on selective pressing and quick counter-attacking bursts, provides a width and directness that many sides playing 3-5-2 just don’t possess.
The Southerners boast the best striker in Serie A in Gonzalo Higuain and have goals throughout their squad in the form of Jose Callejon, Dries Mertens, Marek Hamsik and Lorenzo Insigne. If these stars in particular stay fit, then Napoli could win their first Scudetto since 1990.
13. Borussia Dortmund
Last Week: 11
Borussia Dortmund's DFL Supercup victory against Bayern Munich is now a distant memory, with a hugely disappointing opening-day loss to Bayer Leverkusen in the forefront of everyone's minds.
The nature of the defeat, as well as the 2-0 scoreline, was embarrassing considering the expectation at Signal Iduna Park, and it may well be that Jurgen Klopp's asinine 4-3-1-2 (diamond) doesn't stick around for long.
Last Week: 10
Liverpool's 3-1 loss to Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Monday highlighted some concerning defensive frailties, but ultimately you shouldn't read too much into the result.
Away to the Citizens is arguably the hardest fixture on the calendar, and the Reds came close to launching a late comeback through Rickie Lambert's hustle and bustle.
11. Tottenham Hotspur
Last Week: 14
Tottenham Hotspur have started the season superbly, with Mauricio Pochettino sitting on two victories and two clean sheets to begin the campaign.
Erik Lamela has come alive, and that's bad, bad news for the rest of the league. On form, he's a playmaker in the top tier, and he cost €30 million from Roma for a reason.
Last Week: 12
It's all change at Roma at just the wrong time, as according to Football Italia, Mehdi Benatia is off to Bayern Munich for €30 million on the eve of the new season.
Per the same source, Kostas Manolas is reportedly the target to replace him and will complete a €13 million move to the Italian capital after completing a medical.
Manolas is an ideal replacement, but losing the heartbeat of your defence is never a positive. Roma are making money in the deal, as it is in their nature to do, but they've absolutely been weakened despite their quickness in acquiring a replacement.
9. Paris Saint-Germain
Last Week: 9
As ever, we speak to B/R's Ligue 1 correspondent, Jonathan Johnson, for a Paris Saint-Germain update:
"The French champions' slow start to the Ligue 1 season continues; they were held to a 0-0 draw by Evian last Friday. However, they will not be concerned by their average start as PSG are traditionally slow out of the blocks.
"With a number of FIFA World Cup stars yet to return to their best shape, don't expect Laurent Blanc's men to hit their peak until at least September. Zlatan Ibrahimovic's return for Sunday's clash with AS Saint-Etienne will be a big boost."
8. Atletico Madrid
Last Week: 7
Atletico Madrid stumbled to a 0-0 draw on their opening night away to Rayo Vallecano—a dismal, disappointing result considering the circumstances.
Having beaten archrivals Real Madrid in the Supercopa de Espana last week over two legs we expected this group to move from strength to strength. But Diego Simeone's absence from the touchline, enforced from a ban carrying over from last season, per the Associated Press (h/t USA Today) affected the team.
To tell the truth, it felt like a matter of time until Rayo netted.
Last Week: 5
Arsenal scraped a draw from the bottom of the barrel on Saturday evening against Everton, making it two questionable performances and two questionable team selections from Arsene Wenger on the bounce.
Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud popped up late to bag a goal each after the positive introduction of Santi Cazorla, but Giroud went down with an injury late on and, according to Dominic Fifield The Guardian, fears he broke his ankle.
Last Week: 8
Juventus are now gearing up for a season without Antonio Conte, but owner John Elkan is adamant Massimiliano Allegri is the right man to secure a fourth straight Scudetto. He told reporters:
We have always done great things and I am sure we can continue that with Allegri. He feels profoundly connected to Juventus and confessed to me he has always been a Bianconeri fan. A new era begins and it will certainly be ambitious.
The fans' aims are to win the Champions League and defend our league title. Juve has the same ones, we have won a lot in the past and now our aim is still the same."
The Old Lady move up after Arsenal and Atletico's poor performances despite not playing a game themselves.
5. Manchester City
Last Week: 6
Edin Dzeko's injured? No problem: Stevan Jovetic is here, he's fit and he's scoring goals.
His two finishes against Liverpool, hauling Manchester City into a two-goal lead over last season's closest title rivals, were fantastic, poacherific strikes.
Right now, Man City are simply powering through their opposition on a weekly basis.
4. Bayern Munich
Last Week: 4
Bayern Munich entered the season fresh off a hammering from Borussia Dortmund but got off to a winning start in the league against Wolfsburg.
They rode their luck at times—Junior Malanda really should have scored an equaliser late on for Die Wolfe—but they're still playing with a skeleton squad after World Cup fitness issues and a Javi Martinez injury.
Last Week: 3
Chelsea eased to a 2-0 victory over Leicester City at home on Saturday, seeing Diego Costa and Eden Hazard score and Thibaut Courtois keep his first clean sheet.
The Blues weren't outstanding but stepped it up at the right time; Jose Mourinho may well have lost or drawn this game last season, and the fact that they didn't this time around should be of big concern to those around them.
Last Week: 2
Barcelona began the new Luis Enrique era in style, beating a Carlos Sanchez-less Elche 3-0 at the Camp Nou despite seeing Javier Mascherano sent off in the first half.
It was an easy game—Elche sat back and tried to avoid a beating—but Barca still had a good shape, moved the ball quickly and created chances.
Lionel Messi, among others, looked refreshed.
1. Real Madrid
Last Week: 1
Real Madrid struggled to find fluency in their 2014-15 Liga bow but ground out a victory all the same.
Cordoba goalkeeper Juan Carlos was only really tested via set pieces in the first half despite Los Blancos' dominance on the ball, but Toni Kroos was truly impressive in a controller role.
To get James Rodriguez in for another start is a big positive.