It wouldn’t be a week in the 2020-21 European soccer season without at least one stunning result. Bayern Munich provided two in six days, losing in the Bundesliga and getting knocked out of the DFB Pokal. There is a new No. 1 in this week’s rankings as a result.
Here is this week’s European soccer top 25.
Other teams in consideration: Ajax (NED), Everton (ENG), Marseille (FRA), Southampton (ENG), Wolfsburg (GER)
Dropped from rankings: None
25) Lille (FRA)
Last week: 25 (W 1-0 vs. Nîmes)
Lille got back to what they do best — defending — after conceding four goals in their past two games. Burak Yilmaz scored for a third game running to beat the Ligue 1 bottom-dwellers and keep them within a point of Lyon. The only two teams in the French top flight who have allowed fewer than 15 goals this season are PSG and Lille, who are second and third in the table, respectively, with 39 points apiece.
24) Lazio (ITA)
Last week: 24 (W 2-0 vs. Parma)
Ciro Immobile failed to score for the second time in his 16 appearances since Oct. 20 but Lazio managed just fine without a direct contribution from him. Luis Alberto netted his third goal in five games to break the deadlock and Felipe Caicedo added an insurance goal, his second in as many games. They get a rematch with Parma in the Coppa Italia on Jan. 21 following their Serie A clash with Roma.
23) Roma (ITA)
Last week: 22 (D 2-2 vs. Inter Milan)
Roma got off to a promising start in the matchup between two of Serie A’s top three teams when Lorenzo Pellegrini found the back of the net in the 17th minute. Inter answered with two goals in the second half and led until Gianluca Mancini rescued a draw in the 86th minute. The result put an end to their run of five wins in six games. They face another tough test when they travel to Lazio on Jan. 15.
22) Lyon (FRA)
Last week: 20 (D 2-2 vs. Stade Rennes)
The Ligue 1 leaders found themselves trailing by two with 35 minutes remaining but managed to salvage a point courtesy of two late goals. Memphis Depay’s calmly taken volley brought them within one in the 79th minute. The Dutch international whipped in a cross that found Jason Denayer three minutes later to share the spoils. They do not face a team higher than eighth in the Ligue 1 table until Feb. 28.
21) Sevilla (ESP)
Last week: 21 (W 3-2 vs. Real Sociedad, L 2-0 vs. Atlético Madrid)
The Sociedad victory marked the third time Sevilla scored more than two goals in a league contest this season and the second time they’d conceded multiple. All but one of the goals came in the opening 14 minutes and the score remained tied at two until Youssef En-Nesyri finished off his hat trick right after halftime. They gave an impressive account of themselves in the loss to Atléti, outperforming the La Liga leaders in expected goals by 1.3.
20) Borussia Mönchengladbach (GER)
Last week: 23 (W 3-2 vs. Bayern Munich)
Of course the team that went winless in their four Bundesliga games in December beats the Champions League winners after going down 2-0 because why not? Jonas Hofmann scored twice in 11 minutes to bring Gladbach level at halftime and set up Florian Neuhuas’ winner four minutes into the second period. The question with Gladbach is not talent but consistency, as this victory — and their performance in the Champions League group stage — demonstrated.
19) Bayer Leverkusen (GER)
Last week: 19 (D 1-1 vs. Werder Bremen, W 4-1 vs. Eintracht Frankfurt)
Leverkusen have come back down to earth following their sensational start to the season. Patrik Schick’s 70th-minute equalizer prevented a third straight loss but left them one point ahead of fourth-place Borussia Dortmund and just five points clear of seventh-place Borussia Mönchengladbach. They got revenge on Frankfurt for their Jan. 2 loss with four unanswered goals in the DFB Pokal.
18) Chelsea (ENG)
Last week: 17 (W 4-0 vs. Morecambe)
Chelsea made easy work of their League Two opponent in the FA Cup to pick up just their second victory in eight games. Kai Havertz snapped a 15-game goalless drought while Timo Werner found the back of the net for the first time since Nov. 7. Trips to Fulham and Leicester City will provide a better idea of whether Frank Lampard’s actually gotten his team back on track.
17) Tottenham (ENG)
Last week: 13 (W 5-0 vs. Marine, D 1-1 vs. Fulham)
Tottenham’s FA Cup opponents from the eighth tier of the English soccer system did an admirable job limiting the damage to a Carlos Vinícius hat trick and another goal in both halves. A rearranging of the Premier League’s schedule led to a London derby with the Cottages. Harry Kane opened the scoring 25 minutes in and a familiar story unfolded. Spurs were unable to extend their lead, allowing Ivan Cavaleiro to bring Fulham level in the 74th minute. They face another relegation candidate in Sheffield United on Jan. 17.
