European Power Rankings: 25 Best Football Teams in Europe Right Now
So many factors go into power rankings, especially in football.
How do you weigh a team's successes in a lower league against another team's successes in a better league? How important is recent form versus overall form?
How much does a team's history factor into their ranking; do you keep the team artificially high because of their pedigree, or let them drop when they start performing poorly?
These are just some of the questions that need to be asked when power ranking teams against one another from different leagues.
NBA, NFL, MLB Power Rankings—all of them are considerably easier because everyone plays in the same league. Here, in the European (Football) Power Rankings, we'll be comparing teams across 9-10 different leagues.
B/R's Michael Cummings normally does an excellent job with these, but today I'll be taking a crack at it. Let's get to it.
Next match: Away at Sunderland, EPL Matchday 28, March 10
Liverpool's Carling Cup victory last Sunday ensured that Liverpool's players, management and fans all had something to take away from this season, and guaranteed European qualification as well.
But the loss to Arsenal at home quickly brought Liverpool to reality. Liverpool dominated the game, but once again the finishing was lacking and the absence of an out-and-out goal scorer once again hurt the team's results.
The loss puts Liverpool 10 points off fourth, and gives Liverpool an abysmal record of only one win, two draws and four losses in their last seven games. Even with their game in hand, the chances of Liverpool catching up with Arsenal or Spurs for a Champions League spot now are very, very slim.
24. Borussia Monchengladbach
Last match: Lost 1-0 to Nurnberg at Nurnberg (Bundesliga, Matchday 24)
Next match: Home vs Freiburg, Bundesliga Matchday 25, March 10
What once looked like a tight title race among the Bundesliga's top four looks to have come to a rather quick end, as Borussia Dortmund has pulled away from Schalke, Bayern Munich and Borussia Monchengladbach.
All three teams have struggled as of late, allowing Dortmund to open up a seven-point gap.
Gladbach's form hasn't been as concerning as Schalke's or Bayern Munich's, but the team will need to step it up after getting only one point out of the last two games and winning only two of their last six games if they hope to hold onto their Champions League spot.
23. AZ Alkmaar
Last match: Beat Heracles Almelo 3-1 in Alkmaar (Eredivisie, Matchday 24)
Next match: Home vs Udinese, Europa League Round of 16 First Leg, March 8
AZ are having a great season, and they picked up a good win over Heracles in the Eredivisie to stay first in the league.
AZ will have to keep winning and limit mistakes if they wish to claim the title at the end of the season.
AZ are also doing well on the European level, having knocked out Belgian giants Anderlecht in the Round of 32 of the Europa League. Udinese will be a much tougher prospect for the Dutch league leaders, but the Italians will also serve as a great barometer of AZ's true quality.
22. FC Twente
Last match: Beat PSV Eindhoven 6-2 at Eindhoven (Eredivisie, Matchday 24)
Next match: Away at De Graafschap, Eredivisie Make-Up, March 7
FC Twente are flying high right now, having won their last five games in all competitions. Their most impressive victory though, by far, was this past weekend's 6-2 win over PSV.
Despite getting Douglas sent off in the 51st minute, it hardly affected Twente, who were already up 4-0 at the time.
With a game in hand, FC Twente have the chance to go up top of the league this coming Wednesday. The question is, what will they do about their Europa League first leg matchup with Schalke?
That takes place the following day, and Steven McClaren surely has some tough lineup choices to make, as it would be suicide to attempt to play the exact same guys through consecutive days.
Last match: Lost 2-3 to FC Porto in Lisbon (Portuguese Premier League, Matchday 21)
Next match: Home vs Zenit, Champions League Round of 16 2nd Leg, March 6
Benfica have spent most of the season in first place in the Portuguese league, but this weekend's game versus FC Porto may just give Porto the impetus necessary to climb above them in the standings.
Benfica still remain two points clear at the top of the league, but with an away game at Porto still to come later in the season, anything is possible.
For now, Benfica must focus on trying to secure a comfortable win over Zenit in their Estadio da Luz, a stadium where they've only lost to Porto this season. They already have two away goals from the first leg, so they have a good chance of progressing if they can win by a one-goal margin.
