Power Ranking the 20 Best 2012 European World Football Clubs

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistOctober 1, 2012

Power Ranking the 20 Best 2012 European World Football Clubs

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    As the first full month of most European football seasons comes to close, the contenders and pretenders are beginning to come to the forefront of European football.

    Many perennial contenders for the UEFA Champions League are off to great starts in their domestic leagues.

    On Saturday and Sunday, Barcelona and Bayern Munich stayed perfect in domestic play, but they did it in two different ways.

    Other top clubs in Europe were able to win ahead of upcoming high-profile clashes, which include Barcelona vs. Real Madrid, Juventus vs. Napoli and PSG vs. Marseille.

    Before we look ahead to a high-profile week, both in domestic leagues and in European competitions, it is time to reflect on how the 20 best clubs in Europe fared over the past week.

20. Shakhtar Donetsk

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    Shakhtar Donetsk are continuing their run of success in Ukraine in 2012, as they are on top of the Ukrainian Premier League with 30 points from 10 matches.

    The undefeated start by Shakhtar includes wins over Dynamo Kyiv and Dnipro Dnepropetrovsk, the two main contenders to break the club's four-year run at the top of the league.

    The club will look to continue their perfect start to the season on Tuesday in the Champions League, when they visit Juventus.

19. Tottenham Hotspur

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    After a rough start to the season, Tottenham Hotspur have turned it around under manager Andre Villas-Boas.

    The Spurs pulled off a huge win on Saturday, as they defeated Manchester United at Old Trafford 3-2.

    The win was the first by the North London club at Old Trafford since 1989, and it was done in dramatic fashion.

    The match had a pivotal three-minute span where United scored two goals. In between those two, Tottenham's Clint Dempsey scored the eventual match-winner in the 52nd minute, his first goal for the club since signing from Fulham.

    The Spurs will now travel to Greece on Thursday to play Panathinaikos in the Europa League, before hosting Aston Villa on Saturday in the Premier League.

18. Malaga

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    A lot of people worried about how cash-strapped Malaga would do this season, a year after becoming a cash cow.

    Well, Malaga are doing just fine so far this season.

    Manuel Pellegrini has guided his side to third place in La Liga and into first place in their Champions League group.

    Malaga's undefeated run in both competitions will be tested this week, as they visit Anderlecht in the Champions League on Wednesday and then visit Atletico Madrid on Sunday.

17. Benfica

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    After two straight draws, Benfica got back to winning ways on Friday with a 2-1 win over Pacos de Ferreira in the Portuguese Liga.

    The win, combined with a Porto draw on Saturday, boosted the club back into the first place in the table with 11 points.

    Benfica will face opposition that is a bit more difficult than Pacos de Ferreira, as they host Barcelona in the Champions League on Tuesday.

16. FC Twente

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    After winning six straight matches to open the Eredivisie season, Twente fell 1-0 on the road to AFC Ajax.

    Even with the loss on Saturday in Amsterdam, the club still sit on top of the Eredivisie table with 18 points.

    Manager Steve McClaren is also doing fine without last season's top scorer Luuk de Jong, who moved to Borussia Monchengladbach in the summer, as the club have scored 16 goals in league play.

    Before looking to get their league campaign back on track on Sunday against AZ Alkmaar, Twente will head to Sweden to face Helsingborg in the Europa League on Thursday.

15. Anzhi Makhachkla

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    Anzhi are finally seeing the results from their big transfer spending.

    With a 2-1 win over Volga Novgorod on Sunday, Anzhi extended their winning streak to five matches and catapulted up to the top of the Russian Premier League table.

    Under the guidance of new manager Guus Hiddink, Anzhi has responded well, after a slow start and a few disappointing results, against title contenders CSKA Moscow and Zenit St. Petersburg, with their win streak.

    English fans will get a chance to see the Russian Premier League leaders on October 25 when they visit Anfield to play Liverpool in the Europa League.

14. Marseille

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    Contrary to popular belief, PSG are not the first place team in Ligue 1, despite all the press that they are getting.

    Marseille are the club that hold that title, but it may not be for long if they play like they did on Sunday against Valenciennes.

    The club's six-match unbeaten run was halted on the road at the Stade du Hainaut, and they will have to recover quick with PSG next up on the domestic schedule on Sunday.

    Elie Baup's club will prepare for their weekend showdown with a home match against AEL in the Europa League on Thursday.  

13. Arsenal

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    Just as things were looking to be all well for Arsenal, they dropped their match with Chelsea on Saturday.

    The 2-1 loss left the Gunners in seventh place in the English Premier League table.

    The loss came after two positive results in the EPL, as the Gunners beat Liverpool and drew Manchester City in two of their past three matches.

    Next up for Arsene Wenger's club is a home match against Olympiakos in the Champions League on Wednesday.

12. Eintracht Frankfurt

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    Eintracht Frankfurt have been one of the biggest surprises in Europe this season.

    They sit in second place in the Bundesliga behind Bayern Munich, with 16 points.

    The club are undefeated, with their only draw coming on Tuesday against Borussia Dortmund.

    On Sunday, Eintracht bounced back and beat Freiburg 2-1 in the Bundesliga.