16) Atalanta (ITA)
Last week: 18 (W 4-1 vs. Benevento Calcio, W 3-1 vs. Cagliari)
Atalanta have played four games in 2021. They are outscoring their opponents 15-3 in those four games and have won all of them by at least two goals. Six different players scored in their two games last week and five of their seven goals came after halftime. Both contests were tied in the 60th minute before Atalanta’s late onslaught of goals. It appears as if Gian Piero Gasperini’s team recaptured the magic of last season, at least for a little while.
15) Leicester City (ENG)
Last week: 15 (W 4-0 vs. Stoke City)
James Justin started off the Foxes’ comfortable win in the FA Cup in style 11 minutes before halftime. Marc Albrighton got on the scoresheet for the first time since Dec. 26, 2018 as his run of good form continued. Ayoze Pérez and Harvey Barnes followed suit in the 79th and 81st minutes, respectively. The club announced Dennis Praet is expected to be sidelined for three months by the hamstring injury he suffered in the victory.
14) Borussia Dortmund (GER)
Last week: 16 (W 3-1 vs. RB Leipzig)
Erling Håland reminded everyone how special he is with his second-half display in what was a massive confidence boost for Dortmund. It was his work on the flank that led to Jadon Sancho’s second goal in as many games. The Norwegian then started and finished off the attack resulting in the second goal, giving them a 2-0 lead in the 71st minute. He struck again in the 84th to put the game out of reach. Only three points separate fourth-place Dortmund and second-place Leipzig in the Bundesliga table.
13) Barcelona (ESP)
Last week: 14 (W 4-0 vs. Granada, W 1-1 vs. Real Sociedad [won in penalty shootout])
Antoine Griezmann and Lionel Messi accounted for all four of Barcelona’s goals in the thrashing of Granada with Griezmann recording an assist as well. They have exceeded their expected goals total by 4.0 in their last two La Liga games. Messi did not play in the Spanish Supercopa semifinal, which went to penalty kicks after Frenkie de Jong scored and conceded a penalty by handling the ball in the Sociedad box. Marc-André ter Stegen’s excellent performance in net was capped off by two saves in the shootout.
12) Real Madrid (ESP)
Last week: 10 (D 0-0 vs. Osasuna, L 2-1 vs. Athletic Club)
Real Madrid had their worst offensive performance of the season in the loss to Osasuna, and by a wide margin. Their lowest expected goals total coming into the game was 0.6. They produced half of that against La Liga’s second-worst team. Osasuna didn’t fare much better in attack, generating just 0.6 expected goals. Their attempt to defend their Spanish Supercopa came to an end in the semifinals on the strength of Raúl García’s first half brace.
11) Manchester United (ENG)
Last week: 12 (W 1-0 vs. Watford, W 1-0 vs. Burnley)
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s decision to rest his stars in the FA Cup worked out just fine thanks to Scott McTominay’s fifth-minute goal. The heavy squad rotation was done with the Burnley game in mind, which was decided by Paul Pogba’s lovely volley (and a helpful deflection) in the 71st minute. With the victory, United extended their Premier League unbeaten streak to 11 and ensured they enter their Jan. 17 showdown with Liverpool as the league leaders. Not since Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge have the Red Devils been atop the Premier League in January.
10) Napoli (ITA)
Last week: 11 (W 2-1 vs. Udinese, W 3-2 vs. Empoli)
Tiemoué Bakayoko picked a convenient time for his first goal as a Napoli player, preventing them from dropping points for a fifth time in six games with a 90th-minute winner against Udinese. They coughed up the lead twice in the Coppa Italia but managed to advance thanks to Andrea Petanga, who put them ahead for good in the 76th minute. The back-to-back wins were Napoli’s first since the end of November.
9) RB Leipzig (GER)
Last week: 7 (L 3-1 vs. Borussia Dortmund)
Leipzig let a glorious chance to take control of the Bundesliga go to waste in disheartening fashion, generating less than half of Dortmund’s expected goal total. Chances were few and far between for both teams in the first half but the visitors dominated the final 45 minutes, handing Leipzig their first Bundesliga loss since Halloween. Three of their next four games are against teams in the top six: Wolfsburg on Jan. 16, Union Berlin on Jan. 20 and Leverkusen on Jan. 30.
