Ranking Europe's Top 25 Clubs on Their Defensive Strength

Mark Jones@@Mark_Jones86Featured ColumnistAugust 18, 2014

Ranking Europe's Top 25 Clubs on Their Defensive Strength

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    Football has always been about attack versus defence, even at the very highest level.

    Some clubs rely on their defensive players much more than their attackers, though, choosing to stifle their opposition rather than simply outscore them.

    Who has the best defensive strength in Europe, though?

    Here's a top 25:

25. Olympiakos

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    After winning an eighth Greek title in the last nine years earlier this year, Olympiakos strengthened their defence with a move for the former Barcelona, Monaco and France veteran Eric Abidal.

    The 34-year-old joins the likes of Kostas Manolas, Jose Holebas and Avraam Papadopoulos in the Greek capital. 

24. Everton

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    Youngster John Stones broke into Roberto Martinez's Everton team at the back end of last season, and he's not looked out of place ever since.

    Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin provide competition at centre-back, with Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman offering attacking support from the full-back positions.

23. AC Milan

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    Former Chelsea defender Alex joined AC Milan from Paris Saint-Germain this summer, adding an experienced defender to a squad that had a tough time last season.

    French defender Adil Rami is another upon whose defending Milan will stand or fall this season, while Cristian Zapata, Ignazio Abate and new signing Pablo Armero are also going to have large roles to play.

22. Athletic Bilbao

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    French-born centre-back Aymeric Laporte has impressed since breaking into the Athletic Bilbao side, and the 20-year-old has quickly become one of the hottest young defenders in the game.

    He's joined by Mikel San Jose, Andoni Iraola and skipper Carlos Gurpegi at the San Mames.

21. Napoli

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    Argentina defender Federico Fernandez appears set for a move to Swansea City according to the BBC, but Napoli still have the Brazilian Henrique at the back.

    Christian Maggio, Miguel Britos, Juan Zuniga and others add more defensive cover.

20. Lazio

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    Lazio's disappointing Serie A campaign last season could now become a distant memory following the capture of Netherlands World Cup defender Stefan de Vrij.

    The centre-back is likely to be a key player in the Italian capital, while he's been joined by fellow Dutchman Edson Braafheid in Rome.

19. Manchester United

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    Following their home defeat to Swansea City on the opening weekend of the Premier League season, Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal desperately needs to strengthen his defence.

    Van Gaal selected Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and youngster Tyler Blackett at Old Trafford, although Jonny Evans is a likely starter when he regains fitness.

18. Benfica

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    Captain Luisao has been a mainstay of the Benfica defence for 11 years now, and the 33-year-old still has plenty of talented team-mates around him despite the loss of Ezequiel Garay to Zenit St Petersburg this summer.

    Uruguayan Maxi Pereira is the most notable of the rest of Benfica's defenders, although experienced Portuguese Eliseu joined from Malaga this summer.

17. Zenit St Petersburg

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    Garay's switch to Russia sees his new side just ranked above his old one, with the Argentina defender joining Belgian Nicolas Lombaerts at the back.

    Italian Domenico Criscito and Russia's Aleksandr Anyukov are also at the club.

16. Bayer Leverkusen

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    Greek defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos will hope to put recent injury troubles behind him during his loan spell at Bayer Leverkusen this season.

    Youngster Tin Jedvaj has also joined on loan from Roma, while Bosnia's Emir Spahic had a solid first campaign at the club in 2013/14.

15. Schalke

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    World Cup winner Benedikt Howedes is the mainstay of the Schalke defence and also the team's captain, and the 26-year-old is joined by some pretty talented team-mates at the back.

    Atsuto Uchida, Felipe Santana, Sead Kolasinac and others all call Gelsenkirchen home, and the Royal Blues will be looking for an improvement on last season's third place this time around.

14. Porto

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    After an impressive World Cup in which he helped the Netherlands reach the semi-finals, Bruno Martins Indi moved from Feyenoord to Porto.

    He joins Maicon and Alex Sandro for a season in which Porto will hope to improve from last season's disappointing third place.

13. Liverpool

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    The concession of 50 goals last season was pretty much what cost Liverpool the Premier League title, and defensive weakness has let the Reds down on several occasions under Brendan Rodgers.

    In fairness, though, the Reds have improved at the back for this season with the additions of Dejan Lovren, Javier Manquillo and Alberto Moreno, who join Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho at the club.

12. Inter Milan

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    The addition of Nemanja Vidic this summer has strengthened Inter Milan's defence substantially, and the Serbian will be a key influence on the Inter side as they bid to overcome the disappointments of last season.

