Home European Soccer Top 25 European Soccer Top 25: AC Milan rise after derby win, Real Madrid drop following back-to-back defeats

European Soccer Top 25: AC Milan rise after derby win, Real Madrid drop following back-to-back defeats

by Joshua Doering

The European competitions returned with a flourish as Marcus Rashford played hero at the Parc des Princes again and Real Madrid fell at home to Shakhtar Donetsk. On the domestic front, a controversial Merseyside Derby ended in a draw and AC Milan continued their fantastic start with a win in the Milan Derby. Only three of the top 20 teams in the most recent rankings got through the week without dropping points, leading to some significant readjusting. 

Here is this week’s European soccer top 25. 

Other teams in consideration: Aston Villa (ENG), Bayer Leverkusen (GER), PSV (NED), Roma (ITA), Stade Rennes (FRA)

Dropped from rankings: Stade Rennes (25)

25) Lazio (ITA)

Last week: 20 (L 3-0 vs. Sampdoria, W 3-1 vs. Borussia Dortmund)

Lazio failed to register a single shot on goal in the loss to Sampdoria, leaving them with four points from four Serie A games and in 15th place. They welcomed Dortmund desperately in need of a confidence boost and produced their best performance to date against the German visitors. That victory and the three top-25 opponents they’ve faced in five games keep them ranked for another week. 

24) Borussia Mönchengladbach (GER)

Last week: 22 (D 1-1 vs. Wolfsburg, D 2-2 vs. Inter Milan)

Jonas Hofmann’s penalty put Gladbach ahead of Wolfsburg with 12 mićnutes to go. The lead lasted less than 10 minutes thanks to Wout Weghorst’s equalizer, leaving both teams with a point. Hofmann also gave them a late lead in Milan, which was also wiped out by an equalizer in the dying moments of the game. The draw against Inter, combined with Real Madrid’s loss, gives Gladbach a real shot at getting out of their Champions League group.

23) Real Sociedad (ESP)

Last week: Not Ranked (W 3-0 vs. Real Betis, W 1-0 vs. Rijeka)

This week’s newcomers to the top 25 are La Liga leaders Real Sociedad, who own the league’s best goal differential at +8. The win over Real Betis was their third 3-0 victory in four games and fifth shutout in their last six contests. Jon Bautista extended their winning streak to three games with a stoppage-time goal in their Europa League opener. The combination of young attacking talent and Manchester City legend David Silva make this an intriguing team to pay attention to in what appears to be an extremely weak La Liga. 

22) Lille (FRA)

Last week: 24 (W 4-0 vs. Lens, W 4-1 vs. Sparta Prague)

A third successive shutout win in Ligue 1 moved Lille into first place, two points clear of PSG and Rennes. They were the beneficiaries of three red cards in their two games with Lens going down to nine men. Lille had a man advantage from the 23rd minute onward against Sparta Prague and produced three goals in the game’s final 30 minutes. Yusuf Yazici scored a hat trick on five shots while 80% of his team’s shots on goal found the back of the net. 

21) Arsenal (ENG)

Last week: 19 (L 1-0 vs. Manchester City, W 2-1 vs. Rapid Wein)

Arsenal put up a valiant fight on the road against Manchester City, another clear indication of the progress that’s been made under Mikel Arteta. It bears mentioning that the Gunners’ are perfect in the Premier League when facing teams not named City and Liverpool. Goals from David Luiz and Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang four minutes apart propelled them to a come-from-behind win in the Europa League. Up next is a top-25 matchup with Leicester City. 

20) Leicester City (ENG)

Last week: 16 (L 1-0 vs. Aston Villa, W 3-0 vs. Zorya Luhansk)

Injuries to Jamie Vardy and Çağlar Sӧyüncü left Brendan Rodgers’ team even more shorthanded than they were before the international break, and Aston Villa were able to capitalize through Ross Barkley’s 91st minute strike. The Foxes responded with a comfortable win in their first game in European competition since reaching the Champions League quarterfinals in 2016/17, snapping a three-match home losing streak. Brendan Rodgers is hopeful Vardy will be fit for the trip to Arsenal on Oct. 25. 

19) Sevilla (ESP)

Last week: 17 (L 1-0 vs. Granada, D 0-0 vs. Chelsea)

Joan Jordán picked up two yellow cards in first half stoppage time in the defeat to Granada, who finally broke through Sevilla’s 10-man defense in the 82nd minute. Another resolute defensive performance at Stamford Bridge put them in excellent position to get out of the Champions League group stage for the third time in five seasons. It is entirely possible Sevilla don’t lose again until December with the extremely favorable schedule ahead of them.   

18) Manchester United (ENG)

Last week: 21 (W 4-1 vs. Newcastle, W 2-1 vs. PSG)

United were nowhere near as good as their combined 6-2 scoreline suggests but scored four goals after the 85th minute to turn two 1-1 affairs into two victories. Marcus Rashford was directly involved in all four of those goals, netting the game-winner against PSG. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer deserves credit for having the courage to drop Paul Pogba in his hometown in favor of a more pragmatic approach. He got it right from a tactical standpoint and might have saved his job as a result. 

