There are a lot of changes made, including those on the podium, in another addition to “Europe Throne”, OneHash’s Power Ranking of top European football clubs. Read and check what kind of changes.
- Barcelona and comfort zone
- Manchester City and lack of charisma
- Ajax and pure joy
- Liverpool (three up)
It’s really hard for Liverpool to fight with title’s thoughts all over this season. The Reds didn’t won anything since 2012’s Football League Cup so they’re as hungry for trophies as maybe no other top-European team. This hunger is perfectly visible on the pitch. LFC players are really focused on their job, practically not making any mistakes in the process. Liverpool won two really important matches last week, in both scoring two and conceding zero goals. Champions League’s victory against underdogs from FC Porto was somehow planned but full control of Premier League’s match against Chelsea showed that Juergen Klopp’s men are finally ready for gold. Upcoming days should be an easy way for them. Rematch with Porto on Wednesday is a technicality, as well as Sunday’s game at Premier League’s 18th Cardiff City.
2. FC Barcelona (one up)
Goalless draw at bottom-of-the-table Huesa doesn’t define Barca’s actual form. 1:0 win at Old Trafford does. Ernesto Valverde made huge squad-experiment on Saturday’s LaLiga match and that’s why the score and style of his team was so uncocving, as opposed to what we have seen at Old Trafford. Barcelona’s players have proven that they can win important match when they don’t play magnificent football and even when Leo Messi is somehow excluded from the game. Chris Smalling’s overzealous challenge gave Messi a bloody nose and eye but didn’t stop Argentinian and his team from clinching a crucial victory in Manchester. Now Blaugrana is in the comfort zone, facing two home matches this week, Tuesday’s rematch with Man United and Saturday’s clash with Real Sociedad. Camp Nou has become a fortress for the Catalan team which has gone 30 consecutive games without losing at home in Europe.
3. Juventus (one down)
“Their football is not beautiful but it is effective” - Amin Younes of Ajax has a point. Old Lady doesn’t shine but she’s wise and she knows how to deal with others. Juventus lost Champions League’s game in Amsterdam in all of the important statistics (shots, shots on target, passes, ball possession) but won in matter of only one football statistic that matters. Goals. 1:1 draw in Netherlands gave Italians everything they needed: away goal advantage and comfort of the way they can play in rematch. We can anticipate that Juve will calmly wait for counter-attacks on Wednesday. With Cristiano Ronaldo being rested and in form that’s the perfect idea for Old Lady to once again be the queen of the ball. Maybe not the most beautiful but the smartest one.
Juventus' shock 2-1 loss to SPAL and delayed coronation in Italy as a fact doesn’t really matter. The team is still 17 points ahead of second Napoli and will win Serie A sooner or later. What goes around comes around.
4. Manchester City (three down)
How 90 minutes do change perspective in football, right? In two of our previous “Europa Throne” episodes we were impressed by City’s dominant football and we determined this team as the best on the continent. Europe’s press has been doing the same for the whole season but one night in London kind of turned things upside down. Pep Guardiola’s side played without its typical sparkle against Tottenham in the first leg of Champions League’s quarter-finals and it led to unexpected 1:0 defeat.
3:1 win at Crystal Palace in Premier League improved moods in Manchester although it didn't solve the main problem. The team has started to loose charisma. Since 20th January City have won only one Premier League game by more than two goals. The tempo, intensity and fatigue of season’s crucial moment probably took away the joy of football from Pep Guardiola’s side. Will it be back on Wednesday’s rematch with Tottenham and on Saturday when these two teams will meet again, this time in Premier League? We have our doubts.
5. Tottenham (two up)
All of a sudden Mauricio Pochettino’s men turned out to be x-factor candidates in both England and the whole of Europe. The Spurs can end highly-favored Manchester City’s season in only three days and they’re seem like the group of people ready for that kind of challenge. Tottenham played three matches in the first half of April, won and keep the clean sheets in all of them. The only worry is Harry Kane’s season-ending injury. Nevertheless Son Heung-min, the hero of the first game against City, promises that he will be Tottenham’s main man once again. In this season Korean has scored nine goals in ten matches with Kane being absent. As for now, he’s a man of his words.
6. Ajax (one down)
If you don’t like football of Ajax, then you don’t like football at all. Jordi Cruyff, retired footballer and son of club’s legend Johan Cruyff, wrote in his column in Spanish newspaper El Pais that this team has one big feature that mark out in comparison to others. It's boldness. Boldness especially in rival’s penalty box. This season Ajax is an embodiment of the offensive football. Erik ten Hag’s players managed to score mind- blowing 106 goals (!) in 30 Eredivie’s matches. They’re brave as well in Europe. 9 to 1 shots on target, 18 to 7 total attempts, 611 to 392 passes made - these statistics from 1:1 draw with Juventus thoroughly show which side was better in Amsterdam, right? Boys from Ajax are already a moral winners of this tie. Nothing stands on their way to become formal ones as well in Turin.
7. Bayern Munich (one down)
Bayern beat Fortuna Dusseldorf 4:1 on weekend and went back on top of the Bundesliga. Nothing seems to stand on Bavarians’ road to league’s title. Even their internal problems. German press lived and breathed Robert Lewandowski’s and Kingsley Coman’s fist-fight during a behind-closed-doors training session on Thursday. Questions about Bayern’s team spirit and atmosphere of locker-room quickly appeared but they were even more quickly silenced by the players themselves. Coman scored two and Lewandowski was once again Bayern’s offensive key element. Easy come easy go.
8. Benfica (New Entry)
Another young and brave team that is known for offensive style of play. Benfica scored four and lost two goals in each of two games from last week: against Eintracht on Thursday in Europa League and Setubal on Sunday in Primeira Liga. Lisbonians’ matches are a pleasure to watch. Just as much as their biggest starlet. 19-year-old Joao Felix played a phenomenal Eintracht’s game which he ended with hat trick. On Sunday he continued what he had started three days earlier, providing one goal and two assists. No doubt that this kid is something else.
9. Arsenal (Re-Entry)
The Gunners returned to our Top 10 due to amazing performance against Napoli in Europa League. 2:0 victory was really impressive and Italians had only luck to thank for not coming back to Naples with four or even more goals conceded. Arsenal as always has its problems with lack of reproducibility and unstable form but when this team goes with the offensive flow… Hats off.
10. Manchester United (two down)
“We can’t accept mediocrity and must create a winning mentality” - Ole Gunnar Solskjaer told BBC Sport. Norwegian’s words are in practice the denial of those things that his players do on the pitch. Even when the team wins, it lacks acuteness. Example? 2:1 win against West Ham United on Saturday. On the other hand, when United lose their games, they don’t have an emergency plan. That’s how it was with Premier League’s 2:1 upset to Wolherhampton and the with 1:0 defeat to FC Barcelona in the Champions League. Team’s leader Paul Pogba said he wants to enjoy rematch with Barca at Camp Nou on Tuesday. Is it a wishful or real thinking from Frenchman? We will go with the first option.