European soccer is like college sports in many ways. Teams are divided into conferences or leagues and compete against each other for a title. Then teams from the different leagues come together in events like the College Football Playoff, NCAA Tournament and Champions League to determine a champion.
Countless top 25 rankings are released every week during the college basketball and college football seasons. European soccer top 25s, though, are few and far between. This season, 110 Sports is going to change that. As European leagues begin their 2020-21 campaigns, 110 Sports will release a weekly top 25 based on results in domestic and European competitions.
The European soccer top 25 has arrived, starting (as any good top 25 does) with its preseason rankings.
Other teams in consideration: Arsenal (ENG), Ajax (NED), Rennes (FRA), Real Sociedad (ESP), Villarreal (ESP)
25) Roma (ITA)
Last season: 5th in Serie A, Europa League round of 16
Roma failed to qualify for the Champions League for the second season in a row and are up against a much deeper Serie A than in the past. A top-four finish is unlikely but not out of the question. Edin Džeko has led the team in scoring three of the past four seasons and is still going strong at age 34.
24) Lyon (FRA)
Last season: 7th in Ligue 1, Champions League semifinals
Rudi Garcia’s men are somewhere between the team that finished 7th in Ligue 1 and the team that took out Juventus and Manchester City en route to the Champions League semifinals. Memphis Depay was outstanding in a 4-1 win over Dijon to begin the season back on Aug. 28 but could be on his way to Barcelona. Lyon’s ceiling drops considerably if he were to leave.
23) Bayer Leverkusen (GER)
Last season: 5th in Bundesliga, Europa League quarterfinals
Leverkusen worked quickly to replace the departed Kai Havertz, bringing in 24-year-old Patrick Shick, who scored 10 goals for RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga last season. They have enough to make another run at the top four as they finished just three points out of third in 2019-20.
22) Napoli (ITA)
Last season: 7th in Serie A, Champions League round of 16
Napoli finished outside the top three in Serie A for the first time since 2014-15 last season in what was an extremely disappointing campaign. With Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens still there to lead the line, expect a much better showing in 2020-21. The question is whether a better showing will be enough to get back in the top three and the answer is probably not.
21) Wolves (ENG)
Last season: 7th in Premier League, Europa League quarterfinals
Wolves struggled to manage their congested schedule at the beginning of last season but proved once again they are capable of playing with anyone. Things finally clicked for Adama Traoré and the result was one of the most terrifying attackers in the Premier League. The next step for Traoré is to perform at that level more consistently. Record signing Fabio Silva has loads of potential but isn’t ready to be a key contributor for this team yet.
20) Sevilla (ESP)
Last season: 4th in La Liga, Europa League winner
Sevilla collected as many points in La Liga as Atletico Madrid and then went out and won the Europa League. Éver Banega is gone and Ivan Rakatić is back to replace him. There is a sizable gap between them and Atleti but Sevilla will pose a threat in European competitions as long as Monchi is calling the shots.
19) Marseille (FRA)
Last season: 2nd in Ligue 1
André Villas-Boas’ team capitalized on the shortened Ligue 1 season to finish as the best of the rest behind PSG. Darío Benedetto led the way with 11 league goals and Dimitri Payet directly contributed to 13 goals in 22 appearances. Winger Florian Thauvin scored in his first start in 15 months as a shorthanded Marseille side beat Brest 3-2 in their season opener on Aug. 30.
18) Leicester City (ENG)
Last season: 5th in Premier League
Don’t lose sight of the fact that Leicester were without Ricardo Pereira, Ben Chilwell and James Maddison for a vast majority of the restart. The team Brendan Rodgers will have once Pereira returns will be closer to the one that was challenging Manchester City and Liverpool (to a certain extent) than the one that fell apart at the end. The Foxes have a suitable replacement for Chilwell in Timothy Castagne and will be very good again.
