It’s the second edition of my European Club Power Rankings. The rankings are again based on some combination of league standing and present form, European form (Champions and Europa League), and my own personal bias and subjectiveness. If you disagree with the rankings, feel free to comment below.
1. Bayern Munich
It was a good week for Die Roten. After wrapping up the Bundesliga title in record time, the Bavarians comfortably cruised past Juventus into the semi finals of the Champions League. They’ll face Barcelona in a clash of European heavyweights next as they try to reach their third Champions League final in the past four years, while staying on course for a treble.
2. Real Madrid
Madrid have given up in La Liga but the quest for La Decima is alive and well. Los Blancos lost in Istanbul but still made it through to the semis on aggregate, and received what seems to be a favorable draw with Borussia Dortmund. There are no underdogs at this stage of the competition, however, and Madrid will face a tough test in Germany next week.
3. FC Barcelona
Barcelona squeaked past Paris Saint-Germain on away goals, but perhaps the more telling stat is the scoreline with and without Lionel Messi on the field. When the Argentine superstar was off injured, PSG had a 3-1 goal advantage. With Messi on the pitch, Barcelona had the edge 2-0. It’s obvious that the team relies on Messi, and they will need him on top form to overcome Bayern Munich and reach Wembley.
4. Borussia Dortmund
Dortmund face Madrid again having already won the series earlier in the season, although that Madrid squad was missing some key defenders. In the last round BVB barely edged Málaga on a controversial stoppage time goal in which several of the German team’s players were clearly offside. They have the talent and playing style to match up well with the Spanish giants and progress to the final.
The Old Lady was steamrolled by Bayern in the quarter final tie; Juve’s vaunted defense let in four goals and the lack of quality strikers was on full display, as they failed to score a single goal. The Bianconeri can take solace in an all but assured Serie A title coming shortly. They learned a Champions League lesson from a great team and will be back in this competition for years to come.
Everyone felt the pain for Málaga when they were sent out by Dortmund on the aforementioned offside stoppage time goal. It was a cruel way to go down after the incredible run the Andalucians made to the quarters. That misery is compounded by the fact that even if it finishes fourth in La Liga this year, the club may be banned from European competition next season for financial irregularities. Ultimately, though, Malaguistas must be proud of their team’s historic run and the way they went toe to toe with a very strong Dortmund side.
7. Paris Saint-Germain
PSG must be a bit disappointed to see Barcelona advance past them despite drawing both games, with away goals in the Catalans’ favor. As stated above, Lionel Messi was the difference maker, but young players Javier Pastore and Lucas Moura looked dangerous, while star man Zlatan Ibrahimovic yet again failed to make a real impact in Europe’s premier competition. With a solid showing in its Champions League return now in the rearview mirror, the French club looks to be the next to prove that money can buy titles as it zeroes in on the Ligue 1 trophy.
8. Manchester United
After falling in the Manchester derby last week for only their first Premier League loss since November, the Red Devils got back on track yesterday against Stoke City. Robin van Persie also got his name on the score sheet, ending his 10 match goal drought in club play. The league title now appears to be a mere formality for Sir Alex Ferguson, who will lift his 20th Premier League trophy next month.
Despite being eliminated in the group stages of the Champions League, Benfica have put together a very solid campaign this year. The Lisbon-based club currently leads FC Porto by 4 points in the Portuguese Liga and is on to the semi finals of the Europa League. A tricky test in Turkey will prove if they truly belong among the rest of these teams.
Galatasaray finally met their match in the Champions League, falling 5-3 on aggregate to Real Madrid. The Turks were outclassed by their Spanish counterparts, but January signings Wesley Sneijder and Didier Drogba did impress in the second leg. They still sit atop on the Turkish domestic league and appear to be well positioned for another European run next season.
11. Manchester City
Roberto Mancini’s men are still sitting comfortably in second place in the BPL table and just edged Chelsea to reach the final of the FA Cup. Although they have failed to establish themselves among Europe’s elite this year, the blues from Manchester will be favored to bring home silverware for the third straight year. After two consecutive brutal groups in the Champions League, City should surely be luckier with the draw this fall.
Chelsea have rebounded from their Champions League embarrassment earlier in the season to reach the semi finals of the Europa League. The grueling schedule has taken its toll on the Blues, who looked clearly fatigued in yesterday’s loss to Manchester City in the FA Cup semis. Rafa Benitez’s men must now balance their European commitments with a difficult finish to the Premier League campaign, with visits to both Anfield and Old Trafford ahead.
13. Atlético Madrid
Los Rojiblancos continued their superb league campaign with a 5-0 thumping of Granada yesterday at the Vicente Calderon. Despite being unable to defend last year’s Europa League title, Atlético are sure to finish in the Champions League places and have a showdown with crosstown rivals Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey final next month.
Although they will go without a trophy for the eighth consecutive season, Arsenal have made a late season surge and now appear to have the edge over fading Tottenham for the fourth and final Champions League place. The London club was unlucky to meet Bayern Munich so early in European competition, and will need to continue to finish strong to secure its place in the top tier competition for next season.
15. Real Sociedad
Without a doubt the surprise of the season in Spain, La Real sit 4 points clear of Malaga for La Liga’s final Champions League berth. The San Sebastián-based side has beaten Barcelona, Málaga, and Atlético Madrid during its current unbeaten run in domestic play, which dates back to a 4-3 loss to Real Madrid at the Bernabéu on January 6th. Tough games against Valencia, Sevilla, and the home fixture to Real Madrid await as the Basques close in on next year’s Champions League.
The rest worth mentioning (in no order):
Tottenham, Valencia, FC Porto, FC Basel, AC Milan, Napoli, Fiorentina, Schalke 04, Bayer Leverkusen, Shakhtar Donetsk, Fenerbahce, Rubin Kazan