European Club Rankings After September 14-16 Matches

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterSeptember 17, 2018

European Club Rankings After September 14-16 Matches

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    That first international break was a bit difficult, wasn't it? The UEFA Nations League may have made things a little more competitive, but there's nothing like club action to re-stoke the footballing fires.

    We saw Liverpool, Chelsea, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich all maintain their perfect starts to the season, but sides such as Inter Milan, Roma, Schalke and Bayer Leverkusen continue their iffy beginnings to the campaign.

    In accordance with it all, we've updated our European Club Rankings, listing the continent's top teams in order of estimated strength at this stage of the season. Results play a part in forming the order, but they're not the be-all and end-all at this stage; a team's general quality factors in, too.

    You can read the last set of rankings here.

16-20

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    Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

    20. Benfica (New!)

    Benfica's early-season form has been good, and the Champions League qualifiers have helped them find their groove. The big question is whether their limitations at striker will cost them against the likes of Bayern Munich. I guess we'll find out this week!

           

    19. Inter Milan (-5)

    If these rankings were based solely on results Inter Milan would be out, but with estimated strength playing a part, they just about hang on. The Nerazzurri are better than they're showing; surely it's just a matter of time before they show it?

          

    18. Lyon (-2)

    Lyon face Manchester City this week in the Champions League, and their preparation for that hasn't been great. A failure to beat a Caen side eventually reduced to nine men won't fill anyone with confidence that they can spark an upset in England.

            

    17. Arsenal (+2)

    With a difficult opening pair of fixtures behind them, Arsenal are now on a three-game win streak. They've shown both signs of progress and clear wobbles against West Ham, Cardiff City and Newcastle United, but you do get the feeling this team is starting to mesh together.

              

    16. Roma (+1)

    By the half-hour mark on Sunday afternoon, Roma looked as if they had a win all sewn up. Two ahead vs. Chievo, you could forgive the Stadio Olimpico for booking the points and checking the next fixture.

    But a second-half collapse led to a share of the spoils, and it's not the first time this season the Giallorossi have surrendered late on. They only move up because Schalke and Valencia have dropped out of the top 20.

11-20

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    Martin Meissner/Associated Press

    15. Marseille (New!)

    Marseille's explosion of goals to sink Guingamp 4-0 on Sunday included two absolute beauties—one from Dimitri Payet, one from Florian Thauvin. They feel like the front-runner for the crown of "second-best side in Ligue 1" this season.

           

    14. Lazio (+1)

    The losses have given way to wins for Lazio, but they're still struggling to score goals. A return of just three from four games is slightly strange given the attacking options Simone Inzaghi has at his disposal. Perhaps things clear up soon?

            

    13. Manchester United (Stay)

    Marouane Fellaini, the ultimate panacea?

    Since his reinstatement to the starting XI, United have done nothing but win. Good performances against Burnley and now Watford aren't solely down to him, but he certainly seems to "work" in this Jose Mourinho system.

              

    12. Tottenham Hotspur (-2)

    Tottenham's performance and resultant 2-1 defeat against Liverpool was concerning. Too many top players failed to fire, and the formation deployed by the manager, Mauricio Pochettino, was ripped apart—and he did nothing to change it. A switch needs to be flicked ahead of this week's tussle with Inter Milan. 

              

    11. Borussia Dortmund (+1)

    Paco Alcacer marked his Dortmund debut with a goal that sealed a good 3-1 home victory over Eintracht Frankfurt. He and Jadon Sancho both made telling contributions after stepping off the bench and made it seven points from nine for BVB.

10. Napoli (+1)

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    Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images

    Napoli's opening salvo of fixtures has been really tough. In Lazio, Milan, Sampdoria and Fiorentina, they've played four of what are arguably Serie A's top eight sides.

    They've emerged from that gauntlet with nine points from a possible 12, their 1-0 win over the Viola on Saturday taking them up into second place in the table.

    Many thought the departures of Maurizio Sarri and Jorginho would cause the Partenopei to stumble, but we've seen little evidence of that so far.

9. Atletico Madrid (-6)

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    One win in four is not the start anyone had in mind for Atletico Madrid. While their opening fixtures have been far from straight-forward, that doesn't serve as an excuse given what was expected of them heading into the campaign.

