B/R Football Ranks: The Top 10 European Clubs So Far This Season

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterSeptember 30, 2019

BORDEAUX, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 28:  Neymar Jr of PSG celebrates his winning goal with Idrissa Gueye and Kylian Mbappe during the Ligue 1 match between FC Girondins de Bordeaux and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) at Stade Matmut Atlantique on September 28, 2019 in Bordeaux, France. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

With at least six fixtures played in each of Europe's top five leagues, plus some domestic cup action and one Champions League matchday in the bag, it feels about the right time to produce the first European Club Rankings of the 2019-20 season.

With a fair sample size in hand, we now have a good feel for each of the top teams: their strengths and weaknesses, how strong they currently are and how good they could potentially be by the time it all clicks into place.

Using what's transpired over the course of the season so far, B/R Football ranks the top 10 teams on the continent right now, according to performances and results in 2019-20. If you're a big name and you're not here—and there are plenty of you—step it up. Fast.


10. Napoli

NAPLES, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 29: Dries Mertens of SSC Napoli celebrates the victory after the Serie A match between SSC Napoli and Brescia Calcio at Stadio San Paolo on September 29, 2019 in Naples, Italy. (Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images)
Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images

Fifteen goals (joint-most in Serie A) have helped Napoli to four league wins, but the best result by far is the 2-0 victory over Liverpool in the Champions League that carved out a commanding position in the group early on.

If there were an award for the most entertaining team so far, the Partenopei might get it; there's rarely a dull moment where they're concerned.

The problem for manager Carlo Ancelotti is that that's the only award for which they feel feasibly in contention. It's difficult to see them outside of the guise they've held for the last few seasons: strong, but not a true contender for any silverware.


9. Atletico Madrid

MADRID, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 28: Joao Felix Sequeira of Atletico de Madrid and Sergio Ramos of Real Madrid battle for the ball during the Liga match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Real Madrid CF at Wanda Metropolitano on September 28, 2019 in Madrid, Sp
TF-Images/Getty Images

Already this season, Atletico Madrid have been overestimated (thanks to a good pre-season and start to the campaign) and underrated (after the good start slowed down). That tends to happen when there's a lot of hype and interest in a team.

That hype came from the transfer work they did over the summer, stocking up their squad with talent after the departure of several club legends and old-timers. There were some headline captures (Joao Felix), some much-needed exciting additions (Marcos Llorente) and some very, very Diego Simeone acquisitions (Hector Herrera).

As a result of the wholesale changes, they're still very much figuring things out on the fly, so the spot they hold right now—third in La Liga on 14 points—is more than acceptable as a result.

If you can pick up points while revamping your own setup, you're standing yourself in good stead.


8. Real Madrid

MADRID, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 28: Hazard of Real Madrid  during the La Liga Santander  match between Atletico Madrid v Real Madrid at the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano on September 28, 2019 in Madrid Spain (Photo by Rico Brouwer/Soccrates/Getty Images)
Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Real Madrid are top of La Liga after seven games and stand as the only unbeaten side in the division. That's cause for genuine celebration given the cloud under which they entered the campaign.

Karim Benzema has picked up where he left off last season, scoring five goals in six starts. Gareth Bale has also proved his worth, while some of the new signings, like Ferland Mendy and Eden Hazard, are beginning to make their marks.

But some of the performances have still felt very dysfunctional. The draws against Real Valladolid and Villarreal weren't good, and that 3-0 loss to Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League was downright embarrassing.

There's work to do for Zinedine Zidane, but more green shoots are visible than most anticipated, at least.


7. RB Leipzig

Leipzig's German forward Timo Werner reacts during the German First division Bundesliga football match between RB Leipzig and Schalke 04 in Leipzig, on September 28, 2019. (Photo by Ronny Hartmann / AFP) / DFL REGULATIONS PROHIBIT ANY USE OF PHOTOGRAPHS A
RONNY HARTMANN/Getty Images

It was all going perfectly until this weekend.

RB Leipzig welcomed a buoyant but clearly weaker Schalke 04 side to the Red Bull Arena having not lost a game so far...and found themselves 3-0 down by the hour mark.

They looked defensively loose in a way they simply hadn't in any other game, while offensively, they struggled to create their usual number of chances.

The loss reminded us just how brilliant they'd been beforehand, as it was a shock to see them off-colour. Manager Julian Nagelsmann has had quite the effect on this team already, clearly.


6. Paris Saint-Germain

BORDEAUX, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 28: Marquinhos, Juan Bernat of PSG celebrate the victory following the Ligue 1 match between FC Girondins de Bordeaux and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) at Stade Matmut Atlantique on September 28, 2019 in Bordeaux, France. (Photo b
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Few expected PSG to have already clocked up two Ligue 1 losses by this point. But given no other team has truly taken advantage of that, it won't bother them.

What's really important to the capital club is their Champions League project, and that's begun swimmingly. The 3-0 home win over Real Madrid was dominant and showed a side to PSG some didn't think they had: a solid, smart one that manages games.

