The final eight Champions League clubs are now known. The ties are as follows:
Real Madrid vs. Spurs (April 5, 2011)
Inter vs. Schalke (April 5, 2011)
Barcelona vs. Shakhtar Donetsk (April 6, 2011)
Based on the final round of 16 results from last week, the top 10 leagues in Europe (based on UEFA coefficient) are:
- England (16.93)
- Germany (14.83)
- Spain (14.79)
- Portugal (14.40)
- Italy (11.57)
- Netherlands (11.00)
- Russia (10.92)
- France (10.75)
- Ukraine (9.75)
- Greece (7.60)
The top 10 clubs (based on UEFA coefficient) are:
- Real Madrid (26.96)
- Manchester United (26.39)
- Chelsea (26.39)
- Shakhtar Donetsk (25.95)
- Schalke 04 (24.97)
- Barcelona (24.96)
- Tottenham Hotspur (24.39)
- Bayern Munich (23.97)
- Arsenal (22.39)
- Inter (21.31)
Bear in mind that these coefficients are only based on the currently 2010/11 season. UEFA likes to use a five-year rolling average to determine Champions League draws and strength of league. If we used that metric, the results would be much different. The point of these rankings is to produce a power ranking of which teams are playing the best this season.
The above rankings directly come from UEFA and take into account both Champions League and Europa League play. They aggregate the performance of all the participating teams from a certain league (say the EPL) to determine the league ranking. So if the EPL teams went further in European play than any other league's teams, England would have the highest ranking and would rightly be considered the strongest league.
The one problem I see is that this only measures the strength of those teams from each national league which actually participate in Europe. That's fine for the top clubs in each league. But what about the clubs in the middle of the table? Is Hamburg better than Liverpool? Is Sevilla better than Everton?
The UEFA coefficient is basing the strength of the national league soley on the performance of its top teams. But what about a league like La Liga where the league is dominated by the top two clubs? How many of the other La Liga teams would be above mid-table in the EPL? What about Portugal, where Porto and Benfica have dominated so completely over their history? Could any of the other Portuguese teams survive in the EPL? We'll have to leave these questions aside for now. It's just something to think about.
This week's top 10 domestic clubs (after adjusting for the aforementioned strength of league) are:
- Real Madrid
- Manchester United
- Borussia Dortmund
- Manchester City
- Tottenham Hotspur
- Bayer 04 Leverkusen
You may be wondering how teams like Porto and Leverkusen are making the cut here. In Porto's case, they are 16 points clear of Benfica with 68 total points. Portugal also happens to be the 4th strongest league in Europe this year based on UEFA's numbers. Those two factors combined to give Porto its place this week.
In Leverkusen's case, they're currently second in the Bundesliga with 55 points, trailing Dortmund by 7. That, coupled with the fact that Germany is now the second strongest league in the world, elevated them into the top 10 ahead of teams like AC Milan, Bayern Munich, Inter, and Napoli.
This week, the rankings are especially difficult for one important reason. You'll notice that Arsenal (despite being knocked out of the Champions League), is the ninth strongest team in Europe. They're also the fourth strongest domestic team. In theory, any team that makes the top 10 in both categories should make the overall top 10. Normally, I start with the teams that are still alive in the Champions League and cross check that against their domestic season. Based on that methodology, here are this week's top 10:
- Barcelona (6th in Europe, 1st domestic)
- Real Madrid (1st in Europe, 2nd domestic)
- Manchester United (tied 2nd in Europe, 3rd domestic)
- Chelsea (tied for 2nd in Europe, 7th domestic)
- Arsenal (9th in Europe, 4th domestic)
- Tottenham Hotspur (7th in Europe, 9th domestic)
- Inter (10th in Europe, 18th domestic)
- Bayern Munich (8th in Europe, 17th domestic)
- Porto (12th in Europe, 5th domestic)
- Valencia (11th in Europe, 11th domestic)
Of the eight teams remaining in the Champions League, the one that doesn't make the cut is Schalke. Despite being fifth in Europe (24.97), they're not even in the top 40 domestically. Bayern, despite being eliminated, is still eighth in Europe and 17th domestically. Despite being slightly better in both departments than Inter, Inter is still playing in Europe and I thought they deserved the nod here.
The last three slots were very difficult. Now that we're down to the final eight in the Champions League, how do you assign the last three spots (one as a Schalke replacement, plus two more)? Valencia is currently 11th in Europe and 11th domestically. That's a pretty good season if you ask me.
Could they beat someone like Manchester City who is having a better domestic season in a more difficult league? That's debatable. But I thought they deserved some props here. Porto is having a fantastic season all the way around. Even after adjusting for the strength of the Portuguese league, they're still top five domestically and number 12 in Europe.
You could reasonably argue that Arsenal is a better squad than Spurs. They're within striking distance of the EPL title, and they played very well in Europe. In fact, it's possible that had they not played Barcelona, and had Van Persie not been sent off, they would have advanced.
I feel like we need to reward Spurs for advancing, but they've had several opportunities in the last few weeks to pull level or even pass Chelsea for fourth in the EPL. They haven't done so, and they tied again with West Ham this weekend.
Arsenal hasn't had a great run since they lost to Barcelona either, losing 2-0 at Old Trafford in the FA Cup, and drawing 2-2 at West Brom this past weekend. Still, I suspect that if the two sides played, Arsenal would find a way to win. I'm a Spurs fan, but I think you have to give Arsenal a slight edge here. They've had a brutal schedule having played Barcelona and Man U back to back. Whereas Spurs have had the likes of Wolves, Milan, and West Ham and they've drawn all three. Edge to Gunners.
The one that really bothers me this week is Chelsea. They're tied for second in Europe (26.39) and they're seventh domestically. The numbers justify their position this week. But does anyone really think Chelsea is that good this year? They stumbled in the EPL early on, and despite clawing their way back to third, I don't know how I really feel about them at this point. A 2-0 win against Man City this weekend is helping them to build momentum as they head into the final stretch of the season. I think it's justified, but I still don't like it.
I look forward to this week's debate. Feel free to list your own top ten. If you feel I missed a club who belonged on the list, please let me know. If you think I botched the order up, let me know that too.
Hope you all have a great week!