By this point, we should know better than to be surprised by anything in 2020. There is no logical way to explain Manchester United and Liverpool losing by a combined score of 13-3. Yes, that’s actually a thing that happened. Meanwhile, Bayern Munich needed late heroics to defeat Hertha Berlin and Napoli was unable to play their game against Juventus due to travel restrictions. The result is another change at the top of the rankings.
Here is this week’s European soccer top 25.
Other teams in consideration: PSV (NED), Bayer Leverkusen (GER), Roma (ITA), Hoffenheim (GER), Real Sociedad (ESP)
Dropped from rankings: Bayer Leverkusen (23)
25) Stade Rennes (FRA)
Last week: 20 (D 2-2 vs. Stade Reims)
Rennes held a 2-1 lead after 37 minutes against winless Reims but could only secure a point in what was easily their most disappointing game of the season to date. The draw puts an end to the four-match winning streak dating back to Aug. 29. Promising winger Raphinha — who scored in the game — departed for Leeds United the next day, forcing Rennes to rely even more on their depth.
24) Lille (FRA)
Last week: Not Ranked (W 3-0 vs. Strasbourg)
Entering the top 25 for the first time are Lille, one of two unbeaten teams in Ligue 1. The victory over Strasbourg was their fourth clean sheet in five games, the other result being a 1-1 draw with Marseille. Jonathan Bamba is leading the way with two goals and two assists in six appearances. They are beating the teams they should and look to be the most likely challengers to PSG at this point.
23) AC Milan (ITA)
Last week: 25 (W 3-0 vs. Spezia Calcio)
Milan have capitalized on their favorable schedule and are the only team besides Atalanta with three wins from three in Serie A. Two second half goals from Rafael Leão ensured their dominant performance was reflected on the scoreline. Captain Alessio Romagnoli (injury) and the indescribable Zlatan Ibrahimović (COVID-19) are expected to be back for the derby against Inter on Oct. 17.
22) Borussia Mönchengladbach (GER)
Last week: 24 (W 3-1 vs. Köln)
Stefan Lainer followed Alassane Pléa’s 14th-minute goal with one of his own in the 16th and the game was effectively over. Lars Stindl’s penalty put Gladbach 3-0 up until Köln got one back in the 84th minute. Jonas Hofmann has assisted on all three of the team’s non-penalty goals. Three of Gladbach’s next five games are against top-15 opponents (Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Leipzig).
21) Manchester United (ENG)
Last week: 10 (L 6-1 vs. Tottenham)
Boy, oh boy. Where to begin? United draw a penalty in the opening 60 seconds and are down 2-1 by the seventh minute. Anthony Martial loses his composure and gets sent off. Eric Bailly is lucky he didn’t join him. The defending was laughably bad and the lack of commitment was staggering at times. It’s not a stretch to call it one of the worst performances in the club’s storied history. Edinson Cavani and Alex Telles are not going to solve the systemic problems plaguing the Red Devils.
20) Lazio (ITA)
Last week: 19 (D 1-1 vs. Inter Milan)
Lazio ultimately did well to level things up through Sergej Milinković-Savić and hang on for a point but a loss and a draw against two of the title favorites puts them at an early disadvantage. The complaints about being unable to build upon a successful season are already growing louder. There is obviously plenty of time, but recovering from a poor start is going to be challenging in a league this deep.
19) Arsenal (ENG)
Last week: 22 (W 2-1 vs. Sheffield United)
Bukayo Saka and Nicolas Pépé found the back of the net three minutes apart from each other to give Arsenal their third win in four league contests. The result is the team’s best start to a season since 2013-14. Adding Thomas Partey at the end of the transfer window gives an increasingly optimistic fanbase more to be excited about. Saka was one of the first-time England call-ups by Gareth Southgate.
18) Tottenham (ENG)
Last week: 21 (W 6-1 vs. Manchester United)
José Mourinho was undoubtedly enjoying every second of the beatdown his team put on his former employer. Spurs have the Premier League’s joint-top goal scorer (Son Heung-Min), leading assist man (Harry Kane) and most successful passer (Pierre Emile-Højbjerg) four weeks into the season. The thought of Gareth Bale joining Kane and Son with the form they’re in right now is downright terrifying. That loss to Everton keeps looking better and better too.
