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European Soccer Top 25: Liverpool claim top spot after week of upsets

by Joshua Doering

It was a chaotic weekend with three top-10 teams suffering defeat and two more lucky to come away with a draw. Bayern Munich lost for the first time in any competition since Dec. 7, 2019. A Pep Guardiola-coached team conceded five goals for the first time ever. Meanwhile, Merseyside rivals Liverpool and Everton are a perfect six for six combined in the Premier League. All of the upsets and unexpected results led to significant re-shuffling at the top of the rankings. 

Here is this week’s European soccer top 25. 

Other teams in consideration: Ajax (NED), Hoffenheim (GER), Lille (FRA), Roma (ITA), St. Etienne (FRA), 

Dropped from rankings: Wolves (19)

25) AC Milan (ITA)

Last week: Not Ranked (W 2-0 vs. Crotone, W 2-2 vs. Rio Ave [won in penalty shootout])

AC Milan picked up their second consecutive 2-0 victory to begin their Serie A campaign behind goals from Franck Kessié and Brahim Díaz. They are one of three teams yet to concede a goal in Italy’s top flight. Stefano Pioli’s men then booked their place in the Europa League group stage with the shootout win over Rio Ave. The competition hasn’t been great, but they’ve won all five games they’ve played so far this season. 

24) Borussia Mönchengladbach (GER)

Last week: 18 (D 1-1 vs. Union Berlin)

Gladbach were unimpressive for the second game in a row in a contest either side could have won. Marcus Thuram’s header wasn’t enough as Gladbach conceded a set piece goal of their own in the 79th minute. Drawing at home in a week where so many teams in the middle of the rankings performed well puts them on the verge of dropping out. 

23) Bayer Leverkusen (GER)

Last week: 23 (D 1-1 vs. RB Leipzig)

Leverkusen followed their season-opening draw against Wolfsburg with another draw against Leipzig. They had 60% of the possession, completed 559 passes to Leipzig’s 380 and had two more shots on target but couldn’t come away with all three points. Kerem Demirbay brought Leverkusen lever after Leipzig netted an early goal. A more favorable stretch of games gives Peter Bosz’s team an opportunity to begin a climb up the table.  

22) Arsenal (ENG)

Last week: 22 (L 3-1 vs. Liverpool, W 0-0 vs. Liverpool [won in penalty shootout])

While it’s true Liverpool dominated proceedings for large portions of their meeting in the Premier League, Arsenal had chances to knot things up at two. The clear gap in quality between the Reds and Gunners was not surprising in the slightest. With that in mind, Mikel Arteta’s players deserve credit for putting up a real fight. The shootout victory in the EFL Cup over a heavily rotated Liverpool squad keeps Arteta’s perfect record in cups alive. 

21) Tottenham (ENG)

Last week: 21 (D 1-1 vs. Newcastle, W 1-1 vs. Chelsea [won in penalty shootout], W 7-2 vs. Maccabi Haifa)

Spurs deserved to walk away from last week with three victories but had to settle for a point over the weekend thanks to a controversial penalty decision. For the purposes of these rankings, the dominant display against Newcastle is more important than the end result. They were then able to navigate an EFL Cup game and Europa League qualifier within 48 hours of each other. Overall, José Mourinho has to be pleased with the way everything turned out. 

20) Stade Rennes (FRA)

Last week: 24 (W 3-0 vs. St. Etienne)

Rennes sit alone at the top of the Ligue 1 table with a league-leading +7 goal differential five games into the season. Sehrou Guirassy picked up his third goal of the campaign and Adrien Hunou became the teams’ eighth different goalscorer in the victory over St. Etienne. A run of favorable fixtures could easily keep this unbeaten streak going for another month. Lille is the only other Ligue 1 side without a loss so far. 

19) Lazio (ITA)

Last week: 15 (W 2-0 vs. Cagliari, L 4-1 vs. Atalanta)

Lazio got their season off to a positive start with Manuel Lazzari and Ciro Immobile finding the back of the net in the win over Cagliari. However, that positivity didn’t last very long. Lazio were on the front foot early against Atalanta before getting ripped to shreds for most of the first half. Felipe Caicedo gave them some life until Papu Gómez added a fourth for Atalanta less than five minutes later. Things don’t get any easier with Inter Milan coming to town on Oct 4. 

18) Sevilla (ESP)

Last week: 17 (W 3-1 vs. Cádiz, W 1-0 vs. Levante)

It took goals in the 90th and 94th minutes for Sevilla to secure all three points against newly promoted Cádiz, who managed 12 shots with just 24% of the possession. They left it late again in the win over Levante with Jesús Navas finding Youssef En-Nesyri in stoppage time. While no one will ever complain about six points from two games, last-second dramatics can’t become a trend if this team hopes to keep pace with the likes of Atlético Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid. 

