The final international break of the 2018-19 season is now upon us, but at least domestic football gave itself one hell of a send-off last week, combining brilliant Champions League and Europa League action with a hectic set of league games at the weekend.
When the world’s top players return to their clubs at the end of the month and resume day duties, the business end of the campaign will truly begin. This ranking serves as a health check on Europe’s best as we approach the home straight.
The European Club Rankings is a list of the continent’s top teams in order of form and performance at this stage of the season.
You can read the previous set of rankings here.
20. Milan (-2)
On last week’sB/R Football Ranks podcast, we spoke about AC Milan using a Derby della Madonnina win to springboard their assault on second place in Serie A.
But they lost Sunday’s showpiece game against Inter Milan 3-2 after collapsing defensively somewhat, widening the gap between themselves and Napoli in the table and perhaps forcing another retake in stock.
19. Lille (-2)
A stoppage-time Monaco goal condemned Lille to a rare defeat, their first for a month and a half. They drop two as a result.
18. Eintracht Frankfurt (+2)
Another week, another impressive set of results for Frankfurt.
They beat Inter Milan 1-0 at the San Siro last Thursday to progress to the Europa League quarter-finals, and then beat Nurnberg by the same score on Sunday to move themselves to within a point of fourth in the league.
17. Real Madrid (+2)
Zinedine Zidane’s second era at the Santiago Bernabeu is off to a fantastic start.
He wasted no time in restoring certain names to his starting XI—Isco and Marcelo, exiled in the previous regime, among them—and was rewarded with good performances en route to a 2-0 win.
The club also confirmed the summer signing of Eder Militao from FC Porto for €50 million. That’s expected to be the first of several as this squad is refreshed.
16. Arsenal (Stay)
Arsenal went into Thursday’s Europa League session with a serious job on their hands—overturning a two-goal deficit against Rennes—and they succeeded in fine style.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang stole the headlines by pulling out a Black Panther mask after scoring the vital third goal on the night, but it was another very good team performance. This group finally appear to be clicking.
15. Chelsea (-1)
Chelsea’s performance against Everton on Sunday may have looked strange to neutrals, but Blues fans are used to that sort of thing by now.
They played so well in the first half, matching intensity with attacking enterprise, but squandered all of their chances. Then they came out in the second half limp, conceded two and lost the game.
It’s one hell of a way to bring your fans down from cloud nine following that 5-0 win over Dynamo Kiev.
14. Lyon (+1)
Lyon’s impressive Champions League run is over, Les Gones falling to Barcelona in the Camp Nou last week. The 5-1 scoreline reflected a heavy defeat, but they gave it a go over two legs and can hold their heads high.
Focus now returns to domestic matters, and specifically the task of catching Lille in the league and the Coupe de France semi-finals in a few weeks. Their 3-2 win over Montpellier at the weekend gained them some ground in that aspect.
13. Tottenham Hotspur (Stay)
With no games to play, Tottenham skipped off to Barcelona for some warm weather training. Presumably they discussed their alarming slide in form (last league win was February 10) and how to fix it.
12. Napoli (-1)
Napoli seemingly tried very hard to throw their Europa League aspirations away last week, taking a 3-0 lead into their second leg with RB Salzburg and just about emerging as 4-3 aggregate winners.
They then negotiated a win over Udinese in Serie A in tricky circumstances, as goalkeeper David Ospina collapsed to the ground after an earlier hit the to head, per BBC Sport. Fortunately, scans at the hospital were clear.
11. FC Porto (+1)
Last week’s Champions League draw handed Porto the chance to gain revenge over Liverpool.
They will meet in the knockout stages in April for the second time in two years, with last season’s 5-0 aggregate defeat likely still too fresh in the memory for some.
The Dragons have a big couple of weeks coming up after the international break: They face Braga twice (in the league and in the cup semi-finals), then local rivals Boavista, and they then travel to Anfield—all in the space of 10 days.
10. Ajax (-1)
League: 2nd | KNVB Cup: Final | Champions League: Quarter-finals
Ajax’s fourth loss of the Eredivisie season, 1-0 to AZ Alkmaar, widened the gap between themselves and first-placed PSV Eindhoven to five points.
They’ve been very up and down domestically—sometimes losing inexplicably, sometimes scoring six—and the likely root of that issue is that they’ve kept one eye on their European campaign all season.
When they return from the international break, they’ll face PSV at home and, if they have any hopes of winning the league this season, that’s a must-win game.
9. Atletico Madrid (-3)
League: 2nd | Copa del Rey: Out (Round of 16) | Champions League: Out (Round of 16)
Last week, Atletico Madrid’s season just kind of ended.