17) Atlético Madrid (ESP)

Last week: 13 (W 2-0 vs. Celta Vigo, L 4-0 vs. Bayern Munich)

Atléti defied the odds in their victory over Celta Vigo, generating 0.4 fewer expected goals than their opponent but claiming a two-goal win. Luis Suárez netted the opener and Yannick Carrasco added another in stoppage time. The lopsided defeat to Bayern was the first time they had conceded four goals in a game since Dortmund beat them by the same scoreline on Oct. 24, 2018. They are just three points back of La Liga co-leaders Real Sociedad and Villarreal, who have both played two more games than Atléti. 

16) Chelsea (ENG)

Last week: 12 (D 3-3 vs. Southampton, D 0-0 vs. Sevilla)

More defensive mistakes limited the Blues to a draw against Southampton despite Time Werner scoring the first two Premier League goals of his Chelsea career. Fellow German Kai Havertz put Frank Lampard’s team back ahead 3-2 but Jannik Vestergaard redirected Theo Walcott’s shot to steal a point in stoppage time. Edouard Mendy was back in net for Chelsea’s Champions League game and the result was a dramatic improvement on defense. The longer the issues at the back continue, the more scrutiny Lampard will face. 

15) AC Milan (ITA)

Last week: 23 (W 2-1 vs. Inter Milan, W 3-1 vs. Celtic)

Like he’s done so many times before, Zlatan Ibrahimović delivered on the big stage. The 39-year-old fired home the rebound from his saved penalty and doubled his tally three minutes later to propel AC Milan to their first league win over their rivals since January 2016. After a successful trip to Glasgow in the Europa League, they are the lone club in Europe’s top five leagues with a perfect record in all competitions this season. 

14) Tottenham (ENG)

Last week: 18 (D 3-3 vs. West Ham, W 3-0 vs. LASK)

Spurs were 3-0 up inside 16 minutes and held that lead until Fabián Balbuena got West Ham on the board in the 82nd minute. A Davinson Sánchez own goal and Manuel Lanzini stunner later, it was 3-3. If that game was played 99 more times, Tottenham would win at least 98 of them. Gareth Bale got his first start since returning in the Europa League victory as José Mourinho rested Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min.

13) Real Madrid (ESP)

Last week: 5 (L 1-0 vs. Cádiz, L 3-2 vs. Shakhtar Donetsk)

The warning signs were certainly there, but it is still hard to comprehend Real Madrid losing to a newly-promoted side and the worst team in their Champions League group depleted by a coronavirus outbreak in the span of five days. Cádiz (currently fifth in La Liga) were the better team on the day and a three-goal halftime deficit was too much to overcome against Shakhtar. Los Blancos continue to struggle putting the ball in the back of the net, leaving themselves vulnerable any time their defense isn’t outstanding. A win over archrivals Barcelona on Oct. 24 would go a long way toward making people forget about this week. 

12) Everton (ENG)

Last Week: 11 (D 2-2 vs. Liverpool)

Everton found a way to equalize in less than 20 minutes both times Liverpool took the lead and came away from the Merseyside Derby with a point. The Toffees didn’t look the part of a title contender though. Jordan Pickford was lucky not to see red for his reckless tackle on Virgil van Dijk and caught another break when VAR ruled out Jordan Henderson’s goal. Richarlison was sent off for sliding in on Thiago, and Everton’s depth will be tested for the first time while he serves his suspension. On a very basic level, the result was better than the performance deserved. 

11) Barcelona (ESP)

Last week: 8 (L 1-0 vs. Getafe, W 5-1 vs. Ferencvárosi)

Ronald Koeman’s team had 73% of the possession and only generated 0.9 expected goals to Gefate’s 1.7 in Barcelona’s first defeat of the season. They did not just lose, they got outplayed, leading Koeman to demand more from Lionel Messi. Messi responded in the victory over the Hungarian champions, slotting home a penalty and assisting on another goal. Gerard Piqué picked up a red card and will miss their meeting with Juventus on Oct. 28. Barcelona have El Clásico of the season to worry about first though. 

10) RB Leipzig (GER)

Last week: 15 (W 2-0 vs. Augsburg, W 2-0 vs. İstanbul Baᶊakᶊehir)

Leipzig collected a pair of 2-0 victories, outshooting their opponents 27-12 in the process. Angeliño accounted for three of the four goals with Yussuf Poulsen knocking in the other. The Bundesliga leaders have conceded just twice in six games and are averaging 2.5 goals per outing. After hosting Hertha Berlin on Oct. 24, they face Manchester United, Borussia Mönchengladbach and PSG in their next three contests. 

9) Napoli (ITA)

Last week: 14 (W 4-1 vs. Atalanta, L 1-0 vs. AZ Alkmaar)

After being forced to forfeit a game and having a point deducted, Napoli are already back into Serie A’s top four thanks to a dazzling display against Atalanta. Hirving Lozano scored twice in five minutes as part of a four-goal first half to hand last season’s Champions League quarterfinalists their first loss of the campaign. They then put more shots on target than their Dutch opponents had in total, controlled 73% of the possession and somehow came away empty-handed. Thankfully for Napoli, the Europa League group stage is a very forgiving place, so there is no need for concern. 