11. Borussia Dortmund

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    Borussia Dortmund have responded well since their loss to Hamburg on September 22 in the Bundesliga.

    The defending German champions beat Borussia Monchengladbach 5-0 on Saturday to extend their unbeaten run to two matches.

    Dortmund now have to focus on their trip to the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday to play Manchester City in Group D of the Champions League.

    After their match with the English champions, Jurgen Klopp will lead his club into another road match at Hannover on Sunday.

10. Paris Saint-Germain

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    After three straight draws to open play in Ligue 1, PSG have won four straight domestic matches.

    The latest victory for the French club came on Saturday at home as they beat  Sochaux 2-0.

    The second-place club in Ligue 1 will now face their toughest week of the season yet with two tough road trips:

    On Wednesday, PSG will travel to Portugal to face Porto in what will be their toughest Champions League group stage match.

    Four days later, the Parisian club will fight for first place in France as they visit league leaders Marseille.

9. Napoli

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    Napoli need an Edinson Cavani 67th-minute penalty to stay perfect in Serie A on Sunday.

    The 1-0 win over Sampdoria kept the club in second place behind Juventus only on goal differential.

    The big showdown that Napoli fans will be waiting for comes on October 20 when they visit Turin to face Juventus in what could be a battle for first place.

    For that match to be a first-place battle, Napoli will need to get past Udinese at home on Sunday.

8. Manchester City

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    Manchester City remained unbeaten on Saturday with a 2-1 win over Fulham at Craven Cottage.

    City won the match late as Edin Dzeko struck the back of the net in the 87th minute.

    The win boosted Roberto Mancini's club into fourth place in the Premier League ahead of a crucial Champions League match on Wednesday against Borussia Dortmund.

    If City were to lose to the German champions at home, it would be a major setback for the club, who are looking to do much better than 2011-12's European disappointment.

7. Manchester United

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    Manchester United suffered a shocking 3-2 defeat at the hands of Tottenham on Saturday at Old Trafford.

    The loss was only the second of the season for United—their first was in their English Premier League opening match against Everton.

    United now have a healthy Wayne Rooney, who will be able to partner alongside Robin van Persie in upcoming matches.

    Unlike many of their European rivals, the Red Devils face an easy match this week in the Champions League as they visit Romania to take on CFR Cluj on Tuesday.

6. Real Madrid

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    Real Madrid's slow start is no more, and the club look to be on cruise control heading to El Clasico next Sunday at the Nou Camp.

    Cristiano Ronaldo's hat-trick powered Real to a 5-1 victory over Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday, and Jose Mourinho's club now sit in sixth place. They are still eight points behind Barcelona in the La Liga table, however.

    Before heading off to Barcelona next Sunday, the club will have to visit Amsterdam to take on Ajax in their second Group D match in the Champions League.

5. Atletico Madrid

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    Atletico Madrid won their fifth straight La Liga match on Sunday with a 1-0 away win against Espanyol.

    The win kept Atletico two points behind league leaders Barcelona, whom they do not play until December 16.

    Diego Simeone's club now get to play four of their next five matches at home at the Estadio Vicente Calderon.

    The first of those matches comes in the Europa League on Thursday against Viktoria Plzen.

    A clash with third-place Malaga awaits on Sunday, a match that will rightfully be overshadowed by El Clasico between Barcelona and Real Madrid.

4. Chelsea

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    Chelsea were the winners of a London derby with Arsenal on Saturday by a 2-1 score.

    Spanish pair Fernando Torres and Juan Mata were the goal scorers on the road at the Emirates Stadium for the Blues.

    The club will now able to ease into the international break with two matches coming up that they should win easily.

    The Blues will first visit Denmark to play Nordsjaelland in the Champions League on Tuesday and then they head home on Saturday to host Norwich City at Stamford Bridge.

3. Juventus

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    After failing to score in a goal-less draw with Fiorentina on Tuesday, Juventus bounced back with a commanding 4-1 win over Roma.

    Four different players scored for Juventus in their second win of the season, with their first victory over Udinese in early September.

    In three weeks, Juve will play what could be their most important match of the season so far, against second-place Napoli.

    Before that crucial match, the leaders of Serie A will visit Siena in league play on Sunday after they host Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday in the Champions League.

2. Bayern Munich

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    Bayern Munich recorded their third clean sheet in a row on Saturday with a 2-0 win over Werder Bremen.

    The win was their sixth straight to start the season in the Bundesliga as they sit on top of the German top flight with 18 points.

    What is even more impressive about the hot start for the German club is that their goal difference is already at 17, a number that will surely double, if not triple, by the end of the season.

    A trip to Belarus to face BATE Borisov in the Champions League on Tuesday is the next match on the fixture list for the club.

1. Barcelona

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    Barcelona needed two late second half goals to stay perfect in La Liga on Saturday.

    The 3-2 win over Sevilla had plenty of dramatic moments but none more than the goals scored by Cesc Fabregas and David Villa to win the match in the late stages of the second half.

    With the win, Barca stayed on top of the La Liga table and retained their two point lead over Atletico Madrid.

    Before facing Real Madrid in the always important El Clasico match on Sunday, Barca will head to Portugal to play Benfica in the Champions League on Tuesday.