The world of football continues to crown winners and champions as we enter the final stretch of the season. Last week Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain won their domestic leagues; this week Barcelona won the Copa del Rey for a fourth successive year.
But while most European leagues do seem to be drifting toward a clear-cut, inevitable conclusion, Italy is bucking the narrative. Napoli’s heroic victory in Turin on Sunday represented a corkscrew to the Serie A title race, and things are now very, very interesting at the top there.
These rankings are a season-long measurement of clubs, tracking teams throughout 2017/18 and taking into account results from all competitions.
Sides that have lost the fewest games naturally rank higher —though the strength of opposition met in a loss is considered— and both Champions League form and presence are used as tiebreakers for those with similar records. Teams that enjoy big wins against strong opponents get a boost.
20. RB Salzburg (Stay)
RB Salzburg beat Altach 3-1 on Sunday and will now prepare for a challenging away trip to Marseille in the Europa League semi-finals.
19. Schalke 04 (-2)
After the extreme high of beating close rivals Borussia Dortmund, Schalke were knocked back down to earth with an underwhelming week.
First, a loss to Frankfurt saw them exit the DFB Pokal at the semi-final stage, and then a draw with bottom club Koln saw their command on second spot slip a little.
18. Arsenal (+1)
Arsene Wenger’s declaration that he will leave Arsenal at the end of the season has had a profound effect on The Emirates Stadium: They’re happy and united once again, determined to cheer this final stage of their manager’s era down the home straight.
B/R Football @brfootball
They were forced to show some patience in beating West Ham this weekend, scoring three goals in the final 10 minutes to finally break their opponents down. Alexandre Lacazette grabbed two to take his tally to 13 for the season.
17. Marseille (+1)
L’OM are doing exceptionally well to fight on multiple fronts right now.
You could forgive them if their focus was solely on the Europa League semi-finals given the prize at stake and the toll it takes on the squad, but they’re also crushing it in Ligue 1 and are well in the mix for either second or third spot in the table.
16. Valencia (-3)
Not the strongest week’s work from Valencia, who lost their midweek game, saw Dani Parejo red carded and drew at the weekend. It’s a damaging mini-run in their quest for third place, handing Real Madrid the advantage there.
15. Inter Milan (Stay)
Inter struck a chord of form last week, beating Cagliari and Chievo with Mauro Icardi and Ivan Perisic on the scoresheet for both games. When they perform, the Nerazzurri generally win.
The six-point haul all but guaranteed European football for next season, but they’re still on the outside looking in when it comes to the Champions League. They’ll just have to beat Juventus this weekend, won’t they?
14. Lazio (Stay)
Eight goals in the space of four days has Lazio on course to finish the season strongly. Now they’re out of the Europa League this is all they’ve got to play for, and the two wins procured this past week keep them locked in fourth place.
13. Chelsea (+3)
A strong performance at Wembley on Sunday set Chelsea on course for the FA Cup final, beating Southampton 2-0 without breaking too much of a sweat.
B/R Football @brfootball
The FA Cup is the medicine keeping Chelsea’s dead season alive 👨⚕️🏆 https://t.co/SDBl1EB4ah
This campaign has fallen apart a little for Antonio Conte, but the chance to lift a trophy at the end of it could save it from being a complete disaster. They’ll face familiar faces in the form of Manchester United and Nemanja Matic next month.
12. Tottenham Hotspur (-1)
Tottenham started superbly in the FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United, dominating the first 20 minutes and scoring a lovely goal.
But then, after United turned the tide and equalised, it never felt as though Spurs would go on and win the game. The lack of belief, tangible in both the fans and the players, must be a concern. They can’t continue to ascend unless they find a way to win these games—just as United did.
11. Napoli (+1)
Napoli put on a footballing show in Turin on Sunday, playing Juventus off their own pitch and grabbing their just rewards at the death.
It’s perhaps a touch ironic that their beautiful pass-and-move football failed to break the Old Lady down but a towering header from Kalidou Koulibaly from a corner did, but Maurizio Sarri won’t care.
In the space of a week, the Partenopei have closed the gap to Juve at the top to just one point, and they have a significantly friendlier remaining schedule. The dream is still on.
10. Manchester United (Stay)
A heavily rotated United XI dealt with AFC Bournemouth easily midweek, allowing Jose Mourinho to rest key players ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup final. The big names then came back in for the showpiece event, and they professionally dealt with the challenge of Tottenham Hotspur, clearing a path to the final.
Alexis Sanchez and Ander Herrera shone in the sun, while Paul Pogba produced a few moments of immense quality to help unlock the door.
