After two-week break we’re back with our own Power Ranking of top European clubs. Let’s find out which teams on the continent are in the best shape before the semi-finals of the Champions League and the Europa League.
- Barcelona’s eight of eleven
- Liverpool’s bad-luck millimeters
- Man City’s and Juventus’ bittersweetness
- FC Barcelona (one up)
They did it again. Catalan players won LaLiga again, precisely eighth time in the last eleven seasons. Occasion to celebrate came up on Saturday when they beat Levante (1-0) and remained title with three games to spare. “8 of 11. Making the extraordinary seem normal” was the slogan on Barca’s celebratory t-shirts that players worn after the game. Yep, it’s unique how Blaugrana dominated domestic competitions, though club’s obsession is still the Champions League.
Barcelona hasn’t won this trophy since 2015 and in this edition, after finally making through quarter-finals, the team is only three matches from the most precious silverware in Europe’s football. Leo Messi promised fans at the beginning of the season that he and his colleagues would do everything to bring back this beautiful trophy to Camp Nou. Now ahead of Argentinian stands the biggest challenge of this season - Juergen Klopp’s red machine from Liverpool. Graham Hunter noticed in ESPN that Liverpool is Barcelona’s kryptonite. Blaugrana has never eliminated The Reds in European competition and has never won even a single game against Liverpool at Camp Nou. Argentinian Superman will fight with one of his biggest weaknesses on Wednesday.
2. Liverpool (one down)
Quite astonishing that practically perfect season can bring zero trophies. Klopp’s boys may be this season's biggest wonder, but it’s likely that they will end up with nothing. NOTHING. The Champions League brings hope at Anfield but also a mystery that can evolve into misery. Liverpool have to find a way how to stop Messi. Otherwise there will be no European glory for The Reds. Nevertheless, in the Champions League everything 's up to them, while in the Premier League everything’s up to faith.
This season's title race is decided by the slimmest of margins. On Sunday table-leader Manchester City beat Burnley 1-0 after Sergio Aguero’s close-range effort that crossed the line by a mere of exactly 29.51 millimetres. Manchester City, Liverpool and goal-line technology, seems familiar, right? Two teams met on 4th January in league’s clash and luck was one more time on City’s side. John Stones managed then to heroically hit the ball out of goal and goal-line technology revealed the ball come only 11 millimetres from completely crossing the line. In summary: 40 millimetres will probably decide about 38 rounds of Premier League’s title race. Were you saying something about bad luck?
3. Ajax (three up)
Since the start of March: 12 matches, 10 wins, one draw, one defeat, 35 goals scored and 14 goals conceded. Ajax’s statistics perfectly illustrate phenomenon of this team. Wonderkids in type of Matthijs de Ligt, Frenkie de Jong or David Neres have been exceptional both in the Champions League and Eredivisie. Ajax is the talk of the town right now and its fairytale is one of the greatest that football has written in this century.
Will this fairytale continue on Tuesday at White Hart Lane in Champions League’s semi-finals? It’s fair to say that if you’re not from Britain and you don’t support Ajax, then in that case you don’t support football as a whole. This team is, as we wrote in previous “Europe Throne”, pure joy of football. Nothing has changed since then. OK, maybe one thing has changed. Ajax reached magical limit of 160 goals scored in one season. 160 goals. Scored. In one season. Hats off, in every sense.
4. Tottenham (one up)
Spurs had to be in the top four of our list because of remarkable way they beat Manchester City in the quarter-finals of the Champions League. This tie had everything: goals, twists & turns and the icing on the cake with VAR-drama in additional time of second half. Mauricio Pochettino’s boys did what no one expected them to do. They are now in European Cup’s best four for the second time in the club's history, with Ajax standing in their way into historical final. First game of this semi-final will take place on Tuesday in London.
In the Premier League, on the other hand, Tottenham is at 3rd place with two points above 4th-placed Chelsea and only two games to go. BBC’s expert Alan Shearer is sure that Londoners have everything to finish EPL in the top four, no matter of European efforts. We share the opinion of English football legend.
