European Teams of the Week: Juventus in second and Real Madrid sit eighth

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Cristiano Ronaldo

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 (minus cup competitions).

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. Dijon (beat Monaco 2-0)

Dear oh dear, where do Monaco go from here? The club wielded the axe on Thierry Henry and then relegation rivals Dijon proceeded to stab them in the heart. Leonardo Jardim is the replacement for his replacement but the club are in a mess after being crumbled 2-0 on Saturday. Kudos to the hosts, though, who lifted themselves out of the relegation zone thanks to goals from Chang-hoon Kwon and Naim Sliti – they’re now five clear of Monaco.

2. Juventus (beat Lazio 2-1)

Given the nature of their victory you might question the loftiness of Juve’s position, yet this was a massive hurdle cleared for Max Allegri’s men. The top two were handed testing away trips this weekend and with Napoli being held to a goalless draw at AC Milan on Saturday, the Bianconeri needed to avoid a similar slip at Lazio. They did so, but only just. Lazio dominated for the first hour, went ahead through an Emre Can own goal before Joao Cancelo equalised in the 74th minute. Cristiano Ronaldo, as he often does, won a penalty with two minutes left and buried it. Paradoxically, Juve’s worst performance of the season but one of their best results also.

3. Borussia Dortmund (beat Hanover 5-1)

Last week Dortmund proved they could win games without their mercurial captain Marco Reus. This week, the Germany international showed what they missed on his return from injury. He scored one, football’s equivalent to a plie such was the purity of his chip, and set up another in a rout of Hannover. Left-back Achraf Hakimi matched his skipper in an equally impressive display, Mario Gotze and Alex Witsel scored as well. They’re six points clear of Bayern Munich and are absolutely flying.

4. Frosinone (beat Bologna 4-0)

Remember Frosinone from last week’s list? Well, this time the relegation-threatened side appear for the right reasons. Moreno Longo’s men were hammered 5-0 by Atalanta last week but recovered to smash their drop-zone rivals Bologna 4-0. Filippo Inzaghi lost his job over the result as the visitors secured just a second win of the season. Federico Mattiello was sent off for the hosts in the 13th minute and they collapsed thereafter. Paolo Ghiglione, a double from Camillo Ciano and one from the teenage loanee from Inter, Andrea Pinamonti secured a humiliating victory.

5. Sevilla (beat Levante 5-0)

When sides go through a bad phase, nothing gives you more confidence as a player than coming up against a team you’ve previously battered. Sevilla hadn’t won in their last five league outings but after beating Barcelona 2-0 win their midweek Copa del Rey tie, they then thrashed Levante 5-0 for an 11-2 aggregate score. Curiously, all five goals were scored in the second half and Pablo Machin will hope that serves to represent how the rest of the season could pan out for his fourth-placed side.

6. Lille (beat Marseille 2-1)

Anytime, any team from second down to eighth meet in Ligue 1, the winner will likely secure a spot on these rankings. Indeed, it is so tight at the top end – PSG aide of course – that gaining an advantage in the race for Champions League qualification is worthy of recognition. Second-placed Lille are in the driving seat thanks to a 2-1 win at Marseille. Nicolas Pepe scored both (15 league goals and nine assists) and the supremely talented Ivorian is one to look out for in the summer window considering he is single-handedly propelling Lille into Europe.

Nicolas Pepe (l)

Nicolas Pepe (l)

7. Sampdoria (beat Udinese 4-0)

A beautiful story is unfolding in Italy as veteran forward Fabio Quagliarella equalled a Serie A record by scoring in 11 straight matches. The 35-year-old matched the great Gabriel Batistuta feat after converting two penalties in Sampdoria’s smashing of Udinese. The delectable Italian is enjoying the finest period of his career and after the stalking hell he endured at hometown club Napoli, his is a tale the entire world of football can appreciate. Physically and mentally, Quagliarella looks phenomenal and 16 league goals sees him top the league charts.

8. Real Madrid (beat 4-2 Espanyol)

There is a weekly complaint on social every time Real Madrid are dare mentioned on this list but you cannot ignore their recent upturn. The 4-2 scoreline flattered Espanyol because Los Blancos were brilliant. Yes, a title challenge looks beyond Madrid but their tempo, aggression and fluidity was a joy to watch on Sunday. Karim Benzema added credence to Santiago Solari’s suggestions he is one of the best No9s in football with a fine double. In fact, all four goals were superb, with Sergio Ramos’ delicious header and an intricately worked Gareth Bale strike adding to a deeply impressive display.

Karim Benzema

Karim Benzema

9. Atalanta (drew 3-3 with Roma)

Revenge is a dish best served bold. In August, Roma recovered from a two-goal deficit to draw 3-3 with Atalanta. In January, Atalanta recovered from a three-goal deficit to draw 3-3. Serie A was clearly the place to be this weekend and this game topped the lot. Roma were 3-0 up inside 40 minutes after ruthlessly punishing some slack defending. The home side grabbed one before the break and then laid siege in the second half. Duvan Zapata blazed a penalty over the bar but then made amends with the equaliser. He’s the man of the moment right now and equal with Cristiano Ronaldo on 15 Serie A goals.

10. SPAL (beat Parma 3-2)

See, Serie A had it all this weekend. SPAL were nervously looking over the shoulder with the drop zone in sight but a remarkable comeback away to Parma lifted them closer to mid-table. They were two down thanks to Roberto Inglese’s double but with 20 minutes to go, scored three. The winner from Mohamed Salim Fares in the 87th minute was a real peach as well, the winger charging forward through the middle to unleash a strike which pierced the air before the net.

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