17) Everton (ENG)

Last Week: 25 (W 2-1 vs. Crystal Palace, W 4-1 vs. West Ham)

Carlo Ancelotti’s team weren’t the most convincing in their win over Crystal Palace but controversially came away with three points. Handball rule frustrations aside, the Toffees by and large controlled proceedings against a Palace team with wins over Southampton and Manchester United. Ancelotti put out a real team for the EFL Cup game against West Ham and was rewarded with a Dominic Calvert-Lewin hat trick. Per OptaJoe, James Rodriguez has created 15 chances in four games across all competitions, more than any other Premier League player. 

16) RB Leipzig (GER)

Last week: 14 (D 1-1 vs. Bayer Leverkusen) 

It’s difficult to be upset with a road point against Leverkusen, though Leipzig will be disappointed they conceded so quickly after taking an early lead. Emil Forsberg has two goals and an assist through two Bundesliga games. Julian Nagelsmann’s team has more points than Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund (by one) but missed an opportunity to get a quality win and capitalize on a very strange weekend in Germany. 

15) Napoli (ITA)

Last week: 20 (W 6-0 vs. Genoa)

Two games, two clean sheets and eight goals for the men from Naples. Dries Mertens (1 goal, 2 assists), Hirving Lozano (2 goals) and Piotr Zieliński (1 goal, 1 assist) were all directly involved in multiple goals. Napoli are the only team in Serie A who have scored more than five goals while conceding fewer than three through two games. They face Juventus and Atalanta in their next two contests. 

14) Leicester City (ENG)

Last week: 16 (W 5-2 vs. Manchester City)

Brendan Rodgers put on a tactical masterclass at the Etihad and the result was a stunning performance. Jamie Vardy is now the lone player with multiple hat tricks against Pep Guardiola. Lionel Messi is the only other person to do it once. Nampalys Mendy and Youri Tielemans performed admirably in the absence of Wilfred Ndidi in the midfield, which is arguably the most important takeaway moving forward. The Foxes keep on winning while so many teams are dropping points around them. 

13) Chelsea (ENG)

Last week: 6 (D 3-3 vs. West Brom, L 1-1 vs. Tottenham [lost in penalty shootout])

Lowly West Brom put three past the Blues in 27 minutes thanks to some incredibly shaky defending. Thiago Silva made a fatal error on his debut and Marcos Alonso may never play for the club again after drawing the wrath of Frank Lampard. Chelsea ultimately came back to rescue a point thanks to Tammy Abraham’s stoppage time equalizer. An uninspiring performance in the EFL Cup only added to the issues at Stamford Bridge. As bad as this past week was, there are still too many key players missing to make any bold proclamations quite yet. 

12) Atlético Madrid (ESP)

Last week: 12 (W 6-1 vs. Granada, D 0-0 vs. Huesca)

Atleti began their season with a 6-1 thrashing of Granada that included a missed penalty by Saúl Ñíguez. Luis Suárez produced two goals and an assist in 20 minutes as a substitute. That emphatic victory was followed by the scoreless draw with Huesca, who entered the game winless in three La Liga contests. Diego Simeone’s team wasted an excellent opportunity to apply some real pressure on Real Madrid and Barcelona early in the season. 

11) Borussia Dortmund (GER)

Last week: 9 (L 2-0 vs. Augsburg, L 3-2 vs. Bayern Munich)

Dortmund didn’t put a lot of pressure on Augsburg’s back line despite possessing the ball for 80% of the game and firing 18 shots. Two lapses of concentration were the difference in the game due in large part to the brilliance of Daniel Caligiuri. The loss adds an additional level of difficulty to the already daunting task of chasing Bayern Munich. Julian Brandt and Erling Håland got them back into the DFB-Supercup but Joshua Kimmich struck late to give Dortmund their second defeat in a row. 

10) Manchester United (ENG)

Last week: 10 (W 3-2 vs. Brighton, W 3-0 vs. Brighton)

United wound up playing Brighton in both the Premier League and EFL Cup, emerging victorious in both encounters. They have their lucky stars to count for the more meaningful victory though. Brighton hit the woodwork five times before finally tying the game in stoppage time through Solly March. To their credit, the Red Devils didn’t stop playing and collected all three points from the penalty spot with the last kick of the game. As expected, they comfortably won the battle of the backups in the Cup tie. In a normal week, they drop at least three spots. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is not getting the most out of this team. 

