By: Zack Lambert
20. Zenit St. Petersburg
Zenit did suffer a loss to rivals Lokomotiv Moscow, but the 3-1 wins over Benfica and Ural were enough to help them debut in the top 20. The team has one of the best Russian footballers in Artem Dzyuba who already has 5 goals and 6 assists on the season. The Russian side currently sit tied with Lyon for the top of Group G in the Champions League and are proving to be a really tough out. They face Rostov in their return to action after the international break.
20. Leicester City
Yes, I’m aware that I have two number 20s, I just felt that leaving either of these teams off would be a disservice. The Foxes did just fall to Liverpool, but I felt that the foul that gave Liverpool the deciding penalty was soft and didn’t warrant punishment. Leicester combined for 9-0 in their 2 games against Luton and Newcastle with scoring from all over. The defense is one of the best in the Prem while the attack is potent from all over. Imagine how good they’ll be when James Maddison returns to form. Leicester’s next game will come against Burnley.
19. RB Salzburg
The Austrian squad did just lose to Liverpool in the Champions League, but they mounted a nearly historical comeback that almost left the holders treading water for a single point. Salzburg has dominated the Austrian league with one of the best young attacks in the world. Erling Haaland is a legitimate wonderkid and will be falling into the gaze of lusty eyes if he isn’t there already. This group can score on anyone and they aren’t afraid of a fight. That’s a horribly dangerous combination.
18. PSV Eindhoven
The Dutch side have won 4 in a row including their last 3 by a combined 12-2. They crushed Rosenburg in the Europa league while handling their business in the Eredivisie to stay level with Ajax. Donyell Malen is looking like the next great Dutch striker as he already has 15 goals across all competition this season. Steven Bergwijn has been making this side tick with his incredible playmaking. The PSV-Ajax race in league play will be an incredible race considering they game against each other might provide the only loss for either side the rest of the way. PSV take on Utrecht after the break.
17. Shakhtar Donetsk
The Ukranian club have not lost since their bout with Man City in the Champions League, including to a very good side in Atalanta in that same competition. The Ukranian Premier League continues to be a one horse race with Donetsk already 10 points clear. Moraes and Marlos Bonfim are leading the way with a combined 15 goals in league play while the team sits 3rd in their group in Champions League due to point differential. The Ukranians will return to action against Kolos Kovalivka.
16. RB Leipzig
Leipzig took some major hits in their last 3 games, only taking a single point from all of them. Schalke 04 and Lyon both beat Leipzig by 2 goals while the draw came to Leverkusen. The goal scoring was just not there in those games as Timo Werner and company have cooled off from their hot start. They still have one of the more talented squads in Europe, they just need to find a game plan that fits all of their strengths onto the pitch in harmony. It will come. Their next Bundesliga game is against Wolfsburg.
Dortmund are also a German team that has underperformed as of late. Goals have not been an issue as each of their last 3 games have resulted in 2 goals for, but clean sheets have been an issue since those 3 games only resulted in 1 win and 2 draws. This team has some of the best attacking weapons in football but just can’t keep up on the back end. Roman Bürki and the centre backs just can’t keep the ball out of the net. Luckily, the win of those games came in the Champions League, putting them first in Group F over Barcelona. On the other hand, the 2 draws leave Dortmund in 8th in the Bundesliga. They play next against regional rivals Gladbach.
Inter imploded after their victory over Sampdoria and blew a 1-0 lead at Camp Nou and a 1-1 tie at home against Juve. Inter are really good against smaller clubs and have no problem taking care of business there but are struggling when it comes to top teams. The defense fell apart in both games, leaving Samir Handanovic exposed to world class strikers ready to prey. The back 3 is certainly an issue for Antonio Conte’s side and needs to be sorted before they have no chance in Champions League.
13. Real Madrid
Madrid have bounced back well from their PSG implosion with a draw against Atletico and a win over Granada in La Liga. Unfortunately, they also drew with Club Brugge at the Bernabeu, giving a feeling of sickness to the clubs many supporters. Zidane can’t seem to stick with one lineup as players are cycled in and out of the squad on a whim. This club is too big and talented for experimentation. Luckily the team sits top of the table, but they’re also dead last in their group in Champions League. It isn’t pretty. Their next game is against Mallorca.
Since their opening loss to Manchester United, Chelsea have just gotten better. Tammy Abraham looks like the striker of the future while Mason Mount is running rampant in the midfield. Kante has reached his top form again while Christian Pulisic has finally gotten into the fray. The youngsters have come back just at the right time as the rest of the already depleted squad is suffering injuries. However, over these past 2 weeks Chelsea have been good, beating Brighton, Lille and Southampton. The Blues are still 3rd in their European group but have climbed to 5th in the Prem.
11. FC Porto
Potro only had 2 games in the past weeks and have split them. Their win came over Rio Ave in Liga NOS, putting them in 3rd just behind Benfica and Famalicao. The loss came to Feyenoord in the Europa League. Porto have a really good roster up and down, they have just been underperforming on defense. The attack can score on nearly anyone, but keeping the ball out of the net is rendering those attacks useless. Once Pepe and company settle a bit more, this team should take over the league table.
