With roughly a dozen league matches left to play in the current campaign, there are some clubs who have shown that they are superior in both national and international competition. Let’s take a deeper dive and look at the teams who should be at the top of any European table.
10. Borussia Dortmund- While this steady performer is often overlooked, Dortmund is unbeaten in all competitions since the winter break. Solidly entrenched in second place behind Bayern Munich is a competitive Bundesliga, Thomas Tuchel’s side are excelling in Europa League play as well, and seem poised to claim that trophy later this spring. With their attacking trio of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Marco Reus and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang reaching the century mark in goal contributions after just 36 matches, look for Die Schwarzgelben to be a handful in Champions League play next year.
9. Leicester City- Very few observers would’ve predicted this small market club to be top of the table through this point of the campaign, but the Foxes are proving them wrong. Led by veteran manager Claudio Ranieri and powered by striker Jamie Vardy with 26 goals thus far this season, whether Leicester can maintain their grip on the top spot in the EPL is uncertain. But after beating some of the European powerhouses this season, we welcome the Foxes to the top ten.
8. Atletico Madrid- A week after scoring his 100th goal for the club, Fernando Torres was on target again as Atletico won 1-0 at Getafe. Diego Simeone’s side have stuttered a little in recent weeks and will be looking to maintain top form soon, given their upcoming matches include a Champions League trip to PSV Eindhoven followed by the Madrid derby against Real Madrid. Currently sandwiched between third place Real and first place Barcelona, Los Rojiblancos have no superstars in their starting eleven, yet have played quality football throughout their current campaign in Europe.
7. Tottenham Hotspur- If anyone still had doubts about Hotspur’ title aspirations before they went to Manchester City on Sunday, they surely don’t anymore. Christian Eriksen’s late winner earned a 2-1 win and, after five straight league victories, Tottenham now sit tied for second in the Premier League with Arsenal. On Thursday, they earned an important away draw vs. Fiorentina in the Europa League while resting Mousa Dembele, Harry Kane and Eric Dier. While the goal-scoring of Harry Kane for Spurs this season has been top-notch, it is their defense that has excelled, something sorely lacking in seasons past. While it is questionable whether this squad can maintain their position in the EPL through the final dozen matches, their ability to compete on the international stage has been proven to be a resounding success.
6. Arsenal- Always a bridesmaid, but never a bride. The Gunners reignited their Premier League title hopes thanks to their recent come from behind win against 10-man Leicester but must now maintain their momentum if they are to win silverware this season. They suffered a setback with a 0-0 draw at the Emirates in an FA Cup match, and have to face Barcelona in the Champions League and then travel to Manchester United in league play. But do not underestimate manager Arsene Wenger and his ability to extract the most from his players. Arsenal is in a good position in the EPL, trailing first place Leicester City by only two points. A strong finish to the season will see the Gunners hoisting the EPL trophy in May.
5. Real Madrid – While it seems like a long time ago that Rafa Benitez was in charge at the Bernabeu, there is no doubt that Madrid has played better football under new manager Zinedine Zidane. The last week saw wins over Athletic Bilbao and against Roma, with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring three times across those two games. Currently in third place in La Liga, even a run of the table might not be enough to capture the title. Known as the best team money can buy (average annual salary of $8.64 million), there is no question that Los Galacticos have the talent to compete with the best teams on the continent. But given their lackadaisical play at the onset of the season, it might be best for this super-team to set their sights on the silverware from the Champions League in 2016.
4. Paris Saint-Germain- Laurent Blanc rested key men for the 0-0 Ligue 1 draw against Lille while maintaining a 24-point advantage against second place Monaco. But the usual starting eleven were back against Chelsea in a Champions League match, earning PSG a 2-1 victory at the Parc Des Princes. Thibaut Courtois’ saves kept Chelsea in the match, but the French side will have a renewed sense of confidence for the second leg at Stamford Bridge. While not losing a game this season after 26 Ligue 1 matches, PSG has turned its attention to the international stage of the Champions League. With players like Ibrahimovic, di Maria and Cavani, Les Parisiens seem poised to compete deep into the CL competition.
3. Juventus- While a tie against Bologna on Thursday broke Juventus’ 15 consecutive Serie A wins, the Old Lady maintained first place in the standings. It really is remarkable to think that this same squad started the season so poorly. Fast forward to today, and Juve is back to being a European power with hopes of a treble. While their matches against Bayern Munich in the Champions League will prove challenging, there is no doubt that this team has been resurrected as a world class team. While rumors persist about manager Massimiliano Allegri leaving Serie A to take the reins at Chelsea, he maintains that he has a contract to honor in Milan through 2017. That being said, his value will only be enhanced with the addition of silverware in 2016.
2. Bayern Munich- With an eleven-point lead against second place Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga, it is likely that Die Roten will repeat as German champions. Pep Guardiola’s side face Juventus in the Round of 16 first leg next week in what is expected to be very competitive matches by two talent-laden teams. Looking at this team, it is hard to find any weaknesses. With goal-scorers Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller up front, a midfield led by Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, defensive players such as Philipp Lahm and Jerome Boateng and German international keeper Manuel Neuer, this team has balance as well as depth. No one would be surprised if this team is lifting three pieces of silverware come May.
1. Barcelona- There are few teams in the world whose players need no introduction as Barca. Starting with Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luiz Suarez up front, this is a squad that is difficult to defend against. With a midfield led by Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets, a defender core of Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano with Claudio Bravo in goal, this is a squad that is solid individually and as a team, and has a strong bench as well. They are unbeaten in the last 32 games, and manager Luis Enrique has them yearning for all three pieces of silverware. While Real Madrid in La Liga and Arsenal in the Champions League stand in their way, this is a team that is playing lights out football and deserving of the number one European football spot.