    Diego Simeone can still point to the win over Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup as evidence of what his side can do when on song, but they need to put the pieces back in place fast. Diego Costa isn't scoring, and the defence is making errors; it's like we're in some strange alternate universe right now.

8. Chelsea (+1)

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    You can't really argue with Chelsea's start to the season.

    They've poured cold water over suggestions there'd be teething issues under Maurizio Sarri (which, to be fair, were well-grounded following the 2-0 Community Shield defeat to Manchester City) and won each of the five games they've played.

    It's worth noting, though, that their fixtures have been kind. Huddersfield, Newcastle, Bournemouth and Cardiff aren't strong sides, while they caught Arsenal early on in their managerial changeover—and could have easily lost to them.

7. Liverpool (+1)

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    "The performance was much better than the result," Jurgen Klopp told BBC Sport after Liverpool's 2-1 win over Tottenham on Saturday, and he was dead right.

    What happened in the last five minutes almost turned the game on its head; a Spurs consolation goal, followed by a Sadio Mane tackle that should have resulted in a penalty for the hosts, gave the scoreline a close look.

    But before Erik Lamela slammed home, Liverpool could and should have been five up. They were dominant and incisive but also wasteful. 

    It was a definite penalty, though. Breathe a big sigh of relief, Reds.

6. Paris Saint-Germain (+1)

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    No Kylian Mbappe? No problem. No Neymar? Still no problem!

    Paris Saint-Germain beat Saint-Etienne 4-0 on Friday despite fielding just one of their fierce front three (Edinson Cavani), with the two wider options watching from the stands.

    It was Angel Di Maria and Julian Draxler who stepped into their shoes and scored the goals—though they did miss quite a few chances early on as they found their groove.

5. Real Madrid (+1)

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    Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

    Real Madrid dropped their first points of the La Liga season this weekend. They returned from a tough trip to New San Mames with only a 1-1 draw against Athletic.

    Isco salvaged things in the second half with help from Gareth Bale's "weaker" foot (are we still calling it that, given what he's been doing with it recently?).

    Perhaps the bigger talking point is the state of the defence, the mistakes they're making, and how Thibaut Courtois isn't necessarily justifying the decision to pick him ahead of Keylor Navas right now. 

    Still, at least things are going more smoothly for them than they are for their neighbours Atletico.

4. Bayern Munich (+1)

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    GUENTER SCHIFFMANN/Getty Images

    Spanning three competitions, Bayern Munich have won every game they've played this season. Their schedule has included strong sides such as Hoffenheim and Bayer Leverkusen, but no team has come close to knocking them off their stride.

    The thing is, that's standard for the Bavarian outfit.

    Heading into this week, the true test of their mettle begins as the Champions League kicks off. 

3. Juventus (+1)

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    Claudio Villa./Getty Images

    Cristiano Ronaldo is off the mark. Finally. He certainly took his time!

    Seven full halves of Serie A football passed by before the Portuguese found the back of the net, then 15 minutes later—the taste for goals taking over—he struck again.

    It helps keep Juventus' perfect start to the season on track, with four wins from four earned.

2. Manchester City (Stay)

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    David Silva celebrated his 350th appearance for Manchester City in typical fashion: a twisting, wizard-like performance in midfield against Fulham that contributed heavily towards a 3-0 win.

    That they won so comfortably surprised no one, as Fulham's commitment to playing football regardless of the opposition bit them, while their inability to defend factored too.

    Leroy Sane back in the XI and scoring; Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero and Bernardo Silva shining; "El Mago" crowning a landmark appearance with a goal. That's close to a perfect day.

1. Barcelona (Stay)

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    Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

    Real Madrid weren't the only La Liga giant to experience troubled waters in the Basque country this past weekend, as the fixture computer sent Barcelona to face Real Sociedad on the same day Los Merengues faced Athletic Club Bilbao.

    Barca have traditionally struggled with this fixture, finding Anoeta a tough place to eke results from, and they were made to sweat for their 2-1 win. They went behind and had to think on their feet, with Sergio Busquets stepping off the bench to swing things in their favour.

    How Barca manage Busquets' fitness is a mystery that might drag on. For now, though, they can be happy with their four wins and plus-11 goal difference—two things that have secured them top spot in the division.

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