20. CSKA Moscow
Last match: Drew 2-2 with Zenit in Moscow (Russian Premier League, Matchday 33)
Next match: Home vs Dynamo Moscow, RPL Matchday 34, March 9
With the RPL's long mid-season break, CSKA Moscow haven't played much over the last couple of months. But this past weekend, they restarted their league campaign with a juicy top-of-the-table clash against Zenit, currently first in the RPL.
CSKA weren't able to win at home unfortunately, but they battled for a respectable draw, with blooming talent Ahmed Musa netting the equalizer for CSKA after they went 2-1 down from an Aleksandr Kerzhakov brace.
Next, CSKA take on Dynamo in one of the many Moscow derbies, then fly off to Spain to take on Real Madrid in the second leg of the two teams' Round of 16 Champions League clash.
19. Zenit St. Petersburg
Last match: Drew 2-2 with CSKA Moscow at Moscow (Russian Premier League, Matchday 33)
Next match: Away at Benfica, Champions League Round of 16 2nd Leg, March 6
Like CSKA, Zenit have been out of league action for a while, but they secured a credible draw away from home against their main rivals in the RPL title race.
Now they'll be making the trip out to Benfica, where they'll try to capitalize on their slender one-goal lead to make it to the next round of the Champions League. The teams are very well matched, so anything can happen, although I am backing Zenit to make it past Benfica in the end.
Last match: Beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 5-0 in London (EPL, Matchday 27)
Next match: Away at Aston Villa, EPL Matchday 28, March 10
With their demolition of Wolves, Fulham won three games in a row for the first time all season and moved up to eighth place, just three points behind Liverpool.
Watch out Premier League, because Fulham are good enough to take on just about anyone right now.
17. Athletic Bilbao
Last match: Beat Real Sociedad 2-0 in Bilbao (La Liga, Matchday 26)
Next match: Away at Manchester United, Europa League Round of 16 1st Leg, March 8
Athletic Bilbao have not been as clinical as they should be this season, recording numerous draws that should have been wins. Nevertheless, they sit fourth in the league, occupying the final Champions League spot, and rightly so.
Bilbao are world famous for taking what Barcelona do to the extreme. Just like Barca loves its Catalans and makes sure to always have a good proportion of them on its first team, Bilbao loves its Basques.
Unlike Barca, however, Bilbao's entire team has either come through the youth system or is of Basque heritage. It is a truly remarkable and commendable system to maintain in this day and age of football.
In any case, behind the efforts of world-class players like Fernando Llorente and Iker Muniain, Bilbao have had a fantastic season with many impressive victories.
They face a tough upcoming match with Manchester United before taking on fellow Champions League place-challengers Osasuna in La Liga next weekend.
Last match: Beat Roma 2-1 in Rome, Away (Serie A, Matchday 26)
Next match: Home vs Bologna, Serie A Matchday 27, March 11
After weeks of pressure following behind-the-scenes tension with the board and poor results against Palermo and Atletico Madrid on the pitch, Edy Reja can finally breathe easy again, as his team triumphed in the all-important Rome derby this past weekend.
The good news, however, is that Reja has confirmed that he is staying, and Lazio now only have one competition, Serie A, to worry about.
15. FC Porto
Last match: Beat Benfica 3-2 in Lisbon (Portuguese Premier League, Matchday 21)
Next match: Home vs Academia Coimbra, Portuguese Premier League, March 10
The all-powerful, dominating Porto of Andre Villas-Boas is long gone, but the new one isn't half-bad either. This past weekend, Porto secured arguably their biggest win of the season, in the form a a crucial 3-2 win over title rivals Benfica.
The club is out of most of its cup competitions, having lost badly to Manchester City in the Europa League, and been shockingly eliminated from the Taca de Portugal (equivalent of the FA Cup) at the hands of their next-match opponents, Academia Coimbra.
Their performance in this year's Champions League wasn't very impressive either, as they failed to register more than a point again the likes of APOEL and Zenit, teams they would've defeated convincingly both home and away last season.
