European Club Rankings: Barcelona and Arsenal in Freefall, PSG Rise
The return of the Champions League always adds an additional element of intrigue to our European Club Rankings, as it allows many of the sides to play against one another. For Paris Saint-Germain, that's worked in their favour this week; for Barcelona, though, it's had the opposite effect.
The rankings are now season-long in their measurement of clubs. Previous editions only took recent form into account (spanning four to six weeks), but this version tracks teams throughout 2016-17.
Teams that have lost the fewest games in all competitions naturally rank higher, and Champions League form and presence is used as a tiebreaker for those with similar records.
25. Atalanta (New!)
Atalanta have an identical Serie A record (won 15, drawn three, lost seven) to Inter Milan. They're great to watch and have some brilliant players.
24. TSG Hoffenheim (New!)
Hoffenheim have been machine-like in their ability to avoid defeat this season, but they are simultaneously hard to gauge given they draw so much. They enter the rankings after their third win in five.
23. Inter Milan (+1)
A first goal in Inter colours for Gabriel Barbosa was enough to see his side past Bologna. It's now nine wins from their last 10 Serie A games, the loss coming away to Juventus.
22. OGC Nice (+1)
Mario Balotelli was shown his third red card of the season as Nice scraped past FC Lorient 1-0. Despite tailing off a little over the last two months, they're still firmly in the mix at the top of Ligue 1.
21. Tottenham Hotspur (-1)
Tottenham lost to KAA Gent on Thursday, sparking fresh questions over the team's recent wobble in form. They righted the ship on Sunday against Fulham in the FA Cup thanks to Harry Kane's fifth career hat-trick, but their failure in Belgium is enough to knock them out of the top 20.
20. Lazio (+1)
There was an element of fortune at play for both of Lazio's goals against Empoli on Saturday, but their overall play was so strong that you can't say they didn't deserve it.
19. Arsenal (-9)
Arsenal's 5-1 defeat at the hands of Bayern Munich on Wednesday paved the way for a manic three or four days. Fan freak-outs, protests in Chile, quizzical comments from Arsene Wenger about his own future—we were treated to the lot.
18. Manchester City (+1)
A much-changed Manchester City side were held valiantly by an impressive Huddersfield Town outfit in the FA Cup on Saturday. It adds another game to the schedule, but you can't blame Pep Guardiola for resting key men ahead of their AS Monaco tussle.
17. Manchester United (Stay)
Won the Pogba derby midweek against AS Saint-Etienne and then dispensed with gritty Blackburn Rovers on Sunday. Jose Mourinho's men keep winning.
16. Liverpool (Stay)
A rare weekend off for Liverpool, who are no longer in the FA Cup and have no European football to concern themselves with either.
15. FC Porto
Last Week: 18th
FC Porto missed a hell of a lot of chances against Tondela but still emerged 4-0 victors on Friday night.
Attackers Andre Silva, Soares and Diogo Jota all netted, and the Dragons will be feeling good about their Champions League tussle with Juventus on Wednesday from an offensive perspective.
Defensively they've looked much better, too, conceding just five goals in their eight games since the turn of the year. But it's one thing to shut out Pacos de Ferreira and Moreirense, and another thing entirely to stop Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala.
14. Borussia Dortmund
Last Week: 12th
There are plenty of positives for Thomas Tuchel to take from last week's work, but there's also one major negative.
Borussia Dortmund lost to Benfica but shouldn't have. They outplayed the Eagles for long stretches, missed a penalty and forced Ederson Moraes into the game of his life between the sticks. They'll feel pretty confident about overturning the 1-0 deficit at home in the second leg.
They followed that up with a convincing 3-0 victory over Wolfsburg on Saturday despite playing in front of an empty Sudtribune at the Westfalenstadion. Some thought that might be the catalyst for an upset.
The only issue? Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang can't buy a goal at the moment; he's missing chance after chance. Fortunately, Lukasz Piszczek was there this weekend to fill the void.
Last Week: 14th
What a week for AS Roma, and what a week for Edin Dzeko.
Roma scored eight goals in two fixtures—four in each—to smash Villarreal in the Europa League and Torino in Serie A. Dzeko scored a hat-trick in the first fixture, making a fool out of a top Spanish side's defence in the process, and netted another against Il Toro.
The goals moved him back to the top of the league scoring charts, where he now sits level with Gonzalo Higuain on 19, and kept the Giallorossi in second place in the table.
12. Atletico Madrid
Last Week: 13th
For about 80 minutes in Gijon on Saturday, things were not looking good for Atletico Madrid.
Outplayed for long stretches by a team in the relegation zone and drawing 1-1, Diego Simeone had already used all three of his substitutes in an attempt to change the game.
Fortunately, one of those subs burst into life; Kevin Gameiro stepped forward to grasp the mantle. He netted one of the quickest hat-tricks in La Liga history, scoring three in the space of four minutes and 46 seconds.
All of a sudden, Los Colchoneros are in buoyant mood ahead of their round-of-16 Champions League trip to Bayer Leverkusen.
11. RB Leipzig
Last Week: 11th
RB Leipzig took full advantage of Bayern Munich dropping points against Hertha Berlin, by beating Borussia Monchengladbach away from home the next day to close the gap at the top of the table to five points.
Emil Forsberg scored the first goal and created the second, and in the process moved top of the Bundesliga assist charts; he's on nine, and Ousmane Dembele is on eight.
Timo Werner netted his 12th of the season—a stunning return—with a goal just like all of his others; running off the shoulder of the defence, he stole in behind and found the corner with a low grass-cutter.
