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. Lyon (beat PSG 2-1)
Thanos-like PSG have virtually wiped the entire French top flight from relevancy this season with their invincible start. But just as all hope was lost, a hero has emerged. Lyon slain the beast with a 2-1 home victory thanks to Moussa Dembele’s towering header and a Nabil Fekir penalty. It ended PSG’s absurd unbeaten run and it enhanced Lyon’s bipolar characteristic of thwarting the elite and sinking against the poor. Bruno Genesio’s men were too intense for PSG and once again the fixture added authority to our claim that Ligue 1 is nowhere near as boring as the title procession may suggest.
2. Bologna (beat Inter 1-0)
Bologna exited the San Siro pitch to a chorus of boos but they probably won’t have heard anything above their own cheers. The jeers were of course directed at Inter who are now without a win in their last four after Federico Santander’s expertly-directed header from a corner secured the visitors’ just a third win of the season. They’ve been languishing helplessly in the drop zone and it cost Filippo Inzaghi his job. Ironically, the man Inzaghi replaced as AC Milan boss in 2014 has now replaced him and with this win Sinisa Mihajlovic’s charges are just a point away from safety.
3. Manchester City (beat Arsenal 3-1)
Here’s this fixture summed up by one passage of play. Bernardo Silva tracked, then collapsed Matteo Guendouzi as the Arsenal midfielder galloped toward City’s box, and although the Portuguese’s rogue touch as he pushed out was initially intercepted by Denis Suarez, a cheeky body feint sent the Barcelona loanee the wrong way and he pressed ahead. Arsenal just could not deal with City, especially in the second half and even though Sergio Aguero’s hat-trick put them away, the collective performance from the hosts was deeply impressive. They played with the intensity of a side chasing the game throughout and Arsenal just couldn’t match that urgency.
4. Bayer Leverkusen (beat Bayern Munich 3-1)
Peter Bosz’s time at Borussia Dortmund was a rather confusing one. Having started so ridiculously well, their slide was so rapid and drastic. His time at Dortmund was ultimately short, but he’ll be considered a legend after guiding a super slick Leverkusen to a 3-1 win over Bayern Munich. A fine free-kick from Leon Bailey and two expert counter-attacking goals through Kevin Volland and Luca Alario secured a great victory for Leverkusen and a massive result for the leaders. They’re on the outside looking in as far as Champions League qualification is concerned but this performance can serve as a springboard.
5. Real Betis (beat Atletico Madrid 1-0)
Barcelona dropped points at home to Valencia on Saturday allowing Atletico Madrid an opportunity to close the gap. Instead, Diego Simeone’s outfit remain six points behind and are now looking over their shoulder with city rivals Real just two points off them. Quique Setien will be a perfect fit for Barca one day and he added credence to that notion with an excellent display from Betis, although from a defensive aspect this time. They just made the right decisions and frustrated the visitors, something Filipe Luis did not do when he hand-balled to allow Sergio Canales to score the game’s only goal from the penalty spot.
6. Celta Vigo (beat Sevilla 1-0)
Okay, this was far from the best fixture featured on the list but the weight of this result for Vigo earns them their spot. Both teams were pretty dire yet that’s to be expected from Celta’s perspective considering they’d lost five consecutive games and were without a win in their last six. Scoring goals hasn’t even been the issue for Miguel Cardoso’s side because only Sevilla, Real Madrid and Barcelona have notched more. Keeping them out, however, is a different story, so a 1-0 victory over fourth-placed Sevilla was a welcome sight indeed. Okay Yokuslu squeezed home from a poorly-taken corner, the type of scrappy goal a team fighting relegation requires.
7. Chelsea (beat Huddersfield 5-0)
Were Huddersfield just that bad, or did we see signs of ‘Sarriball’ beginning to take hold? In truth, a bit of both. While the bottom-placed Premier League side are effectively a Championship team and so a perfect antidote to Chelsea’s recent slide, they were very good all the same. Having been so bad against Bournemouth, that result is what legitimises their place on the list this week. Gonzalo Higuain opened his account for the club with two goals, Eden Hazard replicated that feat and so Sarri can be pleased with the connection those two seem to be opening up. The Argentine’s movement was intelligent and effective, giving Chelsea a genuine spearhead. Higuain buys into Sarriball, now the rest need to as well.
8. Parma (drew 3-3 with Juventus)
It is a rare day when Cristiano Ronaldo scores twice and it isn’t enough for victory. Juventus inexplicably surrendered a 3-1 lead to Parma as Gervinho’s resurgence continued apace with a double of his own, the first of which was quite splendid as he ran across Daniele Rugani to the near post and produced a cheeky flick. He then lashed home a cut-back in injury time to secure a draw but the defensive collapse from Juve owes much to Max Allegri’s poor management. Indeed, their backline contained Rugani, Martin Caceres and Leonardo Spinazzola and all three were horrid, begging the question as to why Medhi Benatia was allowed to depart in January.
9. Lille (beat Nice 4-0)
Genuinely, French football is where it is at and just for watching Nicolas Pepe alone. The 23-year-old was excellent once again as second-placed Lille swatted Nice aside. He scored one and assisted another with the Ivorian winger now playing a direct hand in 24 goals in 23 league games this season. He’s been the biggest revelation from Ligue 1 this year and it’s difficult to see how Lille keep him in the summer, even though they’ll likely be able to offer Champions League football next season thanks to his exploits.
10. Cardiff (beat Bournemouth 2-0)
It was an extremely emotional evening in Cardiff as Bobby Reid’s double handed Neil Warnock’s grief-stricken side a poignant win over Bournemouth. Emiliano Sala’s name reverberated around the stadium from start to finish and the Cardiff boss himself was fighting back the tears at full-time. This was deeper than football and the club paid their respects in the most admirable of ways.
Not everyone was certain that Lionel Messi would wear Albiceleste colours again after Argentina were eliminated from the 2018 World Cup by France.
But Argentina Football Association president Claudio Tapia believes that the forward could return to the national team if coach Lionel Scaloni calls on him.
“If Scaloni calls on Lionel, he’ll probably return to the national team,” Tapia explained, according to Marca.
“The football word expects him to be part of the national team.
“It’s not only the leaders of the association who want him here, but everyone who loves this sport.”
There have been rumours that the legendary Cesar Menotti could have a meeting with Messi to convince the five-time Ballon d’Or winner to delay his international retirement. Tapia was unable to confirm or deny this.
“He’s an important figure for both the internal and external aspects of Argentine football,” Tapia stated. “But only he will decide whether it’s necessary or not to meet.”
New York City Football Club completed the third day of their pre-season camp at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi ahead of the start of the new MLS season on March 3.
The New York side are on the fist leg of their training camp in the UAE ahead of friendlies against FC Copenhagen on Sunday and Swedish champions AIK on Friday, February 8.
Head Coach Domènec Torrent said: “I think [Abu Dhabi] is a good place to start preseason for us. We have two tough games against European teams. It’s better for us to play with these kinds of teams because it’s a challenge for us to play against them.”
On the upcoming friendlies, Torrent added: “FC Copenhagen and AIK will provide a challenging set of matches against two teams that regularly compete in the Champions League and Europa League.
“Our players will benefit greatly from these tests early on in the preseason as we look to mold the identity of our team heading into the 2019 season.”