17) Tottenham (ENG)
Last season: 6th in Premier League, Champions League round of 16
Things have finally calmed down after a year of chaos at Spurs. José Mourinho has a plethora of attacking weapons at his disposal (assuming they stay healthy) and a much-needed upgrade at right back in the form of Matt Doherty. Mourinho had his team in really good form by the end of last season, right on schedule for the typical successful year two we’ve seen so many times.
16) Borussia Mönchengladbach (GER)
Last season: 4th in Bundesliga, Europa League group stage
Seven Gladbach players chipped in with at least five league goals in 2019-20, which speaks to the depth of this group. The exits of Timo Werner and the aforementioned Havertz from Leipzig and Leverkusen, respectively, only strengthen their position as a top-four team in Germany. Don’t be shocked if Gladbach find themselves on the outskirts of the title race like they did last season.
15) RB Leipzig (GER)
Last season: 3rd in Bundesliga, Champions League semifinals
Losing Werner and Shick means there is a gaping hole in Leipzig’s attack. Enter 24-year-old South Korean international Hwang Hee-Chan, who produced 16 goals and 20 assists in all competitions for sister club Red Bull Salzburg last season. It’s unrealistic to expect another trip to the Champions League semifinals, but Julien Nagelsmann’s side will retool and be just fine.
14) Lazio (ITA)
Last season: 4th in Serie A, Europa League group stage
Lazio were neck and neck with Juventus for most of the season before fading down the stretch and sliding all the way to fourth. Ciro Immobile became the first player not named Messi, Ronaldo or Suárez to win the European Golden Boot since Diego Forlán in 2008-09. The race for the Scudetto is as open as it’s been in years if Lazio can put together a complete season.
13) Atalanta (ITA)
Last season: 3rd in Serie A, Champions League quarterfinals
Gian Piero Gasperini continues to work his magic in Bergamo. Atalanta scored a whopping 98 goals in Serie A and finished with the best goal differential in the league at +50. It’s rather remarkable they weren’t more of a factor in the title race in all honesty. It is time to stop viewing this club as the lovable underdogs and give them their due as one of the best teams in the world.
12) Atlético Madrid (ESP)
Last season: 3rd in La Liga, Champions League quarterfinals
Atleti rescued a frustrating campaign with a strong end to the Serie A season and the elimination of Liverpool from the Champions League right before the coronavirus break. Teenage prodigy João Félix only managed nine goals across all competitions and hasn’t settled in yet. A big year from him could propel Diego Simeone’s squad into the thick of the La Liga title race.
11) Barcelona (ESP)
Last season: 2nd in La Liga, Champions League quarterfinals
What a past couple of months for Barcelona. There is no telling what this team looks like by the end of the transfer window, which makes them difficult to place. One thing is certain, however: Lionel Messi intends to play out the final year of his contract. Unless some unforeseen circumstances lead to that changing, Barcelona — despite all the chaos and the flawed roster — have a chance to win every piece of silverware they’re competing for.
10) Borussia Dortmund (GER)
Last season: 2nd in Bundesliga, Champions League round of 16
Dortmund couldn’t compete with the incredible form Bayern Munich were in at the end of last season but there are plenty of reasons for optimism. Thomas Meunier is a more than suitable replacement for Achraf Hakimi at right wingback. Lucian Favre’s team is a joy to watch going forward with Jadon Sancho, Erling Håland and Marco Reus leading the way. Their defense will determine just how good they can be like it does every season.
9) Juventus (ITA)
Last season: 1st in Serie A, Champions League round of 16
It was by no means a convincing campaign for The Old Lady that ultimately culminated in a loss to Lyon in the Champions League round of 16 and the dismissal of Maurizio Sarri. The arrival of Arthur Melo, Dejan Kuluseveki and Weston McKennie should add some life to the midfield, though it’s fair to wonder how much of an impact they can make. Andrea Pirlo has his work cut out for him as Cristiano Ronaldo (35) and Giorgio Chiellini (36) aren’t getting any younger.