9) Atalanta (ITA)

Last week: 13 (W 4-2 vs. Torino, W 4-1 vs. Lazio)

Atalanta are already making their presence felt in a wide-open title race. Consecutive four-goal outings away from home in Serie A is a remarkable accomplishment regardless of who the opponents are. Doing it against Lazio makes it that much more impressive. Papu Gómez is off to a blistering start with three goals and two assists in 165 minutes. They are a sight to behold when their attack is flowing freely. The question remains the same as it was last season: Can the defense be consistent enough to make a serious run at the Scudetto? 

8) Barcelona (ESP)

Last week: 11 (W 4-0 vs. Villarreal, W 3-0 vs. Celta Vigo)

After two games, it appears reports of Barcelona’s demise have been at least slightly exaggerated. The ease with which they dispatched Villarreal and Celta Vigo cannot be ignored with so many other “superclubs” stumbling in the first few weeks of the season. Ansu Fati is showing why he’s viewed as the guy who will ultimately succeed Messi as the face of this club. Not many teams are capable of going down a man and turning a 1-0 lead into a three-goal cushion the way Barcelona did against Celta Vigo. 

7) Juventus (ITA)

Last week: 8 (D 2-2 vs. Roma)

Juventus looked much less convincing in their second game under Andrea Pirlo, albeit against stiffer competition. Cristiano Ronaldo answered Jordan Veretout’s first half penalty with one of his own in the 44th minute. Veretout nabbed a second two minutes later to put Roma up 2-1. Adrien Rabiot’s second yellow card left Juventus down a goal and a man, but a patented Ronaldo tied things up once again. Salvaging a point on the road in Rome is generally a fine result and a very good one considering the circumstances. 

6) Inter Milan (ITA)

Last week: 7 (W 4-3 vs. Fiorentina, W 5-2 vs. Benevento Calcio)

Inter kicked off their season in dramatic fashion, securing a come-from-behind win over Fiorentina through goals in the 87th and 89th minutes. Game two was much less stressful with Romelu Lukaku scoring in the opening 60 seconds. Lukaku and Lautaro Martínez already have five goals between them. They will need to tighten things up defensively to keep their perfect start going with Lazio and AC Milan up next. 

5) Real Madrid (ESP)

Last week: 4 (W 3-2 vs. Real Betis, W 1-0 vs. Valladolid)

There is no way around the fact that Los Blancos have not been impressive at all in their first three La Liga games. They needed a late penalty kick from Sergio Ramos to get past Real Betis and followed that up with an uninspiring victory over Valladolid thanks to a Vinícius goal. However, they are still unbeaten, which is more than three of the four teams ahead of them can say. 

4) Manchester City (ENG)

Last week: 3 (L 5-2 vs. Leicester City, W 3-0 vs. Burnley)

When Riyad Mahrez smashed a right-footed volley past Kasper Schmeichel to give his current team an early advantage over his former one, it looked like it would be business as usual for the Cityzens. Three penalties and two fabulous goals later, they were staring at one of the worst defeats of the Guardiola era. While the plethora of notable players who were unavailable is not an excuse, it is a reason to believe this will not be a repeat of last season. Raheem Sterling scored twice and Ferran Torres got his first goal for his new club as City continued their dominance in the EFL Cup with a victory over Burnley.   

3) Paris Saint-Germain (FRA)

Last week: 5 (W 2-0 vs. Stade Reims)

Mauro Icardi scored in the 9th minute and again in the 62nd to give PSG their third straight shutout victory. It should not come as a surprise that they had 65% of the possession and outshot Reims 21-8. Neymar, Kylian Mbappé and Ángel Di María started together for the first time this season. It took a little while, but PSG are back to being the team who nearly won the Champions League just over a month ago. 

2) Bayern Munich (GER)

Last week: 1 (L 4-1 vs. Hoffenheim, W 3-2 vs. Borussia Dortmund)

The Bavarians finally had their first shockingly bad display under Hansi Flick. Uncharacteristic defensive lapses made a Hoffenheim team that was playing really well even more dangerous. It easily could’ve been 2-2 at one point and Hoffenheim easily could’ve added a fifth. Bayern held off Dortmund’s comeback to secure yet another trophy in the DFL-Supercup. The situation is going to have to get significantly worse for the reigning European champions to drop any lower. 

1) Liverpool (ENG)

Last week: 2 (W 3-1 vs. Arsenal, L 0-0 vs. Arsenal [lost in penalty shootout])

Jürgen Klopp was so pleased with his team’s performance against Arsenal that he went after Manchester United legend Roy Keane for suggesting Liverpool were sloppy at times. Another uncharacteristic mistake put Arsenal ahead but it did not last long. Diogo Jota marked his debut with an 88th-minute goal to put the game out of reach. Losing in the EFL Cup means absolutely nothing at the end of the day. The Reds have better things to worry about and they’re playing well enough to warrant the top spot after Bayern’s shock defeat. 

Photo by Kevin Walsh / Flickr

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