Home European Soccer Top 25 European Soccer Top 25: Tottenham tumble, Wolfsburg and Roma enter

European Soccer Top 25: Tottenham tumble, Wolfsburg and Roma enter

by Joshua Doering

The Coppa Italia semifinals, featuring four ranked teams, provided the best matchups of the week in European soccer. In England, Manchester United recorded a historic win. While Manchester City, Bayern Munich and Atlético Madrid continued to assert their dominance, four top-10 teams suffered defeat.

Here is this week’s European soccer top 25. 

Other teams in consideration: Ajax (NED), Bayer Leverkusen (GER), Eintracht Frankfurt (GER), Everton (ENG), West Ham (ENG)

Dropped from rankings: Bayer Leverkusen (20), Everton (24)

25) Tottenham (ENG)

Last week: 19 (L 1-0 vs. Brighton, L 1-0 vs. Chelsea)

Spurs have scored one goal in 225 minutes since Harry Kane exited their loss to Liverpool at halftime, and they’ve looked completely devoid of ideas for most of them. Gareth Bale was inserted into the starting lineup for the Brighton game and was a non-factor. They have lost three straight Premier League games for the first time since November 2012. Chelsea allowed them to hang around until the very end, but the game should have been decided well before the final whistle. José Mourinho’s teams aren’t supposed to dissolve into chaos this early in his reign, yet it is already beginning to feel like the end of his previous Premier League stops. 

24) Wolfsburg (GER)

Last week: Not ranked (W 3-0 vs. Freiburg, W 1-0 vs. Schalke)

A series of favorable results and a three-game winning streak in the Bundesliga have Wolfsburg third in the table and into the top 25 for the first time. Wout Weghorst scored in both games and now has seven goals in his last eight appearances. The game-winner against Schalke in the DFB Pokal came from pouncing on the rebound of his own missed penalty. No other team in Germany’s top flight besides Bayern Munich have at least nine wins and fewer than three losses. 

23) Roma (ITA)

Last week: Not ranked (W 3-1 vs. Hellas Verona)

Roma’s three goals came in a 10-minute span midway through the first half, starting with Gianluca Mancini’s strike in the 20th minute. Borja Mayoral set up Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s goal two minutes later and scored one himself seven minutes after that. They’ve rebounded from back-to-back losses with a pair of wins and are currently third in Serie A, one point in front of Juventus, their next opponent. 

22) Lyon (FRA) 

Last week: 23 (W 1-0 vs. Dijon)

Lyon nearly doubled Ligue 1’s second-worst team’s expected goal total, posting their best xG in six games. Lucas Paquetá scored the game’s only goal in the 22nd minute, assisted by Karl Toko Ekambi. They’ve won three straight since losing to Metz and sit in second place in Ligue 1, one point ahead of PSG. 

21) Chelsea (ENG)

Last week: 25 (W 2-0 vs. Burnley, W 1-0 vs. Tottenham)

Thomas Tuchel stuck with a back three and brought Marcos Alsonso out of his months-long banishment, giving him his first start since the debacle at West Brom on Sept. 26. Alonso and his fellow Spaniard César Azpilicueta rewarded Tuchel’s faith in them by getting on the scoresheet in the victory over Burnley. An utterly dominant performance against Spurs nearly turned into an immensely frustrating draw due to their inability to execute in the final third. Jorginho’s first-half penalty kick held up though, and Tuchel’s time at Chelsea is off to a promising start. 

20) Lille (FRA) 

Last week: 22 (W 1-0 vs. Dijon, W 3-0 vs. Bordeaux)

Yusuf Yazıcı scored the winner for Lille in both games, bringing his season total to 13. The 3-0 win over Bordeaux marked just the second time in their last 15 games they won by multiple goals. They have won 10 times since the beginning of December, eight of which have come by a single goal. Yazıcı broke the deadlock in the 54th minute, Tim Weah netted his fourth goal of the season in the 66th minute and Jonathan David scored for the third time in four games in the 89th. They are two points clear of Lyon at the top of the Ligue 1 table. 

19) Borussia Mönchengladbach (GER) 

Last week: 18 (D 1-1 vs. Union Berlin, W 2-1 vs. Stuttgart)

Neither Gladbach nor Union Berlin can feel hard done by the end result of what was a fairly balanced contest. Gladbach fell behind in the 31st minute when Robin Knoche headed home a free kick but drew level through Alassane Pléa in the 59th. Pléa was the hero again in the DFB Pokal, completing the comeback right after halftime following Stuttgart’s second-minute goal. They remain unbeaten seven games into 2021. 

18) Lazio (ITA)

Last week: 21 (W 3-1 vs. Atalanta)

Five days after losing to Atalanta in the Coppa Italia quarterfinals, Lazio made another trip to Bergamo for what was likely the final meeting between the two teams this season. Adam Marušić’s first goal of the campaign gave them a lead within 180 seconds. Joaquín Correa doubled their advantage six minutes after halftime and Vedat Muriqi secured the win with his second goal in as many games. Three points separate sixth-place Lazio and third-place Roma in the Serie A table. 