Last Week: 15th
Sevilla beat Eibar 2-0 on Saturday and will enter a key week in their season full of confidence. They haven't conceded a goal for three games and have collected seven points from a possible nine.
Stevan Jovetic laid on two smart assists in the weekend victory, with his presence of mind clear for the second. His two goals and three assists from six appearances in La Liga since joining on loan from Inter Milan represent stupendous form.
Up next are Leicester City, who are very difficult to project. They've been downright horrid in the Premier League and lost to Millwall of League One in the FA Cup on Saturday, but will they turn it on for the big occasion?
Last Week: 8th
Napoli learnt where the line is last week.
They are swashbuckling their way to a top-three spot in Serie A and playing some of the best football you'll see in all of Europe. On Sunday they beat Chievo Verona with relative ease; Lorenzo Insigne, Marek Hamsik and Piotr Zielinski all netted in a 3-1 win.
But their tussle with Real Madrid in the Champions League was a bridge too far—for now. Their usual confidence in possession dipped, and the careful attention to tracking runners meant they were less effective on the ball.
A 3-1 loss isn't the end of the world—and the goal they did score was a beauty—but it'll be tough to make up a two-goal deficit on Los Blancos be it home or away.
Last Week: 9th
Benfica will be quietly counting their blessings following a remarkably good, if a little fortunate, week in football.
They rode their luck to beat Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League in midweek and did so again in their 1-0 victory over Braga on Sunday.
Goalkeeper Ederson Moraes saved a penalty and played the game of his life against BVB, then Kostas Mitroglou produced a moment of pure genius/extreme fortune (delete as appropriate, depending on your viewpoint) to procure three points at Braga.
Last Week: 3rd
Sorry Barcelona fans, not even a last-gasp victory over Leganes can save your club from dropping harshly in the rankings.
What Luis Enrique's men served up against Paris Saint-Germain was downright shocking. A team containing Luis Suarez, Neymar and Lionel Messi has never looked so toothless in attack; a team containing Samuel Umtiti and Gerard Pique has never looked so shaky in defence.
They were outplayed and outfought on the way to a heavy defeat—their fifth loss of the season. All but out of the Champions League, this team will need to win relentlessly to rival Real Madrid for the La Liga title and save the season.
Last Week: 6th
The last thing we expected was free-scoring AS Monaco's goals drying up this close to their date with Manchester City, but that's exactly what's happened.
Friday's 1-1 draw with Bastia was disappointing because it halted their momentum. They played against a weaker Ligue 1 side, who were without one of their best attackers (Allan Saint-Maximin), but couldn't find their rhythm.
Despite Les Monegasques' excellence of late, the feeling is they'll still need to be at their very best to overcome Pep Guardiola's men in the Champions League, and this represents far from ideal preparation.
Last Week: 5th
Juventus won their seventh game in succession on Friday, defeating Palermo 4-1 at home to continue their imperious march towards the Scudetto.
Playing that early in the footballing weekend sets them up nicely for their trip to Portugal this week to face FC Porto, and with Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala in scary form, they'll be favoured to get a strong result.
The only conceivable issue the Old Lady faces is the apparent rifts between management and playing staff. Leonardo Bonucci became the third player of late to argue with Max Allegri on the touchline, following Dybala and Stephan Lichtsteiner disputes earlier in the season.
4. Paris Saint-Germain
Last Week: 7th
So, hands up, who expected that?
Paris Saint-Germain's 4-0 destruction of Barcelona last Tuesday shocked the world. No one expected such a performance; it was packed with power, speed, precision and complete tactical intuition.
The fact they failed to beat Toulouse on Sunday, passing up the chance to close the gap on Monaco, can't stop the capital club from rising up into the top five. If you beat Barca 4-0, you move up. It's that simple.
Last Week: 4th
Chelsea overcame the stern challenge of Wolverhampton Wanderers in the FA Cup on Saturday, with Pedro and Diego Costa—Antonio Conte's trusty Spanish goalscoring duo—doing the damage.
The defensive line for the game consisted of Kurt Zouma, John Terry and Nathan Ake, meaning the Blues couldn't afford to send out a weakened midfield and attacking selection as well, so Michy Batshuayi saw no action and Ruben Loftus-Cheek had to make do with a cameo.
It really is impossible to find enough playing time for all this talent.
2. Bayern Munich
Last Week: 2nd
"I myself am a little surprised that we played so well," Arjen Robben said following his side's 5-1 demolition of Arsenal on Wednesday, per The Independent. "[But] on the other hand, not so much, because I know that the team has a great character and the ability to always step up a level when it needs to."
This quote encapsulates Bayern Munich's season well. They're all but through to the Champions League quarter-finals and they're clear at the top of the Bundesliga, but the truth is they aren't playing that well.
They rose to the occasion against Arsenal, just as they did against RB Leipzig before Christmas, but came crashing back to earth on Saturday when Robert Lewandowski was forced to rescue a draw against Hertha Berlin in the 95th minute.
1. Real Madrid
Last Week: 1st
Zinedine Zidane flexed Real Madrid's squad-strength muscles this week. They beat Napoli 3-1 last Tuesday and then made seven changes for the 2-0 victory over Espanyol on Saturday.
The tie with the Partenopei is by no means over, but a two-goal advantage represents a healthy position to be in. There's a decent chance Gareth Bale will be available for the second leg too, having returned to action from the bench this weekend and netting within 15 minutes.
Los Blancos have now scored in 42 consecutive games—a club record.
All statistics via WhoScored.com