17) Sevilla (ESP)
Last week: 18 (D 1-1 vs. Barcelona)
The only team in La Liga who would be even mildly upset with a point at the Camp Nou is Real Madrid. Luuk de Jong put the visitors ahead off a short corner in the eighth minute. Less than 120 seconds later, Philippe Coutinho had leveled the score. Julen Lopetegui has found a way to carry Sevilla’s strong end to 2019-20 into the 2020-21 campaign.
16) Leicester City (ENG)
Last week: 14 (L 3-0 vs. West Ham)
West Ham thoroughly outplayed Leicester in every possible way, handing the Foxes their first league defeat of the season. Brendan Rodgers’ team had a 70-30 edge in possession but failed to register a single shot on target. As well as they played in their first three games, there is a limited ceiling with this group until James Maddison, Wilfred Ndidi and Ricardo Pereira are healthy.
15) RB Leipzig (GER)
Last week: 16 (W 4-0 vs. Schalke)
Leipzig had the great fortune of facing Schalke and the game went exactly as one would expect. They completed 630 passes to Schalke’s 309 while owning a 22-5 advantage in shots and having 68% of the possession. Angeliño, Willi Orbán and Marcel Halstenberg all scored their first goals of the campaign. Leipzig enter the international break in first place based on goal difference with Bayern and Dortmund only a point behind.
14) Napoli (ITA)
Last week: 15
Public health officials in Naples required the entire team to quarantine after two players tested positive, making it impossible for Napoli to travel to their game against Juventus. However, the situation did not meet Serie A’s criteria for a postponement, forcing the team to choose between forfeiting and potential legal consequences if they played. Napoli opted for the former and are expected to appeal the result. The game is currently listed as “not played” and Juventus have not officially been awarded the win yet.
13) Atlético Madrid (ESP)
Last week: 12 (D 0-0 vs. Villarreal)
The good news for Diego Simeone is that his team recorded their second clean sheet in a row and have only allowed 1.8 expected goals in 270 minutes. The bad news is that Atleti are a mess going forward. A lineup with Luis Suárez, João Felix, Koke, Saúl Ñíguez, Thomas Partey and Ángel Correa in it should not be that anemic offensively. Still, they are unbeaten and four points out of second with two games in hand. Arsenal triggered Partey’s release clause on Deadline Day and sent them Lucas Torreira on loan as a replacement.
12) Chelsea (ENG)
Last week: 13 (W 4-0 vs. Crystal Palace)
Ben Chilwell made quite the impression in his first Premier League start for the Blues, contributing the opening goal and an assist in the span of 16 minutes. Two Jorginho penalties after that turned what was a 0-0 game at the half into a one-sided affair. Christian Pulisic came on as a substitute to make his first appearance of the season, a reminder of the pieces Frank Lampard is still missing. Nevertheless, Chelsea put in their best performance to date against a Crystal Palace team that had conceded a total of three times in their previous three league games.
11) Everton (ENG)
Last Week: 17 (W 4-2 vs. Brighton)
The losses by Leicester and Liverpool leave Everton as the only Premier League team who is still perfect through four games. Goals on either side of halftime turned a tie game into a 3-1 advantage for the Toffees. Carlo Ancelotti brought in Ben Godfrey for cover at center back and Robin Olsen as competition for the out-of-form Jordan Pickford in net at the end of the transfer window, which will only make this team even better. Dominic Calvert-Lewin was rewarded for his fantastic start to the season with his first call-up to the England national team.
10) Borussia Dortmund (GER)
Last week: 11 (W 4-0 vs. Freiburg)
Giovanni Reyna assisted on Dortmund’s first three goals — two of which were turned in by Erling Håland — as they bounced back from their loss to Augsburg in emphatic fashion. Håland then set up Felix Passlack for his first career Bundesliga goal to cap things off. Dortmund faces a difficult week when they return to action with visits to Hoffenheim and Lazio.
9) Atalanta (ITA)
Last week: 9 (W 5-2 vs. Cagliari)
It took seven minutes for Luis Muriel to put Atalanta on the board against Cagliari. By the end of the first half, it was 4-1 thanks to three goals in 13 minutes. Four players — Muriel, Papu Gómez, Robin Gosens and Duván Zapata — have been directly involved in at least three goals. Keep in mind they are doing this without Josep Iličić as well. Gian Gasperini’s side have been as impressive as any team in Europe so far.