Like many clubs on this list, they still feel a work in progress, but the signs of an excellent team are there. With Neymar and Kylian Mbappe back in the fold, they look capable of winning any game.


5. Bayern Munich

PADERBORN, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 28: Robert Lewandowski of Bayern Muenchen celebrates after scoring his team's third goal during the Bundesliga match between SC Paderborn 07 and FC Bayern Muenchen at Benteler Arena on September 28, 2019 in Paderborn, German
TF-Images/Getty Images

It's a strange thing to say, but it almost feels as though Bayern Munich are playing without much pressure.

With expectations for them lowered and both Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig taking focus in the Bundesliga, the reigning champions have been allowed to start the season unbeaten and...in peace?

Philippe Coutinho has worked his way into the team and is performing brilliantly, lifting their level and helping them to an unbeaten start in all competitions.

The defensive unit hasn't quite knit itself together yet, but that doesn't matter when you're scoring three or more in the majority of your games. Bayern have been steady so far but look like they have another gear or two to hit.


4. Juventus

Juventus' Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring during the Italian Serie A football match Juventus vs Spal on September 28, 2019 at the Juventus stadium in Turin. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)        (Photo credit should read AND
ANDREAS SOLARO/Getty Images

The early days under Maurizio Sarri's guidance have been a little rocky.

The manager caught pneumonia and spent time in hospital, defensive lynchpin Giorgio Chiellini tore his ACL, and some of the early games against Serie A minnows have been a lot tighter and a lot more difficult than expected.

But the bottom line is they're still pulling out results; they've managed five wins from six in Serie A and haven't lost a game in any competition.

Interestingly, Sarri has already used three different formations—that's two more than he used in over 60 games at Chelsea—as he sizes up the deep and talented squad at his disposal.


3. Manchester City

Manchester City's Belgian midfielder Kevin De Bruyne (R) celebrates with Manchester City's Argentinian striker Sergio Aguero after scoring his team's eighth goal during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Watford at the E
OLI SCARFF/Getty Images

Five wins from seven in the Premier League, a whopping 27 goals scored in the process, and just the one freak loss to Norwich City. That sounds pretty good, so why, then, is Pep Guardiola's brow furrowed?

Because the stakes at the top of the Premier League are sky-high, and failing to win two games already has them trailing Liverpool by five points.

As we know, this is no insurmountable gap—City closed a seven-point Liverpool lead last season—but it's not ideal.

Still, City's record in comparison to almost everyone else's is excellent, and they look as imperiously strong as everyone expected.


2. Inter Milan

coach Antonio Conte of Internazionale FC during the Lega Calcio Serie A TIM match between FC Internazionale and SS Lazio at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on September 25, 2019 in Milan, Italy(Photo by VI Images via Getty Images)
VI-Images/Getty Images

Just missing out on top spot are Inter Milan, whose early form and ability to grind out results on the domestic stages look pretty ominous.

They've played six, won six, conceded just two goals and already emerged from tough scrapes. Rivals Milan and a strong Lazio side have been dispatched to nil.

The one black mark on their resume is that home draw against Slavia Prague in the Champions League. It's the easiest fixture in their group, and they blew it. The performance levels in European competition not being to the same standard as in the league remain a common Antonio Conte theme.


1. Liverpool

Liverpool's Senegalese striker Sadio Mane (R) celebrates with teammates Liverpool's Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah (L) and Liverpool's Brazilian midfielder Roberto Firmino after scoring a goal during the UEFA Super Cup 2019 football match between FC Li
BULENT KILIC/Getty Images

Seven from seven in the Premier League, progression in the Carabao Cup and a European Super Cup victory. Liverpool's start to the season has been close to flawless.

The goals are being shared around the team, and their defensive solidity has only taken a minor hit after losing star goalkeeper Alisson Becker to injury. They've just emerged from a really tough test at Sheffield United, proving their ability to scrap as well as sizzle.

The only thing marring Liverpool's record this season is the 2-0 loss to Napoli on Champions League Matchday 1. They played well in that game, just falling the wrong side of the margins (and an extremely questionable penalty decision).

Some may argue Inter deserve to take top spot, and they undoubtedly have a claim. But Liverpool feel the stronger unit overall and the definitive team to beat at this stage.


 

Still to impress

Barcelona: Without Lionel Messi, they've really struggled. Away form has been a killer, and they've rarely impressed.

Borussia Dortmund: More vulnerable than anticipated. Still conceding silly goals and extremely weak from set pieces.

   

On the bubble

Atalanta: Had they not been turned over in their first Champions League outing, we might view Atalanta differently.

Leicester City: The third-best team in England...?

Sevilla: Looking good under Julen Lopetegui. Exactly how good is difficult to tell right now.

Ajax: Playing in a weak league means Ajax, rightly or wrongly, have it all to prove all over again. But the start is good.

    

Follow @stighefootball

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All statistics via WhoScored.com.

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