Another international break is upon us with some surprising leaders of Europe’s major leagues (Leicester City, AC Milan and Real Sociedad) as well as some unsurprising ones (Bayern Munich and PSG). The weekend’s two marquee matchups saw Manchester City and Liverpool settle for a draw and Bayern Munich held on to defeat Borussia Dortmund.
Here is this week’s European soccer top 25.
Other teams in consideration: Aston Villa (ENG), Everton (ENG), Lille (FRA), Roma (ITA), Sassuolo (ITA)
Dropped from rankings: Everton (25), Lille (23)
25) Ajax (NED)
Last week: Not Ranked (W 3-0 vs. Utrecht)
It should not come as a surprise that the first team outside Europe’s top five leagues to enter the top 25 is the 34-time Dutch champions. Ajax have won their last four Eredivisie games by a combined score of 26-3 and are currently winning the league on goal difference. They are also on track to advance to the knockout portion of the Champions League halfway through the group stage. Captain Dušan Tadić has scored in five straight games dating back to the 13-0 demolition of VVV-Venlo.
24) Bayer Leverkusen (GER)
Last week: Not Ranked (W 4-3 vs. Borussia Mönchengladbach)
Second-half goals from Leon Bailey and Julian Baumgartlinger were enough to get past Gladbach for a fourth straight victory in the Bundesliga. Peter Bosz’s team have won six of the seven games they’ve played since returning from the last international break. That run of good form was enough to move within three points of Bayern Munich and re-claim a spot in the top 25. Leverkusen are one of two unbeaten teams in the Bundesliga.
23) Sevilla (ESP)
Last week: 24 (W 1-0 vs. Osasuna)
Putting the ball in the back of the net continues to be a challenge for Julen Lopetegui’s team but a Lucas Ocampos penalty kick snapped Sevilla’s three-game losing streak in La Liga. They do continue to be stout defensively, however, limiting Osasuna to 0.5 expected goals. That was the fifth time in 10 games the Europa League winners have held opponents to an expected goals total of 0.5 or less.
22) Arsenal (ENG)
Last week: 19 (L 3-0 vs. Aston Villa)
In fairness to Arsenal, the scoreline is a bit deceiving, though the Gunnars’ inability to capitalize on the chances they’re creating is becoming a major concern. Callum Wilson, Ollie Watkins and Patrick Bamford have all individually matched or exceeded the combined production of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette in the Premier League so far. That has to change for Arsenal to have any hope of finishing in the top four.
21) Manchester United (ENG)
Last week: 22 (W 3-1 vs. Everton)
Any fears caused by Bernard putting the hosts ahead inside 20 minutes were alleviated by the brilliance of Bruno Fernandes, who scored twice in the next 13 minutes to put the Red Devils in front. Edinson Cavani got his first goal for his new club in stoppage time to secure a well-deserved victory. Every time it seems like United is on the brink of a complete implosion, they deliver an impressive performance like this one.
20) Lazio (ITA)
Last week: 21 (D 1-1 vs. Juventus)
While Lazio may have been somewhat fortunate to come away with a draw, they did have 54% of the possession and fired off 14 shots to Juventus’ 11. Felipe Caicedo’s equalizer deep into stoppage time means they are still unbeaten since the Champions League group stage started on Oct. 20. Half of those contests ended in a draw and two of the three wins were by a single goal though.
19) Borussia Mönchengladbach (GER)
Last week: 18 (L 4-3 vs. Bayer Leverkusen)
Gladbach’s eight-game unbeaten run finally came to an end against Leverkusen in a contest they led on two different occasions following goals from Lars Stindl. Lucas Alario answered both times for Leverkusen, who then added two more after halftime. The loss dropped Gladbach down to seventh in the Bundesliga and put them four points out of a Champions League spot. On a positive note, Valentino Lazaro scored an incredible but ultimately meaningless goal in stoppage time.
— Bundesliga English (@Bundesliga_EN) November 8, 2020
18) Real Sociedad (ESP)
Last week: 20 (W 2-0 vs. Granada)
Real Sociedad playing as well as anyone in Europe at the second international break is one of those strange things that exemplify how unpredictable this season’s been so far. In their last eight games, they have won seven times, scored multiple goals five times and kept five clean sheets. Mikel Oyarzabal picked up his league-leading sixth goal of the season via a penalty kick in the win over Granada.