8) Barcelona (ESP)
Last week: 8 (D 1-1 vs. Sevilla)
Barcelona had their chances to find a winner, creating 1.8 expected goals to Sevilla’s 0.7. A draw against an in-form side that just won the Europa League is ultimately not a big deal, especially with the way Real Madrid have looked. The most important thing is that they got through their first major test without any red flags. Bayern Munich, Liverpool and Manchester City have all looked shakier than Barcelona, which is hard to believe considering where things were six weeks ago.
7) Juventus (ITA)
Last week: 7
In a moment that perfectly encapsulates the current state of the world, Juventus put out an official lineup and warmed up knowing their game against Napoli would not happen. They concluded a busy transfer window with the signing of Federico Chiesa from Fiorentina on Deadline Day. The 22-year-old produced 10 goals and nine assists in 34 Serie A games last season. They face Crotone in their next contest on Oct. 17.
6) Inter Milan (ITA)
Last week: 6 (D 1-1 vs. Lazio)
Inter faced what was easily their stiffest competition so far in the form of Lazio and came away with a point on the road. All three points were there for the taking though. Lautaro Martínez gave Inter a lead at the half and they had 17 minutes playing up a man to reclaim the lead after Ciro Immobile’s red card. Stefano Sensi got sent off in the 86th minute, thus ending Inter’s man advantage. Antonio Conte will want his team to be more dynamic in attack but ultimately can’t be upset with the result.
5) Real Madrid (ESP)
Last week: 5 (W 2-0 vs. Levante)
It was by no means a dominant performance, but Los Blancos picked up a third win in a row and became the first team to reach 10 points in La Liga this season. Karim Benzema followed up Vinícius’ 16th-minute strike with one of his own in stoppage time to seal the victory. Real Madrid’s defense has been the bright spot so far, pitching a second straight shutout with an expected goals against total under one.
4) Manchester City (ENG)
Last week: 4 (D 1-1 vs. Leeds United)
Pep Guardiola’s team is clearly suffering from their lack of a proper center forward at the moment. They registered 23 shots but failed to generate quality scoring chances after Raheem Sterling’s 17th-minute goal. Leeds grew into the game and ended up with seven shots on goal to City’s two. Rodrigo pounced on Ederson’s unsuccessful attempt to deal with a corner to share the points. The positive news is that the pairing of Aymeric Laporte and new signing Rúben Dias in central defense showed real promise. A draw against a quality opponent isn’t quite enough to drop the Cityzens out of fourth.
3) Paris Saint-Germain (FRA)
Last week: 3 (W 6-1 vs. Angers)
It was more of the same from PSG, who have won their last three games by a combined score of 11-1. Alessandro Florenzi opened the scoring against Angers seven minutes into the contest and it was 4-1 by the 57th minute. Neymar led the way with two goals and an assist. The victory moved them within two points of Rennes and Lille at the top of the Ligue 1 table. On the transfer front, 20-year-old Moise Kean joined on loan from Everton following a difficult start to his time in the Premier League.
2) Liverpool (ENG)
Last week: 1 (L 7-2 vs. Aston Villa)
If Tottenham putting six past Manchester United wasn’t wild enough, the defending Premier League champions conceded seven to Aston Villa of all teams. It was the first time since 1953 the reigning English champions allowed seven goals in a league match. To make matters worse, Alisson is not going to be available for at least another month while Sadio Mané, Thiago and Xherdan Shaqiri have all tested positive for COVID-19. The international break could not have come at a better time for Jürgen Klopp.
1) Bayern Munich (GER)
Last week: 2 (W 4-3 vs. Hertha Berlin)
Four goals from Robert Lewandowski allowed Bayern to avoid dropping points at home for the first time since a 0-0 draw with Leipzig on Feb. 9. His 93rd minute penalty was the difference after Jessic Ngankam entered the game in the 87th minute and leveled the score in the 88th. The Bavarians are on pace to concede 79 goals in the Bundesliga, 47 more than they gave up in 2019-20. It’s still extremely early of course, but the defense is a real question mark right now. Bayern were busy at the end of the transfer window, bringing in striker Eric Choupo-Moting, midfielder Marc Roca, winger Douglas Costa and defender Bouna Sarr. Liverpool’s shocking performance paved the way for Hansi Flick’s team to reclaim the top spot in the rankings.
Photo by Airviews Photography / Flickr