Nevertheless, the club has a big semifinal League Cup match against Benfica coming up, which will likely decide who wins that trophy. And last weekend's win over Benfica may change the tide in the Primeira title race as well.
This season may have a happy ending for Porto after all.
Last match: Drew 1-1 with Dijon at Dijon (Ligue 1, Matchday 26)
Next match: Home vs Caen, Ligue 1 Matchday 27, March 11
It's still a bit mind-boggling that a team that finished 14th in Ligue 1 last season is somehow fighting for the title this season against one of the richest teams in the world.
Despite the draw against Dijon this past weekend, Montpellier have been on fire in recent weeks, winning eight of their last 10 games and drawing the other two.
For now though, they're going nowhere, and I truly hope they'll be able to spring one of the biggest upsets in football history by beating Paris Saint-Germain for the Ligue 1 title.
Last match: Beat Granada 1-0 in Granada (La Liga, Matchday 26)
Next match: Home vs PSV, Europa League Round of 16 1st Leg, March 8
Under Unai Emery's stewardship, Valencia have solidified their place as the third-best team in La Liga. The win over Granada allowed Valencia to extended their lead over fourth place to six points.
Valencia have not been in great form lately, having lost two games and drawn one in their last five La Liga matches.
The good news however is that they are now down to only one cup competition, where they'll be taking an off-form PSV team. Their league schedule has eased up significantly as well, with Atletico Bilbao, Real Madrid and Malaga posing the only serious threats to Valencia's progress until the end of the season.
12. Bayern Munich
Last match: Lost 2-0 to Bayer Leverkusen at Leverkusen (Bundesliga, Matchday 24)
Next match: Away at Wolfsburg, Bundesliga Matchday 25, March 10
Bayern Munich looked like genuine Champions League contenders in the first half of their season, when they dealt comfortably with the likes of Villarreal, Napoli and Manchester City to finish at the top of the Group of Death.
Now, they'd be fortunate just to secure qualification for next year's Champions League and somehow overturn the deficit they're facing against lowly FC Basel.
Bayern Munich are blessed with some of the best players in the world. Their front four consists of Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery, Thomas Mueller and Mario Gomez, with Toni Kroos switching in on different occasions.
Only five teams, at most, can claim to have anywhere near the individual quality of Bayern Munich.
The problem is that Jupp Heynckes has not been able to get his individually brilliant players to mesh. Arjen Robben lit up England in last week's international fixture between the Dutch and the English—yet he was virtually anonymous against Bayer Leverkusen.
If Bayern don't get their act together soon, a season so filled with promise could whittle away to failure before their very eyes.
Last match: Drew 1-1 with Chievo in Torino (Serie A, Matchday 26)
Next match: Away at Genoa, Serie A Matchday 27, March 11
That Juventus have managed to remain undefeated through 25 league games, as well as three Coppa Italia matches, is truly amazing.
I can't imagine the amount of hype Juventus would've received for this were they an English team. (They probably would've been labelled "the next Invincibles" about 18 matches back.)
And yet, there's no denying that this Antonio Conte's Juventus has lacked the clinicality necessary for a title-winning side, at least to this point.
Although a draw is certainly better than a loss, 12 draws is a clear indication of Juventus' futility in front of goal.
The draw against Chievo only added to Juventus' already enormous draw total, and Conte will have to solve Juventus' goal-scoring problems ASAP if he still harbors hope of winning the league title.
Last match: Lost 1-3 to Manchester United in London, White Hart Lane (EPL, Matchday 27)
Next match: Home vs Stevenage, 5th Round FA Cup Replay, March 7
Earlier this season, I would've placed Tottenham as high as fifth, but on current form, even 10th may be a tad generous.
The Tottenham team that wiped the floor with Newcastle to the tune of five goals to nil is no more, and has been replaced replaced by a Spurs side badly exposed by the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United.
In both games, Spurs started brightly, but in both games, awful second halves led to poor losses.
The Arsenal loss was hard enough to take, but the Manchester United loss was downright depressing for Spurs fans who needed at least a draw to keep a safe distance ahead of Arsenal, but watched their team concede three consecutive goals after dominating much of the game.