17) Real Madrid (ESP) 

Last week: 14 (L 2-1 vs. Levante)

In less than 15 minutes, Los Blancos had been reduced to 10 men after Éder Miltão’s red card and taken the lead through Marco Asensio. Being down a man for 81 minutes eventually took its toll as Levante equalized before halftime and were awarded a penalty in the 64th minute. Thibaut Courtois came to the rescue though, denying Roger Martí to keep Real Madrid level. Undeterred, Martí found the back of the net 14 minutes later to complete the comeback. It was their third defeat in four games, all coming in different competitions. 

16) Borussia Dortmund (GER) 

Last week: 17 (W 3-1 vs. Augsburg, W 3-2 vs. Paderborn [won in extra time])

It wasn’t as easy as the scoreline suggests for Dortmund to get their first win since Jan. 9. Augsburg went ahead in the 10th minute and Erling Håland drilled a penalty kick off the crossbar before they took control with three unanswered goals. They were cruising in the DFB Pokal thanks to early goals from Emre Can and Jadon Sancho until a 79th-minute strike and a 97th-minute penalty allowed Paderborn to send the game to extra time. Håland came to the rescue in the first half of extra time and sent Dortmund through to the quarterfinals. 

15) Atalanta (ITA)  

Last week: 13 (L 3-1 vs. Lazio, D 0-0 vs. Napoli)

Atalanta’s up and down season continued, conceding in the opening six minutes of both halves in the loss to a Lazio team they just knocked out of the Coppa Italia. Mario Pašalić gave them hope with his 79th-minute strike that was canceled out three minutes later. They are rather unfortunate not to be heading into the second leg of the Coppa Italia semifinals with an advantage on the scoreboard and need to win at home to advance to the final. 

14) Sevilla (ESP)

Last week: 16 (W 2-0 vs. Eibar, W 1-0 vs. Almería)

Back-to-back clean sheets means Sevilla have not given up a goal in four games and have conceded once in six outings since losing to league-leading Atlético Madrid on Jan. 12. Lucas Ocampos converted from the penalty spot to put them ahead against Eibar and was responsible for the lone goal in their Copa del Rey victory over second-tier Almería, which featured the debut of new signing Papu Gómez. They sit a single point behind Barcelona and Real Madrid, who are second and third, respectively, in La Liga. 

13) Barcelona (ESP) 

Last week: 15 (W 2-1 vs. Athletic Club, W 5-3 vs. Granada [won in extra time])

Antoinne Griezmann delivered in a big way for Barcelona, restoring their lead against Athletic following Jordi Alaba’s own goal and scoring twice in the furious rally in the Copa del Rey quarterfinals. Down 2-0 in the 88th minute, Griezmann scored and then set up Alaba’s equalizer in stoppage time. The Frenchman found the back of the net again in extra time and assisted on Alaba’s gorgeous volley to seal the victory. All told, Griezmann was directly involved in five of the seven goals Barcelona scored across the two games. 

12) Leicester City (ENG) 

Last week: 10 (L 3-1 vs. Leeds United, W 2-0 vs. Fulham)

Leicester, who were already missing Jamie Vardy and Wilfred Ndidi against Leeds, lost Wesley Fofana and Timothy Castagne to injury, leaving them significantly shorthanded. And it showed. Harvey Barnes opened the scoring in the 13th minute but it was all Leeds after that. They rebounded at Craven Cottage as Kelechi Iheanacho netted his first league goal of the season and James Justin added a second. The standout performer, however, was James Maddison, who now has six goals and six assists in his last 12 games. 

11) Napoli (ITA) 

Last week: 11 (W 2-0 vs. Parma, D 0-0 vs. Atalanta)

Napoli’s recent results don’t necessarily suggest they are a club in turmoil, but the win over Parma eased some of the mounting pressure on Gennaro Gattuso after he received the dreaded vote of confidence from management. Elif Elmas and Matteo Politano both scored for a second game in a row to secure the victory. They boosted their chances of getting back to the Coppa Italia final by preventing Atalanta from getting an away goal in the first leg of the semifinals, though the performance left much to be desired. 

10) RB Leipzig (GER) 

Last week: 12 (W 1-0 vs. Bayer Leverkusen, W 4-0 vs. VfL Bochum)

Leipzig were able to end a challenging month of fixtures on a high note, taking down Leverkusen to extend the gap between them and the rest of the Bundesliga’s top-four hopefuls. Christopher Nkunku’s unassisted goal six minutes after halftime was all they would need. The victory in the DFB Pokal was quite comprehensive and featured goals from Amadou Haidara, Marcel Sabitzer and Yussuf Poulsen, who scored twice in the second half. 