9. Paris Saint-Germain (-1)
PSG rode their luck a little on Sunday against Bordeaux. Despite totalling 64 percent of possession, they forced goalkeeper Benoit Costil into just one save. Conversely, Alphonse Areola made eight, being made to work for his clean sheet and emerging as the star of the show.
The capital side did eventually break through via Giovani Lo Celso, his excellent season continuing in impressive fashion, and win the game 1-0, but there’s just an air of unimportance to all of their games now.
The Coupe de France final is the only important one left. Roll on May 8.
8. Atletico Madrid (-1)
Atletico Madrid’s 0-0 home draw with Real Betis may seem underwhelming on paper, but in reality, they stopped a side who have been rampant recently, winning six straight and scoring a bucketload in the process.
What can’t really be explained away is the 3-0 loss they incurred to Real Sociedad several days beforehand. Sure, Anoeta is a tough place to go and sure, some stars were rested, but 3-0? Atletico just don’t lose by that margin—or didn’t, at least.
7. Roma (+2)
Without a shadow of a doubt, these past two weeks have been the best of Eusebio Di Francesco’s Roma career so far.
The last two Serie A results—wins against Genoa and SPAL—have put them in a commanding position in the race for a top four spot, and the latter game saw a slew of starters rested ahead of Liverpool on Tuesday.
Now, to prove their mettle (once again) in front of the watching world this week.
6. Juventus (Stay)
Domestic weeks don’t get much worse than the one Juventus just experienced, drawing midweek with Crotone and then losing at home to your title rivals.
We are now in a situation where the Bianconeri’s seventh straight Scudetto is in serious danger; they may be a point ahead of Napoli still, but they have Inter Milan and Roma (both away from home) to play yet.
B/R Football @brfootball
Agony and ecstasy. https://t.co/ipcPpDjgMw
Max Allegri will rightly be very concerned.
5. Real Madrid (Stay)
Zinedine Zidane’s men could and probably should have been turned over by Athletic Club Bilbao last week, then didn’t have a fixture to play at the weekend because of Sevilla’s involvement in the Copa del Rey final.
It was, predictably, Cristiano Ronaldo who bailed them out against los Leones, netting in the 87th minute to salvage a draw, and that prevents them from moving down in our rankings this week.
La Liga Real Madrid just aren’t the same as Champions League Real Madrid.
4. Liverpool (Stay)
A nice, easy day in the west Midlands would have been the ideal precursor to Liverpool’s big Champions League week, but instead of rolling over, West Bromwich Albion put up a fight.
B/R Football @brfootball
@22mosalah It’s been a fruitful season for @22mosalah (so far) 👑 https://t.co/QzXjaHPAOU
Rallying from two goals down to draw 2-2, it’s the second goal at the death that will worry Jurgen Klopp. Joe Gomez’s error led to a free-kick, then both Dejan Lovren and Roberto Firmino failed to deal with Salomon Rondon. Mistakes like these can’t happen against Roma on Tuesday.
3. Manchester City (Stay)
With City confirmed as Premier League champions last weekend, and no cups still in play for them, they’re positively strolling to season’s end.
That was evident in the swashbuckling nature of their play on Sunday, dismantling a Swansea City side who mustered just 17 percent possession. Their intent will have been to spoil the party, but they were simply left powerless to stop it.
2. Barcelona (Stay)
One cup in the bag, and what a way to secure it!
Barcelona blew Sevilla away on Saturday in the Copa del Rey final, plundering five goals without answer. “It was a great game and everyone hoped to put in the perfect performance that we did,” Ernesto Valverde told Barcelona’s official website after the game.
B/R Football @brfootball
The farewell of a true artist? 🎨 https://t.co/XLfdFNZrbT
Fans’ emotions ran high not just because of the victory, their fourth in succession in this competition, but because Andres Iniesta left the pitch in tears. It looks as though his Barca chapter is drawing to a close and no one—not even him—has figured out quite how they’re going to deal with that yet.
1. Bayern Munich (Stay)
Up until this past week, Bayern’s schedule has lacked any kind of intensity. That they’ve been strolling games—both in the Bundesliga and in the Champions League—has concerned some fans, who rightly ask whether they can just turn it on for when Real Madrid visit.
Wednesday, though, saw die Roten travel to Leverkusen and destroy a very good team, scoring six goals inclusive of a Thomas Muller hat-trick. They carried that momentum into the weekend against Hannover, beat them 3-0, and now look in good shape to square off against the reigning European champions.
All statistics via WhoScored.com
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