Their meek performance in Turin led to a 3-0 loss to Juventus, knocking them out of the Champions League, and there’s little else left to play for outside of racing Real Madrid for second in La Liga.
Perhaps the players know that all too well. Their 2-0 loss to Athletic Club Bilbao was pretty drab.
8. Manchester United (-1)
League: 5th | Carabao Cup: Out (3rd round) | FA Cup: Out (Quarter-finals) | Champions League: Quarter-finals
It was a very, very bad week for Manchester United’s chances of silverware.
First they were drawn with Barcelona in the Champions League quarter-finals—hardly the kindest turn of events, even the most optimistic fan would admit—and then they lost to Wolverhampton Wanderers in the FA Cup quarter-finals.
Concerningly for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, United were genuinely outplayed at Molineux for large spells despite fielding a full-strength outfield selection.
7. Borussia Dortmund (+3)
League: 2nd | DFB-Pokal: Out (3rd round) | Champions League: Out (Round of 16)
Dortmund appear to have snapped out of their February slump and responded well to being dumped out of the Champions League.
They may have lost first place in the Bundesliga due to Bayern Munich’s goal-difference surge, but two straight wins have been recorded for the first time since January, and that’s nothing but good news.
6. Paris Saint-Germain (+2)
League: 1st | Coupe de France: Semi-finals | Coupe de la Ligue: Out (Quarter-finals) | Champions League: Out (Round of 16)
PSG vs. Marseille, or “Le Classique” as it’s known, is one of the biggest games in the French football calendar. Despite the former dominating it in recent years, it always boasts that extra element of desire, drama and excitement.
PSG won again, 3-1, and in the process extended their lead at the top of Ligue 1 to 20 points. Ridiculous.
5. Bayern Munich (-1)
League: 1st | DFB-Pokal: Quarter-finals | Champions League: Out (Round of 16)
The Champions League round-of-16 action has made clear where the “line” is in European football right now. There are four teams who are clearly in a little league of their own, leaving the rest to trail behind.
Bayern Munich are, arguably, the best of the rest. Their 6-0 demolition of Mainz on Sunday outlined their domestic superiority once again, but in midweek against Liverpool—one of the very best—they came up well short.
4. Juventus (+1)
League: 1st | Coppa Italia: Out (Quarter-finals) | Champions League: Quarter-finals
Juventus’ invincible dream died on Sunday afternoon.
A 2-0 loss to Genoa, sparked by former Juve midfielder Stefano Sturaro, saw the Old Lady beaten for the first time in Serie A this season.
But while fans may be disappointed to fall short in their pursuit of history, their brilliant 3-0 win over Atletico Madrid in midweek means Turin is still a happy place right now.
That brilliant Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick overturned a two-goal deficit and ensured the No. 1 objective for the campaign—winning the Champions League—remained possible.
3. Liverpool (Stay)
League: 1st | Carabao Cup: Out (3rd round) | FA Cup: Out (3rd round) | Champions League: Quarter-finals
Last week, Liverpool knocked out two vitally important wins in difficult circumstances.
Midweek saw them travel to Munich in the knowledge they had to score (and probably win) to progress at the expense of Bayern, which they did.
They then had to follow that up with a victory over Fulham and did so despite making a rare defensive error which led to a goal, retaking the lead inside the last 10 minutes and holding on.
2. Barcelona (Stay)
League: 1st | Copa del Rey: Final | Champions League: Quarter-finals
Not for the first time, fans and pundits simply ran out of words to describe Lionel Messi on Sunday night.
A glorious hat-trick against Real Betis, punctuated by an obscene chipped goal, had worldwide viewers rushing to praise him. Even Betis fans inside the stadium stood and applauded.
That came after a casual two-goal, two-assist performance against Lyon, helping Barca into the Champions League quarter-finals. Again, no words left.
1. Manchester City (Stay)
League: 2nd | Carabao Cup: Winners | FA Cup: Semi-finals | Champions League: Quarter-finals
Manchester City can consider themselves pretty fortunate to still be in FA Cup.
Their 3-2 quarter-final win over Swansea City was anything but comfortable; they went 2-0 down to begin with and then needed a questionable penalty decision to help their comeback.
It was all a far cry from the 7-0 win recorded over Schalke 04 in midweek, showing no remorse to the German outfit as they scored goal after goal—something that surely played a part in the Konigsblauen’s decision to sack manager Domenico Tedesco shortly after.
All statistics via WhoScored.com.
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