Manchester City hold their own as Real Madrid return to the Top 5 in the RealSport European Power Rankings
Our countdown of the best teams in Europe continues with the top five.
In the second part of RealSport’s European power rankings for March, we return to rank the best teams in Europe over the course of the last month.
Part one revealed that PSG dropped out of the top five after their damaging defeat to Real Madrid.
Find out who has usurped them and if anyone has been able to dethrone Manchester City at the summit.
5. Real Madrid (↑1)
With his job severely under pressure, Zinedine Zidane has steered Madrid back to their rightful place in Europe.
Four wins on the bounce in the league have ended any speculation on the unthinkable idea that they could finish outside of the European places, especially as they’re fortunate neither Sevilla nor Villarreal look capable of putting in a challenge.
The return to goal-scoring for Cristiano Ronaldo, who has 12 goals in his last seven matches, makes everything appear normal again. With him back on the scoresheet, Real Madrid seem to click again – as a team, they’ve scored an impress 30 goals in those seven games.
The victory over PSG was an ominous sign for their European competitors as they rode out difficult spells to record a significant victory. They weren’t entirely convincing but nor were they unconvincing for large parts of their previous two Champions League-winning campaigns. Yet again moments of quality and an unparalleled will to win was enough to see them through.
As they did in the recent midweek loss to Espanyol, they might switch off at certain points. As has often been the case this season, their supplementary squad options haven’t shown enough. But such results are academic – the title was conceded long ago and top four is a certainty.
The fact remains that with the first team in their best form, which they’re finally showing for the first time this season, they’re a match for anybody. Zidane looks to have them peaking at exactly the right time again.
4. Juventus (=)
It’s the same old story in Italy, as Juventus continue to win at an unabating pace. Into another final of the Coppa Italia, a win over Milan would see them win it for the fifth straight season. Second in the league, the title still remains in their hands as they still have to play leaders Napoli.
This team has set a precedent of getting the necessary wins as they’ve dominated Italian football for the past six years. They’ve won nine Serie A games on the bounce as they aim to go toe-to-toe at the top.
The result, and more pertinently the performance, against Tottenham was a concerning outlier in what has been an otherwise excellent 2018 for Juventus. Of the ten matches they’ve played in this calendar year so far, Mauricio Pochettino’s team were the only ones to get avoid defeat or even score a goal.
Tottenham were good value for their two goals and even created enough good chances to make the scoreline higher. Massimiliano Allegri will have been concerned with the paucity of their defence and Tottenham’s ability to control the midfield and will be looking to rectify things at Wembley.
Despite the first leg draw, no other team in Europe is as capable of taking a lead and holding onto a clean sheet. The return of Paulo Dybala will also be key.
Don’t write them off.
3. Bayern Munich (=)
With a 19 point lead, the Bundesliga belongs, again, to Bayern Munich. After swotting aside Paderborn 6-0, they’re into the semi-finals of the DFB Pokal and strong favourites to win. They’re also effectively into the quarterfinals of the Champions League after making short work of Besiktas.
Their form under Jupp Heynckes has been formidable, winning all but two matches since the veteran Westphalian coach returned. Bavarians will dream he can deliver another treble, as he did in 2013, his last season in charge.
The challenge for Bayern will be if they can maintain the same intensity for the rest of the season and keep everyone fit. As has been their undoing in recent years, alongside PSG and at a rung below teams like Celtic or Olympiakos, steamrolling past domestic competition who often sit deep and try to keep the score down doesn’t equip them to perform against the best attacking teams on the continent who will press back and take the game to them.
It will be interesting to see how this team responds to a test as Heynckes is yet to face anything like a formidable opponent yet. The last time he was in charge, his team memorably blew Barcelona away 7-0 on aggregate in the semi-finals and beat Antonio Conte’s 2-0 in both legs of the quarters.
2. Barcelona (=)
February was a mixed month for Barcelona.
Their lead has been cut to from eleven to seven points after flat performances in draws against Espanyol and Getafe. Most concerning of all, they really struggled to create chances against a resolute and organised Chelsea team in the Champions League and were a little fortunate not to concede more after Willian hit both posts.
On the other hand, they came away from Stamford Bridge with a vital away goal and a result that stands them in good stead. A seven-point lead is a healthy one, though, and they remain unbeaten in the league. Through to the Copa del Rey final for the fifth consecutive year after outclassing Valencia, there are also signs that they could see Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho making meaningful contributions, both of whom produced a dazzling display as they thrashed Girona 6-1.
It will be interesting to see where Barcelona go from here. Four in midfield and Paulinho have taken Barcelona this far but they looked vulnerable with that system against Chelsea and formidable with Dembele against Girona. Will Ernesto Valverde change his a system that has served him so well?
The upcoming league match against Atlético and the second leg against Chelsea will tell us a lot about how far this team can go.
1. Manchester City (=)
The loss to Wigan in the FA Cup is the only blemish on an otherwise extraordinary season. The dream of a quadruple is over, but the fact it was a genuine conversation, six months into the season, is testament to what Manchester City have been doing. And by winning at Wembley, they’ve appeared to put it behind them and ensure there’s no hangover.
The first trophy of the Pep Guardiola era arrived after easing to victory over Arsenal. Truth be told it wasn’t the most impressive of performances but their ability to take the game out of their opponents’ reach whilst barely shifting out of second gear is as clear a mark of excellence for Manchester City as it is a damning indictment of Arsenal.
With the domestic trophies behind them and a comfortable lead in the Premier League, they’ll be well equipped to rest players and give the Champions League their full focus. They have to be considered amongst the favourites, especially if they can keep their key players fit.
The nine goals they put past Basel and Leicester show that this team didn’t plateau too early in the season. Deep into the season, they’re well capable of playing their best football. David Silva, Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne have put in breathtaking performances recently, which isn’t a surprise but the likes of Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan contributing more shows the depth of this squad.
At times this season, Manchester City have played at a level previously unseen in English football. If they can back that up with trophies – one is won, a second appears certain, and they are well capable of a third, they must be considered amongst the finest English sides of the modern era.
Jose Mourinho’s points record at Chelsea, Arsenal’s Invincibles and Manchester United’s treble winners – even if they don’t quite match any one achievement, that they’re close to all three simultaneously is arguably more impressive.
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