9) Manchester United (ENG) 

Last week: 9 (D 0-0 vs. Arsenal, W 9-0 vs. Southampton)

The Red Devils ended the Arsenal game with a 1.5-1.1 edge in expected goals, which is not a high enough margin to confidently declare they deserved all three points. There is no doubting the outcome against the Saints though. Alexandre Jankewitz was set off in the second minute, resulting in a repeat of Southampton’s defeat to Leicester last season. Seven different players scored for United, marking the second time in Premier League history that’s happened. The stats speak for themselves. 

8) Juventus (ITA) 

Last week: 8 (W 2-0 vs. Sampdoria, W 2-1 vs. Inter Milan)

The clean sheet against Sampdoria was Juventus’ third in a row, all of which were multi-goal victories. Goals from Federico Chiesa and Aaron Ramsey clinched their seventh win in their eight games in the month of January. February is off to a promising start as well thanks to a come-from-behind road win in the first leg of the Coppa Italia semifinals. Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice in 10 minutes to put the Bianconeri in position for a sixth trip to the final in seven seasons. 

7) Inter Milan (ITA)

Last week: 6 (W 4-0 vs. Benevento Calcio, L 2-1 vs. Juventus)

Inter managed just fine without manager Antonio Conte, who served the first of his two-game suspension against Benevento. A seventh-minute own goal and second-half Romelu Lukaku brace was more than enough for a fourth win in five games. Even with Lukaku and Achraf Hakimi suspended for the first leg of the Coppa Italia semifinals, Lautaro Martínez snuck a shot past Gianluigi Buffon to get them on the board in less than 10 minutes. It only got worse from there. Both of Ronaldo’s goals came from Nerazzurri mistakes, the first a lapse in judgement from Ashley Young that led to a penalty kick and the second a mix-up between Alessandro Bastoni and Samir Handanović.

6) Liverpool (ENG)

Last week: 4 (W 3-1 vs. West Ham, L 1-0 vs. Brighton)

Liverpool came alive in the second half of the West Ham game, scoring the team goal of the season as part of a three-goal surge that led to what was ultimately a comfortable victory. Playing without Alisson, their top four options at center back, Diogo Jota and Sadio Mané, the Reds’ offensive struggles returned in the defeat to Brighton, only posing a real threat in the game’s final minutes. Preston North End’s Ben Davies and Schalke’s Ozan Kabak joined on deadline day to provide some much-needed defensive cover.

5) AC Milan (ITA) 

Last week: 7 (W 2-1 vs. Bologna)

Referee Daniele Doveri became a key character in Milan’s win, awarding them a penalty kick in both halves. Zlatan Ibrahimović had his attempt saved, but Ante Rebić fired home the rebound to put them ahead in the 26th minute. Franck Kessié took the second one and camly put it past Łukasz Skorupski. The hosts pulled one back in the 81st minute but Stefano Pioli’s team held on to maintain a two-point cushion at the top of Serie A. 

4) Paris Saint-Germain (FRA) 

Last week: 5 (L 3-2 vs. Lorient, W 3-0 vs. Nîmes)

After Neymar’s second converted penalty kick gave PSG a 2-1 lead two-thirds of the way through the game, it certainly looked like a fifth straight win was in order. Two Lorient goals — one in the 80th minute and one in stoppage time — turned three points into zero in a game where PSG produced 1.2 more expected goals. They made light work of Nîmes, scoring twice in the first half before Kylian Mbappé produced a goal of the highest order to end any hopes of a comeback.

3) Atlético Madrid (ESP) 

Last week: 3 (W 4-2 vs. Cadíz)

Luis Suárez’s brace against Cadíz gave him 14 league goals, two more than any other player in La Liga. His penalty kick early in the second half provided Atléti with a two-goal cushion and wound up being the game-winner. They have failed to win just one of their 16 league contests since Oct. 17, a 2-0 loss to Real Madrid on Dec. 12. Atléti could lose their next three games, have Barcelona or Los Blancos (who are both 10 points back) win all three of theirs and still be winning La Liga with a game in hand. 

2) Bayern Munich (GER)

Last week: 2 (W 4-1 vs. Hoffenheim)

Bayern got revenge for their Sept. 27 defeat by the same scoreline, making light work of Hoffenheim in the teams’ second meeting. Jérôme Boateng netted his first league goal of the season to put Bayern ahead in the 32nd minute. The teams then exchanged goals right before halftime, giving the Bavarians a one-goal advantage at the break. Robert Lewandowski and Serge Gnabry scored in the first 18 minutes of the second half to put the game out of reach. They have outscored opponents 11-2 in their four games since suffering back-to-back losses in early January.  

1) Manchester City (ENG)

Last week: 1 (W 1-0 vs. Sheffield United, W 2-0 vs. Burnley)

City’s run of games against relegation candidates ended as expected: with a pair of wins. Gabriel Jesus’ opener in the ninth minute was all they would need against the Blades. Jesus bagged his third goal in four games (this one in the third minute) to give them an early lead at Turf Moor and Raheem Sterling doubled their advantage in the 38th minute. The last time they conceded more than 1.0 expected goals in a Premier League game was Nov. 8. The last time they allowed more than 0.8 was Dec. 19. 

Photo by Daniel / Flickr

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