by Zack Lambert
December 14th, 2020
20. Sporting CP (WWWDW)
The current leaders of the Portuguese Primeira Liga, Sporting Lisbon are rolling in a manageable domestic schedule while Benfica, Porto, and Braga struggle to maintain their quality while juggling Europe among their responsibilities. Sporting are teeing off on league clubs winning games regularly by three goals and beating Sacavenense (granted, not a top flight club) but a line of 7-1. It’s even more impressive that they’ve allowed only seven goals across nine matches and are yet to lose a league match, though Benfica and Braga are yet to be faced.
19. Rangers (WWWWW)
Scotland’s cream of the crop this season is the other Glasgow club, Rangers, a name not unfamiliar to football fans but one who has played second fiddle to their Old Firm partners Celtic for many years. This season Rangers are running away with the title, already up 13 points. Somehow in 17 matches Celtic have only allowed four goals to the opposition while scoring 47, thanks in large part to star wingback James Tavernier who is closing in on 20 goal contributions in 17 appearances. Not to be sacrilegious but those are Messi numbers.
18. Napoli (WDWDW)
Napoli aren’t doing an exceptional amount of dominating right now unless you’re looking at their Europa League group record, topping Real Sociedad impressively despite draws to close the sequence. The club are currently third in Serie A behind the Milan sides but the gap is closing rapidly. A relentless attack involving Dries Mertens, Lorenzo Insigne, Hirving Lozano, and Victor Osimhen is scoring nonstop and Kalidou Koulibaly is playing great defense to anchor them at the back. They’re in the running to win all the silverware they’re involved with.
17. Olympique Lyon (WWWWW)
Five straight wins for one half of the Olympique Derby has Lyon flying high, ahead of PSG in second place in Ligue 1. Speaking of the French holders, Lyon beat them to move up in the table, winning 1-0 with 10 men. The club aren’t topping the league in any specific category though they’re doing everything well. Goals are flowing for the forwards and the defense is standing firm, shutting out one of the top attacks in the world a few days ago. OL probably shouldn’t be favored to win the competition but with no responsibilities outside of the league they ought to give PSG a run for their money.
16. Barcelona (WWLLW)
You can find a more comprehensive breakdown of Barcelona and most of the teams ahead of them on my Champions League draw breakdown, so check that out. In summary, Barcelona are in trouble. Messi may not be “bad” but he’s regressing in his skills and his team are following with him. The club lacks conviction and don’t seem to enjoy playing football under Ronald Koeman and the current board. The loss to Juventus highlighted the biggest issues. The Italians flatly wanted to win more, and that’s what they did, fairly easily at Camp Nou. The leadership and funds aren’t there to improve the team in the winter and with Messi one foot out the door for free, there better be a backup plan in place.
15. Borussia Dortmund (LDDWL)
It’s no secret that Dortmund are going through a rough patch right now. This was initially thought to be something of a rebuilding season as Sancho was meant to move to Old Trafford, but when he stayed the expectations shot back up. While Håland has done his part and Gio Reyna is a great surprise, Dortmund are missing that killer mentality. While Bayern is stumbling and the Bundesliga is ripe for the taking, Dortmund have fallen to 5th. They made it out of their Champions League group and were lucky to draw Sevilla, but with the aforementioned Norwegian out for a bit and Lucien Favre packing his bags, Dortmund need stability.
14. Chelsea (DWWDL)
Despite the clubs loss to Everton this weekend and the flaws that are still staring us down, Chelsea are playing good football. They dominated their CHampions League group in a way that was convincing and their football is finally being played with conviction. With team health still improving Chelsea are not yet at full strength but still win matches against big clubs. Their defending is finally stable after seasons of play that left fans biting their fingernails. There isn’t really a weak part of this team and that’s a big success for a team who spent a lot of money to succeed.
13. Inter (WWWDW)
Inter are currently Italy’s second best team according to the tables, sitting three points behind their rivals after 11 matches. The production from Lautaro Martinez is probably dropping his stock and that’s not ideal for the ledger of Inter, but the production coming from all parts of the pitch makes up for those shortcomings. No matter the position there are good draws and despite being victims of the most shocking upset in Europe for a second season in a row, that just allows Inter to focus on winning the league. Of course they would prefer to play in Europe but getting any silverware will be a big victory and winning the league will be a monumental feat for this very talented side.
12. Real Sociedad (DDDDD)
I’ve been high on San Sebastian’s top club for a while now but even I am surprised at where they’re falling into place right now. Sociedad are the top club in Spain right now, though both Madrid clubs are within distance with games in hand. The club are struggling to earn results right now with a long string of draws coming in, but they’re earning points that are tough to come by against good teams right now so that has to count for something. The midfield is playing wonderful football and when the trio of Silva, Merino, and Oyazabal are on their game they’re one of the top attacks in football.
11. RB Leipzig (WWDWW)
It’s funny to say that Leipzig is thriving off of their defense after figuring a formula and formation that gives them a huge advantage in the attack, but the defending has been key for the club so far. The club are tied with Bayern on points but behind in goals, leaving them third in the Bundesliga. They’ve allowed only nine goals this season with Willi Orban and Dayot Upamecano playing masterclass football at the back, but don’t discount the midfield and attack. Leipzig are still getting forward with numbers and pouring shots on the net so don’t be surprised when they’re hanging around for silverware in April.
