Tottenham rising as PSG drop out of the Top 5 in the RealSport European Power Rankings
Our monthly assessment of the top ten teams in Europe continues with Tottenham and Paris Saint-Germain dropping out of the Top Five for the first time.
Last month, we assessed the strongest teams in Europe, putting Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City at the top of the pile, with Barcelona and Bayern Munich not far behind.
After a dramatic month that saw the Champions League return, here is the second instalment in a monthly series.
In this post, we look at teams between tenth and sixth, with the top five to come later. There is one new entry – which means one team from last month drops out.
That team is Manchester United who, after a limp display in Seville and a damaging loss to Newcastle, have left their Champions League progress in the balance and threatened to drop out of the top four in the Premier League.
Can they return to the list next month? Who has done enough to replace them? Find out below.
10. Atletico Madrid (New Entry)
From the team that failed to beat Qarabag home or away, Diego Simeone’s team have made exceptional progress this season and now look as good as ever. It’s a shame that they didn’t qualify through their Champions League group because, in their current form, they would challenge anyone in the knockout stages.
After drawing half of their first 12 matches in the league, Atlético are now making up for lost ground. Having lost just one league game all season, they have won 8 out of 9 games in 2018 so far. After 26 games, they have picked up exactly as many points as they did in their 2014 title-winning season.
After Diego Costa’s departure, Los Rojiblancos struggled to replace him. Fernando Torres, Kevin Gameiro, Jackson Martinez, Mario Mandzukic and Luciano Vietto have all failed to provide Antoine Griezmann with an adequate striking partner.
Now Costa has returned, he looks every bit the player that won them the title and, in the last two games, a formidable striking partnership has emerged. He’s helping get the best out of Griezmann, who after a slow start has scored seven goals in his last two games. With the best defensive record in Europe, that’s a formidable combination.
One cause of concern is how thin the squad looks. The departures of Yannick Carrasco and Nico Gaitan to China leave Atlético with just 17 outfield players. They are favourites for the Europa League and have shown they can challenge for the title. But with so few players, it will be a tough ask to compete on both fronts.
With a seven-point gap behind Barcelona, their title challenge resembles Spurs of recent seasons – “putting the pressure on” the league leaders. Neither Chelsea nor Leicester faltered, though, and Barcelona can’t afford to do the same because Atlético are keeping a fierce pace behind them. Sunday’s meeting between the top two will tell us exactly how seriously we should take this team.
9. Liverpool (↓1)
After their FA Cup departure, February offered a lean schedule for Klopp’s team. With just three Premier League games and one European excursion, there was time for a warm weather break in Marbella. On the pitch, though, they look as strong as ever.
Effectively into the quarterfinals after their 5-0 rout over Porto, they have also looked strong in the league, breezing past Southampton and West Ham. They will be disappointed with their 2-2 draw against Tottenham, especially after conceding a last-minute equaliser but they remain in a strong place for a top-four finish and their remaining schedule looks forgiving.
Sadio Mane now looks back to the outstanding form he showed last season: his hat-trick against Porto followed by a strong display against West Ham. With Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah still in exceptional form, there is an argument to be made that have the strongest front three in European football at present. Virgil van Dijk settling in well and, with some encouraging signs from Loris Karius, there’s also finally some balance with this team.
8. Napoli (↓1)
Napoli continue to keep the pace at the top of Serie A in what promises to be one of the most relentless title races in years. They have won their four league matches throughout February, extending a winning streak of ten games in total.
With a thin squad, Maurizio Sarri opted to forego a challenge in the Europa League in order to keep the pace in Italy – and even then only narrowly lost to RB Leipzig over two legs. Given that they are no longer in any other competitions now, just twelve games stand in Napoli’s way of bringing a first Scudetto back to Naples in 28 years, thus ending Juventus’ dominance of league which has seen them to six straight titles.
Napoli look every bit capable of rising to the challenge: their wins over Lazio and Cagliari in particular, in which they scored nine goals, were arresting displays of beautiful attacking football.
7. Paris Saint Germain (↓2)
Another treble of domestic silverware looks likely in the French capital, after their lead in Ligue 1 has been extended to an unassailable 14 points and they are into the semi-finals and final of the two domestic cups.
However, PSG have claimed both the Coupe de France and the Coupe de la Ligue in each of the last three seasons and four of the last five league titles, so a clean sweep of domestic trophies is starting to lose the sheen.
Back-to-back Le Classiques saw the Parisians triumph 3-0 over Marseille on both occasions. Because of history the fixture still means something but PSG have grown into such a monster such matches don’t define them. Yet again they lost the defining test.
Unai Emery’s side finally faced a challenge in February and faltered. There were times in the heavyweight bout against Real Madrid that they look to have the Champions rattled at the Bernabeu, especially after they took the lead. But yet again showed an inability to compete with the strongest of Europe as they lost 3-1.
The Madrid match exhibited their imbalances – Giovani Lo Celso looked lost as a defensive midfielder and was culpable in Madrid’s equaliser. Granted, he isn’t the first choice but a team of PSG’s ambitions shouldn’t be relying upon the injury prone, 35-year-old Thiago Motta.
Paris Saint-Germain still have a chance of a comeback in the second leg and it’s imperative they do. Qatar Sports Investments didn’t sign Neymar, doubling the world record transfer fee in doing so, to fall before the quarterfinals again.
They will have to do it without that record signing, the individual most influential in the comeback they suffered last season. But with more balance in the midfield and the attacking prowess of Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe, they still can’t be written off.
6. Tottenham (↑4)
February arguably featured the best spell of form in Tottenham’s modern history and shows Mauricio Pochettino still hasn’t hit the ceiling of how far he can take this team.
Their dominant and deserved victory over Manchester United at the end of January set the tone for a difficult run that they rode remarkably well. They put in an excellent performance at Anfield and were good value to get a draw against one of England’s form teams and, were it not for Harry Kane’s missed penalty, might have collected all three.
A derby win over Arsenal followed, the 1-0 scoreline not reflecting quite how much better Tottenham were than their North London rivals. And the best came shortly after – a 2-2 draw against one of the strongest teams in European football, Juventus.
The circumstances of that draw were especially impressive. Early errors had Tottenham looking a little overawed at the occasion but they shook off their demons to take the game to Juventus. Dominating proceedings against a team that had otherwise conceded just one goal in nineteen matches, Spurs were not over-awed in the face of a team who have shown themselves to be masters of shutting out oppositions and seeing out a lead.
Since Massimiliano Allegri took over, Juventus have reached two Champions League finals and only been knocked out by heavyweights Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid. The tie hangs in the balance but that Spurs have every chance of joining that esteemed company is a statement of excellent a team they’ve become.
Tottenham were less impressive in less glamorous matches, being taken to replays by both Rochdale and Newport. As a result, fixtures have piled up for Tottenham, but their squad has genuine depth, and those games have allowed the likes of Victor Wanyama, Danny Rose and Toby Alderweireld more minutes as they return to full fitness.
They’ve also got through them and are into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. In the league, they showed a winning mentality to get the late goal against Crystal Palace and keep up the pace to finish in the top four.
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