8) Juventus (ITA)
Last week: 12 (W 3-1 vs. Sassuolo, W 3-2 vs. Genoa [in extra time])
Juventus followed up their impressive win over AC Milan with another one against Sassuolo behind three second half goals. The first half was an eventful one, however, featuring injuries to Weston McKennie and Paulo Dybala as well as a Sassuolo red card. Cristiano Ronaldo’s strike in stoppage time was the 759th of his career, tying him with Josef Bican for the most officially recognized goals ever. They were ahead 2-0 after 23 minutes in the Coppa Italia but needed Hamza Rafia’s goal in extra time on his debut to advance.
7) Inter Milan (ITA)
Last week: 8 (D 2-2 vs. Roma, W 2-1 vs. Fiorentina [in extra time])
Inter had the better chances in the Roma game and took the lead thanks to Achraf Hakimi’s world-class finish in the 63rd minute. The late equalizer they conceded kept them three points clear of Roma but opened up a three-point gap between themselves and Serie A leaders AC Milan. Romelu Lukaku’s goal at the very end of extra time sent them into the quarterfinals of the Coppa Italia. They host Juventus in their next game on Jan. 17.
6) AC Milan (ITA)
Last week: 6 (W 2-0 vs. Torino, W 0-0 vs. Torino [won in penalty shootout])
AC Milan saw plenty of Torino this past week, facing them in both the league and the Coppa Italia. In the Serie A contest, they struck twice in a 12-minute spell midway through the first half and limited Torino to 0.6 expected goals. Zlatan Ibrahimović made his first start since Nov. 22 in the cup match, coming off at halftime as he works his way back to full fitness. They converted all five of their penalties in the shootout with Hakan Çalhanoğlu — who replaced Ibrahimović — slotting home the decisive penalty kick.
5) Paris Saint-Germain (FRA)
Last week: 5 (W 3-0 vs. Brest, W 2-1 vs. Marseille)
Mauricio Pochettino got his first win and trophy as PSG manager in his second week on the job. Moise Kean’s third goal in as many games opened the scoring against Brest in the 16th minute, drawing further attention to the club’s reported efforts to acquire him permanently. Substitutes Mauro Icardi and Pablo Sarabia scored within two minutes of each other late on to seal the victory. Neymar’s penalty in the 85th minute on his return from injury turned out to be the winner in the Trophée des Champions (the French super cup). They are one point behind Lyon at the midway point of the Ligue 1 season.
4) Atlético Madrid (ESP)
Last week: 4 (W 2-0 vs. Sevilla)
Atléti’s game against Athletic Club on Jan. 9 was postponed not because of coronavirus concerns but because of the snowstorm that covered most of Spain. They were able to play their match with the Europa League champions, which featured goals from Ángel Correa and Saúl Ñíguez. They could lose the two games they have in hand on second-place Real Madrid and still have a four-point cushion at the top of the La Liga table. On the transfer front, the club announced the signing of Lyon forward Moussa Dembélé on loan for the rest of the season.
3) Bayern Munich (GER)
Last week: 1 (L 3-2 vs. Borussia Mӧnchengladbach, L 2-2 vs. Holstein Kiel [lost on penalties])
If there is one statistic to sum up the 2020-21 season so far, it is this: Bayern conceded the first goal in nine consecutive Bundesliga games and didn’t lose a single one of them. They broke the streak by taking a 2-0 lead against Gladbach and gave up three unanswered goals. That defeat pales in comparison to what happened in the DFB Pokal though. Hansi Flick sent out close to his preferred 11 and they allowed a second-tier team to equalize twice. Marc Roca was the lone player to miss of the 12 players who took a penalty. The Bavarians haven’t been in great form lately, but nobody would’ve given any thought to the possibility of them losing both these games.
2) Manchester City (ENG)
Last week: 3 (W 3-0 vs. Birmingham City, W 1-0 vs. Brighton)
It was The Bernardo Silva Show in the FA Cup victory over Championship side Birmingham City, headlined by this spectacular volley. In game two, Phil Foden’s team-high eighth goal of the season right before halftime was enough to see off the Seagulls for City’s seventh win in a row. All of a sudden, they are just four points back of Manchester United with a game in hand and will be expected to win every game they play between now and their Feb. 6 trip to Anfield.
1) Liverpool (ENG)
Last week: 2 (W 4-1 vs. Aston Villa)
A COVID outbreak sent the Villans’ entire first team into isolation, forcing them to send out youth players to face the defending Premier League champions in the FA Cup. Sadio Mané gave Liverpool an expected lead four minutes in, but Louie Barry’s 41st-minute equalizer put the teams on equal terms at halftime. Three goals in six minutes midway through the second half blew the game open. The Reds finished with 83% of the possession, a 29-2 edge in shots and 13 shots on target. They get a full eight days between the win over Villa and their showdown with Manchester United.
Photo by Marco Verch / Flickr