8) Borussia Dortmund (GER)

Last week: 10 (W 1-0 vs. Hoffenheim, L 3-1 vs. Lazio)

A goal from substitute Marco Reus rescued three points for Dortmund against Hoffenheim in a game they deserved to win. The victory moved them up to third in the Bundesliga table, level on points with Bayern and a single point behind Leipzig. The game at Lazio was Dortmund’s most difficult fixture of the Champions League group stage, so there is no reason to be alarmed, especially with Mats Hummels being the only traditional center back available for the game. 

7) Atalanta (ITA)

Last week: 9 (L 4-1 vs. Napoli, W 4-0 vs. Midtjylland)

Not many teams move up after losing by three goals, but this is no ordinary season. Atalanta’s uber-aggressive style leaves them vulnerable to lopsided defeats like the one they suffered at the hands of Napoli. Plus, nobody should be expected to leave the San Paolo with three points anyway. Atalanta then thumped Midtjylland, who were playing their first Champions League group stage game in club history. That performance suggested the loss to Napoli was an isolated event rather than the beginning of a concerning trend. 

6) Juventus (ITA)

Last week: 7 (D 1-1 vs. Crotone, W 2-0 vs. Dynamo Kyiv)

Crotone entered their game against Juventus without a point, converted a penalty 12 minutes in and held on for a draw after Federico Chiesa got sent off on his debut. The lineup Andrea Pirlo put out was far from his preferred XI without Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala and Weston McKennie but that doesn’t make the result any less embarrassing. They rebounded with a win in the Champions League thanks to a pair of goals from Álvaro Morata, though the victory will do little to ease the growing concern in Turin. 

5) Inter Milan (ITA)

Last week: 6 (L 2-1 vs. AC Milan, D 2-2 vs. Borussia Mönchengladbach)

While there is really no positive way to spin taking one point from two home games, Romelu Lukaku’s equalizer in the 90th minute against Gladbach prevented an even more disastrous ending for Inter. Lukaku’s tally in the Milan Derby wasn’t enough to cancel out Ibrahimović two goals in the first 16 minutes, putting Antonio Conte’s team five points behind their crosstown rivals. The draw in the Champions League leaves Inter plenty of work to do in that competition as well. 

4) Paris Saint-Germain (FRA)

Last week: 3 (W 4-0 vs. Nȋmes, L 2-1 vs. Manchester United)

Loïck Landre’s 12th-minute red card gave PSG an early man advantage but it still took until the final 15 minutes of the game for them to add an insurance goal following Kylian Mbappé’s opener in the 32nd minute. The victory — PSG’s fifth in a row — moved them up to second in the Ligue 1 table. That winning streak came to an end in their showdown with Manchester United as the long list of players unavailable to Thomas Tuchel was much more evident against significantly better competition. They controlled the game but lacked fluidity in the final third, often leaving Mbappé and Neymar to try and create magic on their own. The pressure is already mounting on Tuchel to make sure this doesn’t become another massive failure in the Champions League.  

3) Liverpool (ENG)

Last week: 2 (D 2-2 vs. Everton, W 1-0 vs. Ajax)

A dramatic and controversial Merseyside Derby saw Liverpool get incredibly unlucky on multiple occasions, most notably van Dijk’s ACL injury and Henderson’s disallowed goal. They began what will be a defining stretch in their season with a hard-fought win in Amsterdam. Jürgen Klopp was clearly trying to keep the game at 1-0 after Nicolás Tagliaficio’s own goal and managed to do so. Fabinho and Joe Gomez did well as a makeshift pairing in central defense as the Reds try to grind out results until they get the likes of Alisson, Joël Matip, Naby Keïta and Thiago back. 

2) Manchester City (ENG)

Last week: 4 (W 1-0 vs. Arsenal, W 3-1 vs. Porto)

City marked the return of striker Sergio Agüero with a pair of victories despite reigning PFA Player of the Year Kevin De Bruyne taking his spot on their list of unavailable players. Raheem Sterling netted the lone goal against Arsenal in a game whose biggest talking point was Agüero putting his hand on assistant referee Sian Massey-Ellis. Porto took an early lead in both team’s Champions League opener but City responded with a penalty kick from Agüero, a wonderful free kick from İlkay Gündoǧan and a strike from Ferran Torres. Just two top-10 teams were perfect this past week. One is City and the other is the team ahead of them. 

1) Bayern Munich (GER)

Last week: 1 (W 4-1 vs. Arminia Bielefeld, W 4-0 vs. Atlético Madrid)

Bayern came out of the international break looking like the best team in the world again rather than the one producing shaky performances of late. Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Müller contributed all four goals in the victory over Arminia Bielefeld while it was Kingsley Coman who stole the show against Atléti. Very few teams can even dream of putting four goals past a Diego Simeone-coached side yet the Bavarians did it without the services of Leroy Sané and Serge Gnabry. The gap between Hansi Flick’s team and everyone else is quickly growing. 

Photo by Franciaio / Wikimedia Commons

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