And then there's the fact that Harry Redknapp showed his ineptitude with regards to tactics against Manchester United for the millionth time. Redknapp is a great motivator, but it's faults like that which make me wonder why people believe he'd be good for England or the international game.
In any case, Tottenham have the opportunity to put their losses behind them with what should be an easy FA Cup replay at home versus League One side Stevenage.
After that comes a month full of tough fixtures and tricky ties, and one only hopes that Redknapp and company can finally get their tactics right and learn from their mistakes.
Last match: Beat Parma 2-1 at Parma (Serie A, Matchday 26)
Next match: Home vs Cagliari, Serie A Matchday 27, March 9
It seems Edinson Cavani is hitting top form at just the right time for Napoli. Cavani has scored four times and recorded two assists in his last four Serie A matches, and recorded one more goal and two more assists in the Champions League victory over Chelsea.
That's not including the beauty of a goal he scored for Uruguay over the international break.
While Cavani has been on form, Napoli have been unstoppable, winning their last four Serie A matches, as well as their first leg match with Chelsea.
They have many big games coming up, such as their second leg match with Chelsea, their Italian Cup second leg match with Siena, and a top of the table clash with Udinese. But with an on-form Cavani providing the goals, and Hamsik and Lavezzi getting in the act themselves, I can't see Napoli cooling off anytime soon.
8. Paris Saint-Germain
Last match: Beat AC Ajaccio 4-1 in Paris (Ligue 1, Matchday 26)
Next match: Away at Dijon, Ligue 1 Matchday 27, March 11
This past weekend's win over AC Ajaccio was possibly PSG's best performance under Carlo Ancelotti.
After last-gasp draws against Lyon and Montpellier over the last couple of weeks, this victory was a well-deserved break for the boys from Paris and allowed them to jump back up to first place.
PSG's front four (Jeremy Menez, Nene, Javier Pastore, Guillerme Hoarau) all got on the score sheet in a victory Carlo Ancelotti praised for its beautiful football.
I'm still rooting for Montpellier in the French title race, but with Carlo Ancelotti in charge, PSG are definitely favorites for the title, and sure to be a force to be reckoned with in next year's Champions League.
Last match: Beat Liverpool 2-1 in Liverpool, Anfield (EPL, Matchday 27)
Next match: Home vs AC Milan, Champions League Round of 16 2nd Leg, March 6
Like Tottenham, Arsenal's ranking would've been very different two weeks ago.
After capitulating in the Champions League and the FA Cup, many thought Arsenal's season was done and dusted, and I myself would've considered ranking them around 24th-25th on this list, if at all.
But today, Arsenal's season has a very different outlook. They've won four consecutive league matches, are widely considered favorites for fourth place, and even have a chance of passing Spurs in the EPL if Tottenham's bad form continues.
How quickly things change in football.
First though, Arsenal face "mission impossible" at the Emirates versus AC Milan. Though I don't expect Arsenal to advance, I expect them to register a small victory, which should give them a small boost in their quest for Champions League qualification.
6. Borussia Dortmund
Last match: Beat Mainz 2-1 in Dortmund (Bundesliga, Matchday 24)
Next match: Away to Augsberg, Bundesliga Matchday 25, March 10
It's amazing that Borussia Dortmund manage to be so consistently successful in the Bundesliga, because individually, they're not a team with many superstars, if any. Especially when you consider that their best player, Mario Gotze, is injured, and has been for a while, their success is quite remarkable.
Lucky for Dortmund, Shinji Kagawa has stepped into the void left by Gotze, and Dortmund have not missed a beat as a result. It's almost ironic, because the opposite happened last season: Kagawa faced a long injury, and it was Gotze who stepped in for him to make sure Dortmund still won the league title.
Dortmund are now seven points clear in the Bundesliga, and I can't see them losing that lead to an out-of-sorts Bayern Munich or to Borussia Monchengladbach.
Dortmund's performance in this year's Champions League was overwhelmingly disappointing, but if they win a second consecutive league title, no one will be able to deny their status as a new powerhouse in German football.