    Yuto Nagatomo, Andrea Ranocchia, Juan Jesus and Jonathan will all be seen at the back this season, while it'll be interesting to see if manager Walter Mazzarri plays new signing Gary Medel in midfield or at the back, where we saw him in the World Cup.  

11. Borussia Dortmund

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    Mats Hummels has been highly coveted across Europe, and the World Cup winner's performances make that easy to see why.

    Newly installed as the Borussia Dortmund captain by Jurgen Klopp in a bid to ward off any more suitors, Hummels has formed a strong partnership with Neven Subotic in the past, while Lukasz Piszczek is an impressive full-back.

10. Arsenal

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    Calum Chambers has slotted in at centre-back since his move from Southampton, but in reality the youngster is just keeping the position warm for a World Cup winner.

    Per Mertesacker is likely to return alongside Laurent Koscielny sooner rather than later, and the signing of Mathieu Debuchy is also another positive for the Gunners in an area where the better teams frequently overran them last season.

9. Roma

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    Roma's defence will significantly weaken if Mehdi Benatia ends up leaving Serie A for the Premier League this summer, but in Ashley Cole they bought very well.

    The experienced English left-back joins Maicon at the club, as two players who were once considered to be the best in the world in their positions continue to impress.

8. Barcelona

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    Centre-back was always going to be a key area for Luis Enrique in his first summer as Barcelona boss, and he's reinforced his defence with moves for Jeremy Mathieu and, more recently, Belgian international Thomas Vermaelen.

    The presences of Jordi Alba and Dani Alves at full-back ensure that Barca are pretty well-equipped in those areas.

7. Juventus

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    As anyone who has watched Juventus will tell you, Giorgio Chiellini is so much more than just the latest player bitten by Luis Suarez.

    As the captain of the Italian champions, Chiellini leads a defence that includes Martin Caceres, Andrea Barzagli and Stephan Lichtsteiner among other talented performers.

6. Atletico Madrid

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    You could make a strong case for Diego Godin being the standout defender in Europe last season, as the Uruguayan centre-back marshalled a defence that conceded just 26 goals as they won the La Liga title and reached the Champions League final.

    Holding onto Godin, who is also a goal threat, was key for Diego Simeone this summer, and his partnership with Joao Miranda will again be crucial. Atletico have also signed Cristian Ansaldi to replace Felipe Luis.

5. Manchester City

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    Eliaquim Mangala is the latest big-money addition to Manchester City's galaxy of stars, and the highly rated French defender is expected to slot in alongside Vincent Kompany at centre-back once he's settled in to English football and Manchester life.

    Gael Clichy is an experienced full-back and adds to the English champions' options, which include Pablo Zabaleta, Bacary Sagna, Aleksandar Kolarov and Martin Demichelis.

4. Bayern Munich

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    Pep Guardiola's Bayern Munich are the masters of all that they survey in Germany, where goalkeeper Manuel Neuer plays behind a defence that conceded just 23 goals on the way to winning the Bundesliga title last season.

    Dante forms part of a defence that usually includes David Alaba and World Cup winners Philipp Lahm and Jerome Boateng. 

3. Real Madrid

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    Carlo Ancelotti has stamped his defensive authority on Real Madrid ever since arriving at the club last summer, with the likes of Pepe and Sergio Ramos proving crucial as Los Blancos swept to their long-awaited 10th European Cup in May.

    Marcelo, Alvaro Arbeloa, Fabio Coentrao and Dani Carvajal add depth in the full-back positions, while the European champions could even play Gareth Bale at left-back if they needed to.

2. Chelsea

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    Jose Mourinho has developed a reputation for improving pretty every defender he gets his hands on, and that was the case with Gary Cahill last season as the former Bolton man formed a strong partnership with John Terry.

    Full-backs have been on the agenda at Chelsea all summer with the departure of Ashley Cole and signing of Filipe Luis, while Branislav Ivanovic, Cesar Azpilicueta and youngster Kurt Zouma make Mourinho's selection of defenders the strongest in the Premier League.

1. Paris Saint-Germain

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    If we're basing this purely on worth, though, then Paris Saint-Germain have to take the crown.

    At centre-back alone, they possess David Luiz (£50 million), Thiago Silva (£37 million) and Marquinhos (£27.5 million). They've also got the highly rated Lucas Digne and Brazilian Maxwell at left-back, as well as Gregory van der Wiel and new signing Serge Aurier on the right.

    Not a bad selection, and one that would be the envy of many.

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