5. Juventus (two down)
“Ive learned that football is a stupid sport for intelligent people, because the simplest things are truly also the most difficult to get right” - Juventus’ coach Massimiliano Allegri told on Rai Sport programme 'Che Tempo Che Fa'. No wonder that bittersweetness fills Allegri’s attitude to the beautiful game. His players found themselves in the same spot as last year. They have nothing to fight for anymore.
It’s simply impossible to underestimate their achievements in Serie A where this year they claimed Scudetto with historical seven games remaining. On the other hand, their European mission again ended up with failure, this time in the quarter-finals. Individual achievements may be the only thing that’s left for this team. For example: Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 600th career-goal during weekend. Pretty nice, huh?
6. Manchester City (two down)
Pep Guardiola’s boys didn’t defeat the curse. Despite being a favorite, they stopped in the Champions League at the quarter-finals. Sunday’s another big step towards banking back-to-back league’s titles won’t change a perspective. Team led by Spaniard was supposed to focus on European glory. This team was made for it.
Rivalry with Tottenham in the quarter-finals became a classic one, yet it still leaves Manchester with nothing but pain. For a second year in a row The Citizens can count only on domestic trophies. "I could not expect that at the start of season or especially in winter time. We have won 12 games in a row. It is incredible” - Guardiola couldn’t resist a high praise to his men after defeating Burnley. City won 12 consecutive games in the most competitive league in the world, though this team’s season can and will be considered a disappointment. Everything due to Europe’s failure. Football is full of paradoxes. Here we have maybe the oddest one.
7. Atletico Madrid (New Entry)
After Champions League’s exit at last 16, Altetico played eight league matches and won six of them. Diego Simeone’s boys silenced the critics in the best possible way: by simply playing consistent and efficient football. It didn’t stop FC Barcelona from maintaining a LaLiga’ title, although Diego Simeone see the glass half full.
"I was asked whether it is frustrating to finish second in La Liga, with Barcelona and Real Madrid, the best teams in the world. I don't think it's frustrating or a failure. We only think about ourselves, where we're coming from and where we're going.” - Simeone said ahead of last weekend’s round, not only supporting your players in harder times but also appreciating greatness from others. A class act from Argentinian.
8. Bayern Munich (one down)
Bayern’s game at Nurnberg on Sunday was highly disappointing but it still helped the team to get closer to clinch another Bundesliga’s title. Bavarians scrapped a point at 1:1 draw due to Serge Gnabry’s late goal and Tim Leibold’s missed penalty from additional time. With three games to go, Bayern is two points ahead of runner-up Borussia Dortmund that lost 4-2 to Schalke in shocking Riverderby.
In Bayern’s case you can recognize a real character of champions. Team’s season is far away from ideal, though it still can be ended with domestic double. It’s maybe even more curious paradox that the one that concerns Manchester City. At the end of the season, the number of trophies added to cabinet is the only thing that matters. Who will remember the style in 50 years?
9. Lille (New Entry)
Christophe Galtier’s men hit our list due to both incredible stability and temerity from last weeks. Excluding giants like Barcelona, Liverpool or Manchester City, there is not a lot of teams in Europe that deliver as constantly as team from Stade Pierre Mauroy. And deliver in some style! Lille’s finest moment in this season was 5-1 thrashing of PSG that not only embarrassed Parisians but as well delayed their title celebration. During weekend LOSC moved closer to 2nd place in Ligue 1 and, therefore, a return to the Champions League group stage after another marvelous, five-goals display, this time against Nimes. Galtier’s boys lost only one of 15 league’s matches in 2019. Their place in “Europe Throne” is well deserved.
10. To fill
In our opinion none of European teams earned a top ten spot in this list. Four remaining Europa League’s teams couldn’t dig themselves out of a hole in April. Arsenal lost four of six league’s matches this month, Chelsea on the other hand hasn’t get a Premier League’s win since three matches. Eintracht did the same in the Bundesliga. Valencia, in turn, lost three of five LaLiga’s games in April. Misery, great domestic misery.
The teams that are not in European competition didn’t catch our attention too. Most of them are still too unstable. AS Roma and Torino are decent fighters for Italian top four, though they are still not in red-hot form. Or at least not yet.