And don't forget, next year they'll have Marco Reus, arguably Bundesliga's biggest rising star, to add to their ranks as well.
5. AC Milan
Last match: Beat Palermo 4-0 at Palermo (Serie A, Matchday 26)
Next match: Away at Arsenal, Champions League Round of 16 2nd leg, March 6
If you take a close look at the picture, it looks like Ibrahimovic has managed to pick up his teammate while jumping in the air after scoring.
AC Milan are flying high, and it looks like the "Ibrahimovic effect" will work again, as the Swedish striker looks set to win his seventh Serie A title in as many seasons in Italy.
On the European level, AC Milan have a midweek match against Arsenal coming up, but unless AC Milan absolutely muck things up for themselves, the match should be little more than a formality.
Life is good for Milan right now, as they remain active in the hunt for three major trophies.
4. Manchester United
Last match: Beat Tottenham 3-1 at London (EPL, Matchday 27)
Next match: Home vs Atletico Bilbao, Europa League Round 16 1st Leg, March 8
In the words of B/R World Football Editor Will Tidey, Manchester United displayed their "Champion Gene" this past weekend to definitively remove Tottenham from the title race (though I'd argue they were out after the Arsenal loss) and narrow the race to Manchester United and Manchester City.
Manchester United had been in steady, unspectacular form prior to this game, but they showed their ability to rise to the occasion by winning a game they really did not convince in.
Manchester United find themselves down at fourth due to a poor second-leg performance against Ajax in the Europa League that almost eliminated them from the competition, but are definitely a force to reckon with in both the EPL and the Europa League.
I would not be too surprised to see United leave this season with an impressive brace of trophies in hand.
3. Manchester City
Last match: Beat Bolton 2-0 in Manchester (EPL, Matchday 27)
Next match: Away at Sporting (Lisbon), Europa League Round 16 1st Leg, March 8
Manchester City have been title favorites in the EPL from early on in the season, and after a rough stretch a month or so back, they've gotten back into the groove of easily and convincingly beating their opponents.
They face more Portuguese opposition in the Europa League next, but domestically they have some big tests coming up, with matches against Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United on the horizon.
I don't expect them to have any trouble with Sporting, but I expect that we will see huge Manchester derbies over the next couple of months to decide who wins the Europa League and EPL.
Last match: Beat Sporting Gijon 3-1 in Barcelona (La Liga, Matchday 26)
Next match: Home vs Bayer Leverkusen, Champions League Round of 16 2nd Leg, March 7
I'm sure I'll get plenty of flack for ranking Barcelona below Real Madrid, but it'd be foolish to suggest that Barcelona currently deserve the No. 1 spot, even if they have the title of "the best team in the world."
Barcelona is still more likely to come out on top in any given Clasico, but overall, their game has not looked as good as it has in past years.
Though the scoreline looks convincing, the game against Gijon was anything but. For at least the 10th time this season, Barcelona were forced to work very hard for a win against much weaker opposition, and could've easily drawn or lost the game after Gerard Pique was sent off.
Barcelona are still well on track to challenge for most major honors (excluding La Liga, though they are fighting on that front), but this year's Barcelona does not look anywhere near as convincing and dominating as last year's, and that must surely be a worrying sign for Barca fans.
1. Real Madrid
Last match: Beat Espanyol 5-0 in Madrid (La Liga, Matchday 26)
Next match: Away to Real Betis, La Liga Matchday 27, March 10
On current form, it'd be unfair to say that anyone is playing better football than Real Madrid.
This past weekend, Real Madrid tore a decent Espanyol side (11th in La Liga) to shreds, with the likes of Kaka, Higuain, Cristiano Ronaldo and others combining to produce excellent examples of team play combined with individual skill.
It's hard to say if Real Madrid have finally learned how to overcome Barcelona, but if the two faced off right now, I'd have to fancy Real's chances of taking something from the game.
In any case, if Madrid keep up their current form, I can't see them losing their lead in La Liga, and can't see anybody stopping them before they meet up with Barcelona.
Then, we'll be able to definitively say who the best team of 2011-12 really is.