8) Manchester United (ENG)
Last season: 3rd in Premier League, Europa League semifinals
Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood combined for 62 goals and 31 assists across all competitions in 2019-20. Their performance coupled with the addition of Bruno Fernandes gave United supporters something to be excited about for the first time in what feels like forever. The Red Devils’ defense was prone to careless mistakes and a midfield of Fernandes, Paul Pogba and Donny van de Beek isn’t going to provide much cover. This team is for real but it’s still not clear just how high their ceiling is.
7) Inter Milan (ITA)
Last season: 2nd in Serie A, Europa League runner-up
The wealth of attacking options is quite impressive: Martínez, Lukaku, Sánchez, Erisken, Perišić, Candreva. Antonio Conte also brought in a new pair of wingbacks in the previously mentioned Hakimi and Aleksandar Kolorov. There is a reason many view this team as the favorites to win Serie A.
6) Chelsea (ENG)
Last season: 4th in Premier League, Champions League round of 16
A front four of Timo Werner, Christian Pulisic, Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech is tantalizing, especially with the world’s best defensive midfielder in N’Golo Kanté behind them. The importance of new left back Ben Chilwell can’t be overlooked either. Frank Lampard doesn’t have to fit square pegs into round holes anymore defensively. Center back and goalkeeper are the glaring weaknesses at Stamford Bridge and a 35-year-old Thiago Silva will only help so much.
5) Real Madrid (ESP)
Last season: 1st in La Liga, Champions League round of 16
Zinedine Zidane’s return to the Burnabéu featured mixed results and the first league title since 2016-17 had as much to do with Barcelona’s drama and poor form as it did the excellence of Los Blancos. The loss to Manchester City over two legs was a poignant reminder of how far Madrid has to go to return to the top of the European hierarchy. A vastly improved (and healthy) Eden Hazard would be a significant step in the right direction.
4) Paris Saint-Germain (FRA)
Last season: 1st in Ligue 1, Champions League runner-up
The importance of PSG finally overcoming their various Champions League disasters over the past few seasons cannot be overstated. Claiming an eighth straight Ligue 1 title should not be a challenge and another trip to the Champions League final should not be surprising to anyone. Six PSG players — including star wingers Kylian Mbappé and Neymar — have tested positive for coronavirus since the 2019-20 campaign ended. Don’t read anything into the loss to RC Lens as a result. They will be just fine.
3) Manchester City (ENG)
Last season: 2nd in Premier League, Champions League quarterfinals
There was no way to justify putting Manchester City ahead of the two teams left on this list. They failed to mount any kind of real challenge in the Premier League and were upset by Lyon in the Champions League. Academy product Phil Foden is set to take the departed David Silva’s spot in the midfield. City are probably the only team in the world that can allow Leroy Sané to leave and not think twice about it. Real questions need to be asked if this team isn’t markedly better on both the domestic and European front.
2) Liverpool (ENG)
Last season: 1st in Premier League, Champions League round of 16
It was tempting to disregard Liverpool’s shocking Champions League exit and give them the No. 1 spot anyway until they stumbled a bit during the restart. A Premier League trophy and Club World Club victory don’t do justice to how good the Reds were last season. Jürgen Klopp has done a remarkable job building a sustainable juggernaut at Anfield. There just wasn’t anybody else claiming the top spot after the way last season ended.
1) Bayern Munich (GER)
Last season: 1st in Bundesliga, Champions League winner
Bayern went unbeaten in their final 30 matches, won the continental treble and added a world-class attacker in former Manchester City man Sané. Robert Lewandowski would’ve won the Ballon d’Or had it been handed out. All the impending departure of midfielder Thiago does is move Joshua Kimmich back to his best position and open up a spot in the starting XI for World Cup winner Benjamin Pavard. The Bavarians are doing quite well for themselves at the moment.
Photo by Daniel / Flickr