17) RB Leipzig (GER)
Last week: 16 (W 3-0 vs. Freiburg)
Leipzig controlled proceedings against Freiburg and took the lead through Ibrahima Konaté’s first goal of the season in the 26th minute. Marcel Sabitzer added a penalty in the 70th and Angeliño netted his team-high fifth of the campaign in the 89th. They moved back into second in the Bundesliga table, two points back of Bayern. The flip-flop with the team right ahead of them in the rankings was due to the difference in the quality of opposition.
16) Leicester City (ENG)
Last week: 17 (W 1-0 vs. Wolves)
Don’t look now but the top of the Premier League table features the same two teams that battled for the title in 2015-16, the last time the league was this wide open. Leicester have won twice as many penalties as any other team after getting awarded their seventh and eighth of the season in the Wolves game. Jamie Vardy went 1-for-2, moving him into a four-way tie in the Golden Boot race. It’s also worth remembering there are four crucial players (Timothy Castagne, Ricardo Pereria, Çağlar Söyüncü and Wilfred Ndidi) who will start returning in the coming weeks.
15) Atalanta (ITA)
Last week: 11 (D 1-1 vs. Inter Milan)
Atalanta were not the better team for most of the game, but they nearly came away with all three points anyway. Aleksei Miranchuk provided some much-needed energy off the bench and tied the game in his Serie A debut. The 25-year-old has two goals in 43 minutes of action for Atalanta since joining from Lokomotiv Moscow. Whether they can repeat the magic of last season depends on if they can start scoring at a much higher rate again.
14) Juventus (ITA)
Last week: 12 (D 1-1 vs. Lazio)
Cristiano Ronaldo’s 15th-minute goal nearly held up but Juventus only managed to come away with another disappointing draw. While Ronaldo has three goals and an assist in three games since returning from quarantine, they are still outside the top four in Serie A. Excluding the win via forfeit against Napoli, they have taken seven points from their last five league matches. However, they also have yet to lose in Serie A and are only four points out of first.
13) Tottenham (ENG)
Last week: 15 (W 1-0 vs. West Brom)
The numbers say it was a deserved three points for Spurs, though leaving it until the 88th minute against a winless opponent in the relegation zone isn’t a good look. While Tottenham’s last three Premier League games have all been one-goal victories, they are still tied for the best goal difference in the league at +10 and sit just one point behind Leicester. That ability to win ugly could be a key factor in the title race.
12) Barcelona (ESP)
Last week: 13 (W 5-2 vs. Real Betis)
First, the good news: Lionel Messi came on at halftime and scored twice, including his first goal from open play this season. Barcelona found the back of the net four times in the final 45 minutes to cruise to a comfortable win. Now, the bad news: Messi replaced an injured Ansu Fati, who is expected to miss approximately four months. Dominant three-goal victories can’t be taken for granted right now, so Ronald Koeman has to be happy with the way his team closed out this stretch of games.
11) Inter Milan (ITA)
Last week: 9 (D 1-1 vs. Atalanta)
Antonio Conte’s men were on the front foot for most of the game before taking the lead through Lautaro Martínez early in the second half. Atalanta sprung to life after going behind and ultimately drew level in the 79th minute. The draw was Inter’s fifth in eight games, leaving them with one win since the beginning of October. They sit in seventh place seven games into the Serie A season.
10) Real Madrid (ESP)
Last week: 7 (L 4-1 vs. Valencia)
It appeared to be business as usual when Karim Benzema put Los Blancos ahead in the 23rd minute. Then came the three penalty kicks — all of which Carlos Soler converted — and a Raphael Varane own goal. All of a sudden, Real Madrid were down by three. The defeat dropped them down to fourth in La Liga and dampened the optimism coming from a better stretch of results starting with El Clásico.