10. Bayer Leverkusen (DWWWW)
Speaking of German clubs vying for precious metals, Bayer Leverkusen is leading the Bundesliga right now. It’s not as though the club are playing devastatingly effective football, they’re simply winning the matches they ought to be. Bad teams are never in the match against the club and they always give a good fight when playing the better sides in Europe. Even without Havertz they’re capable of doing domestic damage and that may be the surprise of the Bundesliga season for me.
9. Tottenham Hotspur (DDWWD)
Spurs have cooled off a tad recently considering their lead in the Europa League, but this is yet another club who are surprise leaders in the table through a sizable portion of the season. Son and Kane are the most devastating combination in Europe right now bar maybe Müller and Lewandowski and though regression is expected, they’re just winning matches. The defense is incredible, the attack just works, the club are motivated behind Mourinho, and the investments are paying off. The jokes may be over.
8. Atlético Madrid (WDWWL)
I predicted at the beginning of the season that the title was Real Madrid’s to lose this season and the derby win last weekend proved that correct, but Atlético is more than capable of winning Spanish silverware this season. The club have really improved their attack this season and don’t play so complacently while still dominating possession. The defense is still classically Simeone-esque and allows very few goals but there are points to exploit and the best teams in the world, Real and Bayern, have proven they can be exploited easier than I believed possible. Regardless, this team can win La Liga if their form is consistent.
7. Paris Saint-Germain (DWWWL)
Speaking of form predicated on consistency, let’s have a chat about Paris Saint-Germain. Only one thing seems certain at the French club and that’s that Neymar gets injured a lot. It isn’t a barb at him, it’s just the unfortunate truth, and having to go another three weeks without their best footballer will make things difficult, especially considering they just fell to third in the table. Mbappé is still rounding into becoming the best player in the world and the defense looks utterly fantastic right now, but the midfield lacks the conviction that a champion club needs. They’re equipped to win Ligue 1 again but their chances in the Champions League aren’t great in my eyes.
6. Juventus (DWWWW)
Juve fell far in the last edition of my power rankings, back when Ronaldo was out with the virus, and though it may have been harsh it was not undeserved. This club is completely different without one of the best footballers in the world and what he adds was painfully evident against Barcelona. Ronaldo elevates all 10 teammates on the pitch to a level that they could never reach without him. The breakout of Weston McKennie and consistency from the midfield and defense reestablishes Juventus a powerhouse, and they’re one that I’m confident won’t lose to Lyon in the opening rounds. This is the real Juventus and that should scare everyone.
5. Real Madrid (LLWWW)
In a lot of seasons victories over Barcelona, Atlético, and Inter would be enough to put a team on top of the power rankings for a long time, but often those seasons don’t include two losses to Shakhtar. Real Madrid were in a big rut up until this weekend, struggling to beat newly promoted sides and looking ready to drop out of the Champions League, but some sort of flip switched and all of a sudden they’re back to being that team. Real can beat any team in the world when they’re healthy and that includes Bayern. They have elite talent at all three levels and ought to make a deep run in Europe and win La Liga.
4. Liverpool (DWWDD)
I’m continually shocked that Liverpool aren’t shelled defensively week in and week out with all of their injuries, but I suppose their victories are just a testament to their wonderful competition and skill in the midfield and attack. The Reds have climbed to second in the Premier League where they’re tied with Spurs on points, a nightmare at Villa Park separating the two clubs. The two top sides will face each other this weekend but it’s clear who the favorite will be as Anfield is a fortress and the attack is playing well. There has been some drop off in recent weeks but certainly nothing to worry about.
3. Manchester City (WDWWD)
I suppose it may be wrong of me to see the 9th place club in the Premier League as a favorite over the 2nd place holders, but here we are. To me Manchester City is the best club in Great Britain as long as Virgil van Dijk is out, their attack outclassing most in the world. They dominated their group in the Champions League and with Kevin de Bruyne playing like he is with a real defense behind him and an attack that’s finally healthy, what’s not to love? There are still inconsistency problems but that’s the case with every team on the planet with exception to a single one.
2. Bayern Munich (WDDWD)
Bayern drop out of the top place as they continue to flounder domestically. Those fishy qualities have them free falling into second place by a single point behind Leverkusen while they’re down two of their most influential players so the cause for concern is nonexistent, but still. Bayern are capable of outsourcing anyone on the planet so the fact that they fall into disarray when Joshua Kimmich isn’t on the pitch is an actual concern for me. The club would still probably beat any team head to head but they have to be better out of possession when they’re not at full strength.
1. AC Milan
Yep. AC Milan might be one of the youngest teams in Europe but that’s not stopping them from dominating everything they touch. They’re three points clear of Inter in Serie A and strolled through their Europa League group. This could be a treble winning side. The defense is really good and experienced, the midfield is consistent, and the attack is lightning fast and deadly accurate. Tell me where their flaw is. The only thing that can slow this club is themselves. Or a healthy Bayern. But I digress.