The Gunners took 7 points out of 9 in their last 3 matches. The only draw came in a dreary match at Old Trafford in which Aubameyang saved Arsenal yet again. Their European match was against Belgian side Standard Liege. That match featured the youngsters and returning players in Gabrielle Martinelli and Hector Bellerin, Kieran Tierney, andRob Holding, respectively. All performed extremely well in an exciting game for Gunners fans. The final victory was over Bournemouth, where David Luiz opened his Arsenal account with a headed goal. Arsenal take on Sheffield for their next fixture.
9. Atlético Madrid
This team has become very frustrating to watch as they just cannot take control of their massive potential. The defense has been spectacular, but the loaded attack has not been able to capitalize. Atletico drew to both Real Madrid and Valladolid while beating only Lokomotiv in Champions League. Once Joao Felix and his compatriots start to click there should be real problems for anyone facing this team. There’s too much here for them to squander. They still sit 3rd in the Spanish league and 2nd in their Champions League group behind Juve.
The Dutch side just keeps winning games. Their last 3 have yielded 9 points and a 7-0 combined scoreline. The attack has been close to unrivaled this year, even without de Jong, which is a huge plus for the squad. There are a lot of unselfish players in the team which makes for a really entertaining show when on the offensive. Once the defense begins to limit chance creation there may not be any flaws on the team. Ajax was dominant over Valencia in a surprisingly impressive performance that put them 3 points clear in Group H of Champions League.
After beating Brescia 2-1, Napoli dropped points in surprising fashion against Genk and Torino. The Italian club lacked firepower in their most recent matches with the feet of Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne going cold. The Kalidou Koulibaly led defense is still well intact, even with the offense not living up to their end of the deal. Sloppy play in the midfield has led to chance creation for opponents and, in effect, not given the forwards a chance to get in rhythm. Napoli host Verona after the international break.
6. Manchester City
City might top the list if it weren’t for another curious loss in the Prem. This time it came at the hands of Wolves. City handled Everton and Dynamo Zagreb before facing Wolves, but were simply “nervous” according to Pep Guardiola. The world’s deadliest attack was unable to produce at home, resulting in the team falling 8 points clear of the lead and only 3 points away from 8th. City are still focused internationally as they are atop their group in Champions League. City travel to Crystal Palace after the break.
The Catalans have won their past 4 games, 2 of which came shorthanded. The first was against Getafe, in which Lenglet accumulated 2 yellows. The other, and the most recent game, was a 4-0 win over Sevilla in which Ronald Araujo and Ousmane Dembele received straight reds. Barca are loving Messi back in the lineup as he has given the team an extra level of production that now puts them at 2nd in league play. In Europe, Barcelona pulled off a stunning home comeback over Inter that sent their opponents to the bottom of the group. Barcelona, now sits in 2nd place behind Dortmund on goals in Group F.
4. Bayern München
The Germans would have kept their top spot had they not faltered to Hoffenheim on Saturday. They did defeat Paderborn in league play and absolutely crushed Spurs in Champions League, but were unable to overcome their league counterparts. Serge Gnabry and Robert Lewandowski have been scoring goals like nobody’s business and show no sign of stopping. If they continue at this rate, Bayern will be holding the league trophy once again. They’re unstoppable when they’re on their game. Bayern are currently 3rd in the Bundesliga and sit atop Group B in the Champions League. Their next match will be played against Augsburg.
3. Paris Saint-Germain
PSG have climbed high in the rankings since swatting Real Madrid. They have won their past 3 and are the clear favorites to win the French title yet again. Neymar and Mbappe are back and have added that extra layer that is needed to win internationally. Their last 3 games have been clean sheets against Bordeaux, Galatasaray, and Angers. This roster is competing with Bayern for the title of most complete. The forwards are impeccable, the midfielders are perfect supporters on both sides of the ball, and the defense is impregnable. If this team can stay healthy there’s no reason they can’t win the Champions League.
Even after a perfect week Liverpool haven’t moved to the top spot, and that’s because while their record might indicate a perfect couple of weeks, it was far from that. Liverpool took care of Sheffield 2 weeks ago, but the 2 games since have been near calamity for the Reds. The defense was horrendous against Salzburg, allowing the Austrians to storm back and nearly steal all the point in the Champions League. Then, Leicester was set for a draw at Anfield before a sketchy penalty was awarded to put Liverpool ahead in the late minutes. The defense that was not breached last season seems more and more exposed as the season goes on. Even VVD has started to waver. I feel as though Liverpool are living on the edge and it’s only a matter of time before things start to fall over. Their next game is a huge match at Old Trafford after the international break.
Juve have taken over as the top club in football after a few nice showings recently. First, the Turin club beat SPAL 2-0 in league play. Next, Leverkusen came to Italy for a Champions League match and were sent packing with a 3-0 loss. Finally, Juve prevailed in a wild Italian Derby that was won by the foot of club favorite Gonzalo Higuain. Regardless of the issues that Ronaldo can create on the field, this team is incredible. Mauricio Sarri has brought this club to a top spot in their CL group as well as the top spot in Serie A. Many players dream of gracing the Juve pitch, and even more are wanting to come because of Sarri himself. They look untouchable right now.