9) AC Milan (ITA)
Last week: 10 (D 2-2 vs. Hellas Verona)
The excitement started early in Milan with Verona opening the scoring in the sixth minute and adding a second goal in the 19th. The hosts got one back through a 27th-minute own goal and launched 34 shots trying to find an equalizer. AC Milan generated 3.3 expected goals to Verona’s 1.5 and still needed a Zlatan Ibrahimović strike in stoppage time to rescue a point. They hold a two-point advantage at the top of Serie A over Sassuolo, who are also unbeaten in the league.
8) Atlético Madrid (ESP)
Last week: 14 (W 4-1 vs. Cádiz)
Take out the 4-0 shellacking at the hands of Bayern in the Champions League and Atléti are unbeaten with six wins in nine games. They are six points ahead of Barcelona, one point ahead of Real Madrid with a game in hand and three points behind first-place Sociedad with two games in hand. João Félix has seven goals and an assist in his last five appearances. It’s obviously still early in the season, but right now, La Liga is theirs to lose.
7) Borussia Dortmund (GER)
Last week: 5 (L 3-2 vs. Bayern Munich)
The stories of the last two Der Klassikers have been quite similar: Dortmund create plenty of chances, fail to capitalize on them and come up just short because Bayern cash in on theirs. This is an example where expected goals (2.0-1.1 in favor of Dortmund) don’t paint an accurate picture because Bayern are as ruthless as any team in the world. Dortmund put up a good fight but failed to rise to the occasion once again.
6) Napoli (ITA)
Last week: 6 (W 1-0 vs. Bologna)
Victor Osimhen netted the only goal of the game to give Napoli five wins in the six Serie A games they’ve actually fielded a team for. They trail AC Milan by just three points despite having to forfeit against Juventus and the extra point they were docked as punishment. They will have an opportunity to change that when they face the league leaders in their first game back from the international break on Nov. 22.
5) Chelsea (ENG)
Last week: 8 (W 4-1 vs. Sheffield United)
For all of the talk about Leicester and Tottenham as potential title contenders, the Premier League team in the best form is Chelsea. They’ve outscored opponents 21-4 since the start of October and three of the goals they conceded came in the one game Edouard Mendy missed. Frank Lampard has fixed their defensive issues (mainly by purchasing Mendy) and they’ve scored at least three times in each of their last four games.
4) Manchester City (ENG)
Last week: 4 (D 1-1 vs. Liverpool)
An enthralling first half that featured an ill-advised tackle in the box by Kyle Walker, a moment of brilliance (or luck) from Gabriel Jesus and a missed penalty by Kevin De Bruyne was followed by what can only be described as a lethargic final 45 minutes. The always reliable De Bruyne wasted what was easily the best opportunity to decide an evenly-matched affair in favor of either team. Every game is providing more evidence that suggests City’s poor showing last season was not an aberration.
3) Paris Saint-Germain (FRA)
Last week: 3 (W 3-0 vs. Stade Rennes)
Ángel Di María took control of the PSG attack with Neymar and Kylian Mbappé still unavailable, registering two goals and an assist. They are a perfect 8-for-8 in Ligue 1 since losing their first two games and now have a five-point cushion. An eighth league title in nine seasons is almost imminent, even at this early stage of the campaign.
2) Liverpool (ENG)
Last week: 2 (D 1-1 vs. Manchester City)
Jürgen Klopp opted to discard his standard 4-3-3 formation and start all four of his attacking weapons, leading to a fascinating tactical clash. The draw keeps them one point back of Leicester and five points in front of the Cityzens, who have a game in hand. They got more bad news on the injury front as Joe Gomez is set for an extended period on the sidelines. Up next is a showdown with former manager Brendan Rodgers’ league-leading Foxes on Nov. 21.
1) Bayern Munich (GER)
Last week: 1 (W 3-2 vs. Borussia Dortmund)
Dortmund thought they were going to lead at halftime when Marco Reus opened the scoring in the 45th minute. Three minutes into the second half, Bayern had equalized thanks to a David Alaba free kick in first half stoppage time and gone ahead courtesy of Robert Lewandowski. The win means the Bavarians have the luxury of making the rest of the Bundesliga chase them the rest of the way, which has not been the case in recent years.
Photo by Save the Dream / Flickr