European Teams of the Week: Manchester United top with Barcelona in ninth

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Solskjaer's side is were eliminated from the FA Cup

The only thing in football more contentious than a dubious refereeing decision is a rankings system.

There are plenty of them out there – though many are deliberately divisive – but given the tribal nature of football they do drum up some interesting debates among supporters.

We’re going to add our twist to the list. Each week we pick out the 10 best teams from Europe’s top-five leagues.

It’s not cumulative, the rankings is based on a team’s performance in that particular game week.

So, who makes the top-10 this week? Check out below.

1. Manchester United (beat Tottenham 1-0): The Manchester United club suit looks an awfully good fit on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. His job interview is going from strength to strength and right now, the only argument against the Norwegian taking the job full-time is his CV. In adding the scalp of Mauricio Pochettino’s scintillating Spurs to his resume, though, Solskjaer is impossible to ignore. His tactical tweak of unleashing pace through Jesse Lingard as a No10 and Marcus Rashford partnering Anthony Martial in attack showed he has the brain, as well as the heart, for the job.

2. Athletic Bilbao (beat Sevilla 2-0): Usain Bolt was the story of 2018 as he attempted to transition from track icon to professional footballer. Inaki Williams should consider the switch in reverse. The Bilbao forward scored twice to dent Sevilla’s fading title hopes, but his second in the final minutes was absurd. He flamed past two defenders after a silky first touch in his own half before icing the ball into the corner. Curiously, his opening goal was his first league strike at the San Mames in almost three years.

3. West Ham (beat Arsenal 1-0): Were it not for the title-chasing legitimacy of the two defeated sides above, West Ham’s noble victory over Arsenal would occupy a loftier slot. However, Arsenal’s refurbishment under Unai Emery is still in the construction phase and the holes in his defensive line are there to be hammered. Declan Rice’s sweet finish edged it for the hosts after Arsenal failed to impose themselves.

4. Monaco (drew 1-1 Marseille): Rarely has a fixture between these two giants of French football been so tense. Marseille’s form is wretched as they’ve failed to clinch a win in their last eight games across all competitions. They’re in danger of plummeting into the bottom half of the table, although relegation-threatened Monaco could drop out altogether. The two team’s struggles meant the Stade Velodrome clash was hardly a classic but Youri Tielemans earned a priceless point for Thierry Heny’s outfit after Maxime Lopez lashed in the opener.

5. Real Madrid (beat Real Betis 2-1): Only Barcelona have dominated possession more in La Liga than Real Betis and Real Madrid so this was a fixture for the purists. It was the home side who owned the ball but the not the points as despite enjoying 73.7 percent of the possession and out-passing Madrid by 713 to 254, they lost 2-1. Dani Ceballos netted the winner with a late curling free-kick to dagger his former side and the wild celebrations from the Madrid bench indicated this was a morale-boosting win given their title challenge is effectively over.

Dani Ceballos celebrates with his Real Madrid team-mates

Dani Ceballos celebrates with his Real Madrid team-mates

6. Rayo Vallecano (beat Celta Vigo 4-2): Rayo were in danger of being cut adrift in their fight for Spanish top-flight survival but a run of three straight wins has dragged them back from the dead. Their third – a six-goal thriller on Friday night – hauled Celta Vigo into the struggle as former Real Madrid man Raul de Tomas helped himself to a hat-trick. They remain in the bottom three but are now just two points off Vigo who continue to struggle under new manager Miguel Cardoso.

7. Reims (drew 1-1 with Lyon): Paris Saint-Germain are amassing enough points to take the Ligue 1 title across two seasons so the only genuine battle is beneath them. Lyon fell further behind Lille in the wrestle for second spot after mid-tabled Reims held them to a draw. Pablo Chavarria put the visitors ahead, Bertrand Traore’s deflected strike equalised but Liverpool loanee Sheyi Ojo almost grabbed three points for Reims late on.

8. Everton (beat Bournemouth 2-0): For large parts of the first-half, Everton were a shambles defensively so it was ironic that one of the culprits would actually set them on their way to a pressure-releasing victory. Kurt Zouma steered home his first goal for the club and Dominic Calvert-Lewin converted in injury time to ease the pressure on Marco Silva. A first win in five home league games was deeply satisfying for the Blues and it arrived against one of the most enterprising sides in the English top flight.

9. Barcelona (beat Eibar 3-0): Lionel Messi, 400 La Liga goals. The statistics are mind blowing. That the Argentine backs up his mesmeric talent with mind-boggling numbers is a credit to his iconic status. Indeed, no one comes close and after scoring in typical Messi fashion in the comfortable win over perennial Barca punching-bag Eibar, the stats prove it. An easy victory as expected, but for Messi alone, Barca make the list.

10. Liverpool (beat Brighton 1-0): Context is required for Liverpool’s inclusion because on the face of it, a 1-0 win at Brighton is hardly conducive of a top-10 spot. However, having opened up 2019 with two defeats and facing a Brighton side very tricky on home turf, three points was pivotal to ensure their advantage at the top remained intact. Mohamed Salah was brilliant and his penalty inflicted the damage.

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